The Grumpy Old Man

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Are Mobile Phones really useful?

The mobile phone, a bane, or a boon?


I wager that a large proportion of you are viewing this page on a device that also doubles as your mobile phone. Which is actually not bad for a piece of kit that twenty-five years ago was used predominantly by that pillar of the community, the second-hand car salesman. The first of these devices I ever saw was at a car auction room and it was the size and probably the weight of a concrete building block. It had a Bakelite handset, and an old-fashioned 'finger in the hole' rotary dial mechanism. How technology has advanced since those days! But I ask, are we using this technology properly and with due respect and consideration for other people with whom we share our world?

The latest statistics (for Ireland) suggest one hundred and ten percent market penetration (more mobile phones than population). I must confess, neither Mrs Grumpy nor I have a mobile phone as we have only seen the need for one on very few, isolated occasions. I sometimes think of the work schedule I used to have when employed at managerial level at Plessey. With about a hundred staff reporting to me, I found that most of the working day was spent on the telephone. So much so that I could get more work done in the hour before staff arrived and the hour after most had gone, than in the whole of the rest of the day. The 'normal' working day was peppered with frequent interruptions from the telephone, even though I had a secretary who would filter calls.

Some of my staff worked on a second site some hundred miles away from where I was based. Should I have to travel between the two sites during the day it was like manna from heaven just to get away from the constant interruptions of the telephone. It was then I realised that while I was near a telephone I was always at the beck and call of other people wanting a slice of my time, now to discuss their "problems". While in the car between the two sites I would actually get two glorious hours of peace and quiet with my own thoughts. I know without doubt, had mobile phones been invented then, I would have been pestered unmercifully even while driving the car. It is because of this situation whereby others communicate with you when it suits them that Mrs Grumpy and I decided not to have a mobile phone.

Having experienced the way many people seem to use their mobile phones we remain convinced that this was the right decision. We acknowledge that under very occasional and isolated circumstances, a mobile phone might be useful or could even be life saving. But when we go for a walk along the beach enjoying the peace and quiet it is annoying to come across some idiot on a mobile phone. They are invariably talking so loudly that one wonders why they need the phone at all. And they are certainly not enjoying the unpolluted environment. Far from it, they are contributing to the (noise) pollution themselves.

I see guests at the hotel over the road on their mobile phone. They wander round the car park trying to look nonchalant, sophisticated and important because 'somebody needs to speak to them'. In actual fact, they invariably look self-conscious, stupid prats. I am sure most of the time they are just telephoning home. I ask you, if communication with friends and family is that important, why in the world come away at all?

But what about all the other things these mobile phones do that seem to make them so essential that they have almost become an external organ or an extra human 'body part'? One can play electronic games on them, personally I've never been into electronic games. They can be used as a camera. I accept the occasional usefulness of this, but I believe that the "old-fashioned" film camera takes a lot of beating and produces a superior and longer lasting record of the event. They can be used for surfing the web or the sending and receiving of email. I can quite categorically state that I have never been out in the boondocks and felt the need to do any of this. Regarding messaging and web surfing I prefer to do it at home when I can print the relevant things and give them considered thought.

But what about the other places where people seem determined to use their mobile phone. A major concern of Grumpy is the number of people he sees using mobile phones while they are driving. The fact that this is illegal seems totally irrelevant. When I drive to our local small town some three miles away, it is unusual not to see two or three people trying to drive their cars and talk on their mobiles at the same time. It is horrifying to see that many of the culprits are young mums on the school run. They sometimes have three or four unrestrained children loose in the back of the car. (Now also illegal), and as for the local Garda (the Irish Police force) driving a patrol car while talking on the mobile phone. Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs! That surely is one of the worst offences, as they should be squeaky clean role models for the rest of society. But the worst example I have experienced recently was when a 'white van man' came round a particularly nasty road junction towards me. He was talking on his mobile and holding a cup of coffee in his other hand. I shudder to think what he was using to steer the van! My problem was that I was going towards him on a narrow bridge and had no escape route. How we avoided a head on collision escapes me, however, if you know of a foolproof recipe for the removal of brown stains from driving seats, I would love to hear from you!

So, the mobile phone is it a boon, or a bane of life today? Grumpy's view is that it is a smashing tool but, once again, man has displayed his inate capability for abusing and mis-using things. I must therefore find the mobile phone an absolute bane of life today.

There is also a technical discussion of the potential health hazards associated with these and similar items. To read about this, and it is rather long I warn you, Go to eco17 to read more by .....clicking here.....