Do we control our phones or do our phones control us? Who is really in control. Drink a coffee in any bar in the world and you’ll see who really is the boss. I bet that the vast majority of people sitting at tables in what is supposed to be a social environment will be staring down at a blinking, blue screen. Glued to the screen, slaves to their phone.
I am one of the generation who can remember life before mobile phones, yes for younger readers there was a time that we communicated with our mouths and not with our thumbs. When the mobile was launched people thought that it would liberate our lives, that we would be free to work where we wanted, that we would all become closer and bring us all together and break down barriers. How wrong we were.
Of course the opposite happened and instead of being free and enlightened we became slaves to the monster in our pocket. Research shows even having a phone on a table nearby during a conversation diminishes trust and empathy, and lowers the quality of the relationship.
So when I lost my phone last week the first feeling was liberation, ok the first feeling was panic but soon after that liberation. To make matters worse I wasn’t even in Dubrovnik but in our capital. I had flown up for the day to a Brexit meeting, I seem to be having a lot of these in recent weeks. And later in the afternoon jumped in a taxi to take me to “the worst organised airport in the world” or as most people know it Franjo Tuđman Airport.
“Take a Zagreb taxi, they are the cheapest and the best,” commented a relative who I had met in snowy Zagreb. I came to the taxi line only to see a Zagreb taxi third in line in the queue. Undetermined by taxi etiquette I opened the back door of the taxi and jumped in. “To the airport please,” I said to the lady taxi driver. “Sorry but I am first in line you’ll have to get in the first one,” she replied, I was literally in her taxi for 6 seconds.
Unfortunately, when I asked the driver first in line he wanted a double fare to drive me. “Don’t worry I’ll call a radio taxi,” said my sister-in-law. Within minutes the taxi turned up and whisked me to the airport. I had planned to get to the airport early so as to meet a colleague and have a coffee. “Call me when you get to the airport,” he had said a few hours earlier. That’s when the problems began. I arrived at the airport and searched my pockets….no mobile! Panic! I ran back outside to see if the taxi was still there, maybe waiting for another passenger but he had disappeared into the cold night.
Luckily I had my iPad with me and so I connected to the free Wi-Fi in the airport and sent my wife a message. After some time she came back to me. “Your phone has been found in a taxi,” she answered. It turned out that my wife and my nephews had been constantly calling my number in the vain hope that someone would answer. Someone did, but it was a woman’s voice.
Yes, my mobile was indeed in a taxi but not the one I had actually taken to get to the airport but the one I had jumped in for six seconds. The slightly annoyed lady taxi driver was surprised to find a mobile on her back seat. I can only presume she had had a slow day. Negotiations for the recovering continued and she demanded a 50 Kuna fee to drive my mobile across the capital to my waiting nephew. Was it a fee to drive my mobile or was it a ransom fee? Safe in the knowledge that my mobile was coming home, although without me, I relaxed for a coffee with my friend in the airport. During our coffee his phone rang three times. Mine might have rung, I don’t know, and quite frankly I didn’t care.
Whilst on his second call I gazed around the café. Of the 18 people in the bar, 15 were glued to their phones. Busy collecting likes on Facebook or posting a photo of their coffee on Instagram. In a flash I felt liberated. Free from the shackles of my phone. I remembered an interview I had once listened to on the BBC with Denzel Washington, he said “Are you using your device, or is it using you?” Think about it the next time you are having a coffee with friends.