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