There are calls I’ll never miss

This article was first published in The Australian “Soapbox – Readers’ Wisdom” on 8 September 2009

Last year I got rid of my mobile phone. I hope my call was recorded for training purposes.
“Not upgrading? You’re getting rid of it?”. Complete disbelief. “I’ll have to check with my Supervisor.”

We moved out west two years ago, joining the growing queue of the displaced from the now exclusive coast. The mobile coverage was appalling unless I stood on the filing cabinet at a 45-degree angle – right next to the real phone.

When the telco finally erased me, the sense of freedom was immense. No more scrabbling in my handbag to check for missed calls. No more unsolicited SMS marketing. No more bills.

Equally immense was the horror my new-found freedom brought out in others. It was as if purging myself of increasingly intrusive technology made me a traitor, a rabid leftist clearly not to be trusted to safely manage my own life.

“What if you have an emergency?” they fretted. I am either at work, at home or on the short route between the two – which of course is a reception black hole. If I were somehow stuck halfway, I could flag down a passing roo shooter or a farmer with a mob of sheep. He could send the Kelpie for help I joked.

I might as well have said I was joining the Ku Klux Klan. In the city I used to think I needed a phone, but they are junkie magnets, money wasters, a tool to enslave us to a 24/7 life of 24/7 productivity. What I needed was freedom. Freedom from a satellite tracking my every move, from being at the mercy of an offshore call centre.

Freedom to talk directly to another human being.

If 70 percent of communication is non-verbal, is our entire society being lost in translation? A mobile, wireless, virtual world of voice-recognition that didn’t quite get what you said.

“Did you say ‘WMDs?’. If correct, press one. To change, press two. To end the world as we know it, say ‘yes’.”

To err is human. To really stuff up? That requires technology.

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