Cell phones came relatively late in my life. Now I’ve an i-phone. God knows why, I hope, for apart from feeling I should have this toy because everyone else has one, I certainly don’t. Madness. Sure, it was handy for the three weeks we were without landline and t’interweb, but now …. ? it’s a waste of money and a waster of time. A distraction from life. My eyesight is such that there’s no point in using it to take photos, and anyway I’ve never been much interested in them except as a means of gaining information. (The need to gain information – there’s another demon that infects me, though it’s less powerful than it used to be).
Others chide me for my phone manner. Or lack of it. It is, they say, brusque. I’m not troubled by this, and neither should they be: at least I don’t take up too much of their time. They might understand if they realised that I grew up at a time when going on past the pips was, to say the least, discouraged. It cost money.
A trilling phone always makes me panic. So much so that I invariably fumble and often press the dratted button that cancels the call instead of the one that answers it. Then I call back immediately and of course get the engaged tone because the caller is leaving a message. And so it goes on.
I think the reason for my panic stems from my brief time as a hospital doctor. It was an unforgiving environment in which military immediacy was demanded, or so I thought.
The worst experiences were in the Belgrave Hospital for Children where at night I was the only doctor in the place, and me still within 12 months of passing finals. So much responsibility on such unexperienced shoulders with so little support—in fact, NO support. I went to bed dreading the phone. From my room under the roof, I was woken by the front door bell ringing in the middle of the night. Heartsink. The call to A & E inevitably followed. Panic, churning stomach, inner jelly, mask of competence, brave face. I hope junior doctors are better supported now.
I had a clerical colleague in Ireland who occasionally asked me to take his calls so that he could go and do whatever it was he did. But I had to assure him that I would have the phone switched on and on my person, at all times. And I mean ALL times. It’s extraordinary the lengths that some clerics go to in an attempt, one supposes, to feel needed. Can anything be that urgent?
I’ve never lost the momentary panic. I come into the house and look nervously to see if the message-waiting light is on. Even on my day off. Will I ever recover?