Hanging on the Telephone

My heart is racing; my mouth is dry. I feel nauseous and dizzy.

I stand still while the world around me falls away, paralysed with fear.

I have mislaid my phone.

Panic is setting in and my mind is rapidly replaying my recent movements.

Me entering the post office, me paying for a book of first class stamps; me exiting the post office. Me buying a cup of tea and lusting over some sparkly plimsolls in a shop window.

I am cheerful and calm in this film of my life. You can’t see the hole in my tights or anything.

But even replaying it several times doesn’t reveal where the bloody phone is.

In some dreadful Kafkaesque nightmare I have become my phone: a collection of contacts, my social media self, e mails and photos, my calendar and notes.

It disappears? Then so do I.

I can’t remember when this phone dependency began. All I know is that I can’t fly now without first having packed my phone into a plastic sandwich bag and placed it in a zipped pocket of a jacket which I do not take off for the whole flight just in case we are forced to land on water. 

I hate that I am reliant on a hard, unyielding, passionless thing. I thought I was better than that.

I did used to be.

I miss being uncontactable.

I think back to my childhood and it is full of my unknown whereabouts.

How did my parents cope? Never knowing whether I’d got on the bus or not? If I’d let the dog out before I’d gone to school? Whether I’d remembered there was some goulash in the fridge?

Their text-free parenting was so much more laid back.

I miss the phone table in the hall.

I miss going to a designated area in order to make contact with other people.

My mum was (is) a huge fan of the phone. She would sit in the hall every evening chatting away for hours.

I loved eavesdropping, especially when she was gossiping with her friend Margaret.

Those conversations were full of little jigsaw pieces I’d try to put together.  “Bastard…  Ate the kids’ sweets…Tight fisted… Lean Cuisine…Twenty three pounds.  Weight Watchers Gold Card… Dreadful bum in those jeans.”

In their world nobody could do anything right. Nobody’s husband was satisfactory and everybody at work was plotting to undermine them.

It was better than Dallas.

My own phone calls were more tortuous affairs often involving long minutes staring at the dial and rehearsing lines I might use when the phone was picked up by the target male at the other end. 

“Oh, hi. A group of us is going ice skating… did you want to come? With me? Us, I mean?”

My favourite phone call EVER took place in that hall, on those stairs. It was the call between me and my friend Adrian, the night before our first History A level exam.

We had sat next to each other for the entire sixth form, copied each other’s homework and shared textbooks.

That evening, it became clear to us both that we had misspent those two crucial years.

That instead of ranking The Smiths’ songs in order of preference or deconstructing episodes of The Young Ones we should have been squinting at the repeal of the corn laws or exploring the balance of power in Europe.

How stark the evidence of our ignorance.

We couldn’t stop laughing.

It was the most cathartic and convulsive laughter I’ve ever experienced. Tears were flowing and speech was tricky.

Who knew the Suez Canal share purchase would spark hysterics more than a century later?

And it just wouldn’t have been the same on a mobile phone.

Stuck as I was, sitting on the stairs, there was only Adrian to focus on.

Now, on my mobile, I can be e mailing someone else, browsing wine products or cleaning the bath.

The pre-mobile era was a monotasking one.

I mustn’t get too nostalgic however.

In my university house, the shared phone was outside Katrina’s room. Katrina and her boyfriend Kevin, had a thing for noisy… monotasking.

You try having a serious conversation down the line with your father about Harold Pinter while Katrina is reaching climax.

Talk about The Homecoming.

My god, you could have poached an egg in my cleavage with the hot sweat that I broke that day.

I’ll take misplacing my mobile any time.

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