The Malta Independent 28 January 2023, Saturday
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Holding the line

Tuesday, 29 November 2022, 12:07 Last update: about 3 months ago

Louis Gatt

Yes I do own a mobile phone.

I'm not a complete Neanderthal... whatever my friends say. Is my phone on all or most of the time? No, it bloody isn't. I use it to contact my wife when we are not in the same location at the same time. In other words: it's a tool for keeping in touch - and passing on messages.

No, I don't spend hours gazing at the thing and bumping into people in the street, because I'm not looking where I'm going. And that is a rather sore point with me just now. Twice recently I have had a collision in the street with people whose heads were buried in their mobiles. Last Saturday, I think it was, I was shopping in Birkirkara, when around the corner strode a young man, clutching a mobile phone and obviously totally absorbed by it and, hence, oblivious to where he was going. The collision was heavy, although not disastrous because I saw him coming at the last moment and turned my right shoulder into him, when I realised we couldn't avoid a collision. Did he apologise? Did he hell! He simply glowered in my direction and strode off down the street with his face still a few centimetres from his phone's screen.

The other phone-induced impact occurred in Valletta, when I collided with a young lady in Old Theatre Street. I was walking up the road... as she descended she quite quickly and - as you probably guessed, totally absorbed by something obviously important on her mobile. I did try to avoid her, no chance... we collided almost head-on. And here's the best bit: As we did so her phone flew out of her hands and smashed against the wall opposite - and into a thousand pieces. The girl let out a screech that was probably audible in downtown Palermo. Me? I beat it as quickly as my 50-something year-old legs could carry me up the road. Cowardly? Possibly but I was merely responding to the exigencies of the moment.

Another acquaintance of mine had an even scarier experience after a mobile-induced crash... incidentally it was also in Valletta, in Republic Street at a busy time of day. He also collided with a young women full-on. She then promptly turned round and loudly accused the poor guy of molesting her - or at least attempting to do so. In this instance he was fortunate in that enough people saw what actually happened and turned on the woman. My friend said later that he doesn't know what he would have done had that not happened.

That is a more extreme example of what can and did occur as a result of the disease of mobile phone obsession. But these days everywhere I look I see folks, particularly the young, wedded to their bloody mobiles. I can remember when they first came out in the early 1990s. They were the size of a brick and comparatively very expensive... not that they are particularly cheap today. They were also the "successful" executive's security blanket. Every lawyer, businessman... whatever... carried a bulky mobile as some sort of status symbol.

I love the story, which is apparently true, of a well-known local perit who encapsulated that period of mobile phone one upmanship. On this occasion he was making an entrance into a St Julian's restaurant and, as he did so, he was seen to be talking loudly into his phone. But, as he approached his table... his phone did actually ring. I'd love to have been there.

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