Belfast Telegraph

It’s time to ring the changes if happiness is a working phone

By Nuala McKeever

I’m writing this from the darkened room in which I’ve been lying down for the past few days. I had to come and prostrate myself here to recover from going 15 rounds with the Customer Service helpline of my mobile phone network operator.

I’ll never get that time back.

The marathon “help” sessions were occasioned by loss of service on my mobile phone. Thinking the handset was on the blink, I got a free upgrade, a brand spanking new fancy schmancy all singing and dancing handset that promised to let me do things I didn’t even know were possible this time last week. A whole new world of possibility opened up. I could do anything ... except make or receive phone calls.

I could find a recipe for taramasalata in a nanosecond, have it translated into Senegalese in a flash, order the ingredients from my local supermarket, video myself doing it, check the weather in Mongolia, play Scrabble, buy stocks and shares and tell everyone on Facebook that I was “lkng frwrd 2 da wkend, lol”, but I couldn’t actually pick up the flippin’ thing, dial a number and be put through to a human being.

Between sessions with the helpline people, from my home phone, sessions which consisted almost entirely of them asking me the same questions every time I rang, even though I’d told them a million times already and they had made notes on their computers, I stayed connected with the outside world by reading news online.

And it was there I discovered that children in the UK are the unhappiest in the developed world. According to a recent report.

Seemingly they are living miserable lives filled with electronic gadgets and designer trainers, bought by parents, pressurised to keep up with everyone else, working 15 jobs to provide stuff for their kids when what those kids really want is their parents’ time and attention.

Apparently, interacting with a screen and sporting your favourite football team’s most recent away shirt isn’t the root of happiness after all.

I’m glad I’m not a child these days. When I was small there was always one kid in the area who had all the latest games and toys — all the stuff that required big batteries, stuff you never got in your family.

They were usually an only child, whose parents could afford to splash out. So you went to his or her house, used the superior play facilities and then went home, complained to your Ma that you never got anything and then enjoyed playing with your 25 brothers and sisters while secretly pitying the lonely only child.

Now all kids are that kid. Everyone’s got everything and if you don’t, you feel bad. If you do, you feel bad too, but in a different way.

Before I had a gate put up at the side of my house I never felt exposed at the back.

Now there’s a gate and when it’s not closed, I feel exposed. The presence of the gate reminds me of my vulnerability.

I need the mobile phone. I got along fine without it for years, but once I got it, I started to need it.

When it’s not working I panic.

At last it’s working again. Once more I can actually ring people up and complain to them about how awful it’s been not being able to call them.

They’ll not get that time back.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph