Mobile-less bliss

Regan Thaw

We South Africans love getting our knickers in a knot over just about anything. As if we don't have enough bulltwang to worry about (the big issues, I mean), we will find minuscule, banal things to further add to our ever-growing 'bitching lists'.

Enter the cellphone.

Most of us can't seem to get through a minute without clutching, holding, caressing, fidgeting and pawing these devices, which have superceded all forms of natural communication. These gadgets of mass consumption themselves consume and enthrall their users, arresting them into a technological trance (My preciousssssssss...), a state of Elysium of sorts, cut off from the tangible world.

Unchecked, mobiles can easily trap one into a mental paralysis, where use of the human brain - even with its evolutionary, innate flaws and amazing natural brilliance - becomes secondary and little more than an irritation due to its mortal limitations.

I take no high road here. I too have been known to attack my being in frantic search of my cellphone, not only in times of neurotic forgetfulness where split second realisations of "Oh my God, where's my phone!" attack me, but generally, almost subconsciously, sending my limbs into spider-windmills as they scour my person for technology.

As a person plagued by perpetual boredom, my mobiles have served as sources of respite. The games, Tweeting, Facebooking, random Google searching and Wikipedia-ing, all successfully manage to stave off flashes of boredom which normally punctuate my days.

So, with mobiles forming a veritable backbone to most of our lives (unless you are of the geriatric kind), imagine the horror of not possessing one, losing one, having to go for periods without one or (cue dramatic music: dum, dum, dummmm...) being dispossessed of one.

The Gestapo that is the Cape Town municipal/traffic law enforcement will now be confiscating cell phones from motorists caught using them while driving. They will proceed to slap the guilty parties with a R500 fine. If you even think of resisting, sorry for you, you'll land up behind bars.

It's understandable why authorities are resorting to this. Most South Africans can't even think while behind the wheel, and then they still want to try and make a phone call or SMS, all the while eating, smoking, doing their make-up and a crossword puzzle.

"Enough is enough" the hallowed peace officers of the Mother City have decreed.

And what do many of us think about this? The move is met with outrage by most, I gather from the coverage given to this matter. Like true South Africans we see this as an attack on our rights, and infringement (stemming from an infringement). "They're just going too far," many will groan. We'll mutter irritable curses, throw our hands up, whine, whinge, bitch and moan. That's the SA way.

I too rolled my eyes at this latest move by Cape Town authorities, not because I oppose it. I have transgressed and have been known to have liberally lengthy conversations, one hand on the steering wheel, the other holding my phone.

I flick my eyes upwards in response to the knee-jerk moaning ignited by this latest 'weapon' in the growing arsenal of traffic law enforcement.

Resistance is futile and will, anyway, get you arrested. Instead we should try to resist answering and making calls while driving. It's so simple it's sad.

Many seem to shudder at the mere thought of having to not even so much as glance at their mobiles while commandeering a vehicle. It's become so ingrained, so stitched into our modern lives. Like a phantom limb most of us would wake up in a muddled frenzy searching for our lost appendage - the cell phone – should it not be within reach of our meagre mortality.

I recently had to go without a mobile while abroad. At first the thought of not being able to stay in regular contact with family and friends left me somewhat anxious. At times the niggling and the gnawing of this loss felt like the irritation a smoker feels when running out of those phallic harbingers of cancer.

Was I really bereft without mass communication? No! The loss thereof eventually soothed the irritation brought on by modern life, its insistence on constant connectivity, the misguided belief we need stay in touch all the time, every day, day and night, no matter what, no excuses.

I was separated from that false craving for information, both important and superfluous and I was smiling - regularly.

As the days progressed, I soon learnt to make do without my techno-accessory. In fact, the absence of the apparatus brought bliss of sorts.

No more could telemarketers foist their futility on me. Banks couldn't hunt me down and bully me and employers were without their key machine of torture and couldn't harass me or force into guilt. My nights and weekends again became holy territories, devoid of the ringing and bleeping and buzzing and vibrating.

I was almost totally free of the chains of constant connection (I still had a laptop, but its ‘Off” button was in permanent use) and I was reminded of a pact I made with myself years ago: Once I'm done with my working life, when I can retire away from the madness and its crowds of the maddened and the folly, when I can rest my weary bones and reality-addled mind, I will gather up every mobile device I've ever had to own. I will then proceed to the nearest body of water and shot-put them as far as my aging arms will allow, away from me, much like Nelson Mandela and his famous appeal to the warring masses of our country, "...take your guns, your knives, and your pangas, and throw them into the sea."

I can’t wait! Somewhere out there peace awaits me, minus smartphones, iPads, PCs, laptops, Tablets and the never-ending obsessions and reliance on unnecessary technology.

Regan Thaw is an Eyewitness News Reporter.