Multi-tasking, or at least the idea of it, is nothing new, but mobile phones have taken it to a new level. Our smart phones can do so many different things. You can talk to them to make them do things for you, although Apple founder, Steve Wozniak, admitted at his talk last week in Edinburgh that even he finds Siri difficult to converse with!
The Word Lover’s Dictionary issued today has loads of new words devoted to the mobile. Intexicated…we presume that describes you when you have sent one too many texts, perhaps it was the drunk text that you might regret the following morning. Yes, a pity that some phones don’t have breathalysers!
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, ROSPA, say that drivers who use a mobile phone, whether hand-held or hands-free are four times more likely to crash, injuring or killing themselves and/or other people. This might well apply to pedestrians too, don’t you think? The Scottish Government tells us that 2,011 road casualties in 2010 were pedestrians and 47 of those were killed, although admittedly there are no statistics for how many were using a phone at the time.
Walking along the street, the temptation of sending one more tweet, one more text, or taking one more photo is often too great for some 21st century technogeeks. I have often been out walking in the street, only to find a pedestrian heading straight for me, head down, engrossed in doing something very important on their phone. I am usually the one to take evasive action to ensure that we don’t collide. Then there are the potholes and other street furniture to be avoided; so many dangers, and apparently so little attention being paid to the risks, or to other road users.
Occasionally I have been left wondering how some people can walk along the street reading a book, principally musing how on earth they manage it without tripping up, but also amazed that they can follow the plot. I have been caught trying to walk and talk at the same time which I find difficult, so it is therefore astonishing to me that some people have sufficient powers of concentration to use a phone, or listen to music, while navigating busy pedestrian crossings at the same time. There is, as yet, nothing in the Highway Code to advise pedestrians not to use their phones or wear headphones while walking, although we are sure it is probably already in someone’s tangled thoughts (even if they are simultaneously making a phone call).
And what about those neglected pet dogs? We probably all remember the intro to the film of the book, Bonfire of the Vanities, where the very wealthy Sherman McCoy uses the cloak of taking the family pet, Marshall, for a walk so that he can call his mistress from the phone booth on a nearby street corner. The book was set in the 1980s, so that scenario is one that is so much easier to contemplate today with the advent of the mobile phone in almost every pocket. And indeed, that is what happens. Look around when you’re out and about. So many of our best friends are being ignored in favour of a phone call. I am not suggesting to you that everyone who is out exercising their very own Marshall is in a clandestine relationship, but it is clear that the person walking the dog is talking to someone, and it’s not always the dog.
Prams which face away from the adult pushing them have been criticised, as they prevent the baby from seeing their parent or carer, and so two-way conversation is minimal, thus stilting development according to some baby experts. Now the baby or toddler has to put up with the intrusion of their parent making a phone call, or listening to their music through headphones, so babies probably long for the forward-facing pushchair to get away from all that noise!
While chatting with friends and listening to music has a great part to play in my life, I do find it essential to have some downtime and a little peace and quiet….don’t you? Oh sorry did I interrupt you doing something else?