I love my Blackberry.
Which is odd not because product endorsement or technical competency on this blog is unusual or even because, up for sale and forty percent of the global workforce up for redundancy, plenty of people don’t, but because, well, I just never really saw myself as the sort of person who could love a gadget.
I mean, originally, I didn’t even want a mobile.
The first person I knew to have a mobile telephonic device was a housemate back in Sheffield. It was yellow and had a flip down mouthpiece and I thought it was ridiculous. I thought everyone who owned a mobile a little silly. What exactly did you need one for, other than to show off? What was the crisis that, as a layabout student, you needed to be constantly available for? I followed a guy down from the tram stop near the student union talking excitedly into his shiny new phone, and then it rang. See, they were for posers.
Of course, everyone got one and still I wondered what they needed them for. Who were they going to ring? In Sheffield we all virtually lived on the same street. Being cash strapped, I’d walk round rather than making a call. There was already a telephone in the house, I mean, why did I need one in my pocket too? I could make curmudgeonly arguments all day; I just didn’t see the point.
Time passed, as it tends to do, and we didn’t all stay living on the same street and it stopped being simply that you wandered around the pubs in Crookes until you found who you were looking for. As we spread around the country, meeting up started to require planning. I would, when it was unavoidable, borrow my Mother’s mobile and so for a long time, a friend kept my Mum’s number in each new phone he got. Just in case.
When I first moved to London, my family were fearful that the big city would swallow me up and so made me take my sister’s old phone. She’d already moved on to something slinkier than the great big black brick of a thing which operated on BT Cellnet and required me to buy credit. Something I rarely remembered to do, or to turn it on. Or to charge it up so that when I needed to use it, nothing happened. Which, of course, made me hate it even more.
Eventually, at the start of 2003, I ceded to work’s (and life’s) expectations that I have a mobile. So, with some reluctance, I got myself kitted out with a contract and one of those little grey and black Nokias that were everywhere at the beginning of the century. Incredibly, when I turned it on a year or so ago it still worked, although only for two minute as I’ve lost the charger in one of numerous moves.
Inevitably, I started doing all those things that pissed me off. No, I don’t mean playing snakes, but not making proper plans. People now vaguely arrange to meet in the vicinity of a pub at an ill-defined time and no-one too sure who is coming. We have developed an inability to stick to arrangements. Everyone is always late, thinking that it’s fine to just bash out a quick apologetic text. I do it too, but it doesn’t make it right.
In 2005 my new work gave me a phone, another Nokia essentially the same as the one before only with a camera. Even though the first Nokia still functioned fine, they insisted I have a new phone. The other one still worked, but someone decided it needed replacing for reasons known only to fashion.
That phone lasted until sometime in 2007 when its charge port fell out. It had one last run of battery, failing at a suitably critical time when I was talking to the plumber about the water coming through the ceiling thus becoming my first phone to actually die.
Since then I’ve gone through two SonyEricsons both of which have lasted less time than the previous. In fairness to the first, it only gave up the ghost when torrential rain over a day of hiking buggered the operating software. The second lasted less than eighteen months. Ironically, the more I put my life into the infernal devices, the more prone to critical failure they seem.
Back in the 02 shop, I had few requirements. I wanted something I could communicate with – email, text, phone calls, Facebook, latterly Twitter – organise myself, some gentle web-browsing and occasional photo-taking. But most of all I wanted it to last. They sold me a Blackberry.
And I’ve been very happy with it. It did all things I wanted perfectly well. I have no real desire to have some crappy bit of software measure how deeply I sleep, or name the stars for me when I photograph them at night or pretty much any other wanky app you can mention. I haven’t seen or heard of any one that I think sounds cool. My Blackberry does exactly what I want it to do and a bit of me wonders that if they’d just concentrated on making it the devices the equivalent of tiny work laptops rather than fully integrated media devices they might not be in quite so much trouble.
Which makes it all the more a shame that I had to send my Blackberry off for some tender loving care. The lock button was cracked and no longer worked. Blackberry guarantees its handsets for two years and all the data on it was backed up in two places so off it went.
No problem, I thought, especially not since I was given a loan phone to use in the interim. Except, the loan phone was, unsurprisingly, not a smart phone. Instead they lent me a something that felt like the hick cousin of a modern phone, something which had never had the opportunities of its distant relatives because it was kept outside, barefoot, sweeping up dust with a broom lacking bristles. Once it would have been the cooler nephew of the Nokia I’d been so pleased with ten years ago, but now it just felt like a gold medallion on a hairy chest peeking out through the open neck of a floral print shirt. At least the battery didn’t run out.
For those two weeks I felt disconnected. I have arrived late (too late, some might say) to the party, but I’ve become, as I sneered way back when I first saw that that “sent from my” motif at the bottom of an email, addicted to my twatberry. Yes, social media and the internet and managing my calendar are all useful, but email is the big thing. We can’t use personal email at work, but that hasn’t stopped me and my fiancé planning house renovations via email. Instead, my loan phone was from the last century. I laboriously texted her, but having become so used to a qwerty keyboard I found the whole thing tedious and considered actually using emoticons and gibberish abbreviations for the first time in my life. It wasn’t always like that. When we were first going out we flirted through the days by text message. Now, we tend to use it only as a quick note to say we’re on the train home. I’m not sure why we use text to update arrival times; there’s some sort of misconception that it’s faster or more reliable.
It was ridiculous, but I felt entirely cut off – as though I were missing out on some excitement by only being able to check my email, TwitFace and whatever other feeds I’m plugged into during the evening. Except our evenings are packed with DIY at the moment, so in reality I just didn’t look at anything or talk to anyone so I took the opportunity to cleanse my mailing lists, to purge myself of all those emails and alerts I never actually read and just deleted. The out of date recruitment agency services, Rightmove, someone who sounded funny on their profile but is really just a total cock.
I got the phone back last Friday. Hurrah, I thought, time to rejoin the world.
Or not. Without consciously planning it the break seems to have rebalanced my relationship with it. Without me plugging inane stuff into it, hardly anything comes back. The little red light refuses to blink. Maybe it’s still broken or maybe no-one’s got anything to say of any importance. Maybe we’re all just enjoying the silence for a while.