LAST LOOK

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Rear View - JANE FRASER

AL­THOUGH I would never speak ill of them, I see that my chil­dren’s thumbs are show­ing signs of be­com­ing pre­hen­sile; this is what comes of SMS- ing. It came to my at­ten­tion at our cus­tom­ary Satur­day morn­ing meet­ing where they peer at me for signs of phys­i­cal de­crepi­tude, ques­tion me closely to as­cer­tain whether I’ve mis­laid more mar­bles in seven days, and then ask me to hand over my mo­bile phone. This is where the mer­ri­ment be­gins.

‘‘ You have 16 text mes­sages!’’ squeaks one in high de­light. ‘‘ I don’t do tex­ting,’’ I re­ply fros­tily. I am on the verge of per­fect­ing frost. A mas­ter at chang­ing the sub­ject, I have lurk­ing ques­tions to ask, de­signed to stymie them.

‘‘ Did you know Napoleon’s great­est de­feat was when he was at­tacked by hun­dreds of starv­ing rabbits in his own cas­tle?’’ I parry. ‘‘ Or that Dar­win was driven by gas­tro­nomic, as well as sci­en­tific, cu­rios­ity and that dur­ing the voy­age of the Bea­gle he ate hun­dreds of agoutis, whose fam­ily name is Dasyproc­ti­dae , which is Greek for hairy bum?’’ They are strangely silent, and so am I, men­tally thank­ing John Lloyd and John Mitchin­son for The Book of Gen­eral Ig­no­rance , which I have on the bed­side ta­ble to keep me on my toes. ( You’ll be amazed to know the two- toed sloth ac­tu­ally has six.)

The thing is I am feel­ing light- head­edly em­pow­ered be­cause lately, as a re­sult of pub­licly com­ing out as a tren­chant op­poser of the mod­ern mo­bile phone and the young things who use it with such aban­don, I am re­ceiv­ing more than a trickle of sup­port. Emails, phone calls, let­ters and even a dis­play of furtive sol­i­dar­ity in the fruit shop tell me loudly that those of us who can­not push the cor­rect but­tons on this devil’s weapon be­cause we are vis­ually chal­lenged, are fight­ing back. We want the brick back and we want it now.

Let me ask you this. If the phone out­lets have pic­tures of the large yel­low phone on their walls and de­scribe it as a mas­ter­piece, why has it be­come ob­so­lete? Scratch me. Also, there should be a book writ­ten about the eti­quette of us­ing the mo­bile phone. In­ter­est­ingly enough, the orig­i­na­tor of the soon- to- be- fa­mous call­ing card show­ing a yel­low brick phone with a red line across it, say­ing ‘‘ Please don’t shout on the phone’’, has come out of the wood­work; he is name­less and shall re­main so. Suf­fice it to say this man is a re­cently re­tired pro­fes­sor from Monash Univer­sity and you can buy the cards, mil­lions of them, at Read­ings in Carl­ton, Melbourne, so put that in your pipe and smoke it, young men and women who shriek like Shrek on pub­lic trans­port.

In the in­terim, hone your brain to be­fud­dle the young. Who in­vented the tele­phone? No, it doesn’t ring a Bell. It was An­to­nio Meucci. Alexan­der Bell is bet­ter known for his foray into an­i­mal ge­net­ics. He no­ticed that sheep with more than two nip­ples pro­duced more twins; all he man­aged to pro­duce was sheep with more nip­ples.

fraserj@ theaus­tralian. com. au

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