By Tony Samson
THE PENETRATION rate (a marketing term, Sir) of the mobile phone is almost 100% of the population and that includes infants and nonagenarians. It’s the double-SIM card phones (counted as two) and the multi-gadget culture that have made this jarring statistic possible.
Everyone has mobile connection, carrying his phone everywhere, except in the shower and the casket. (Is the phone cremated with the deceased?) When it rings, one knows who is calling. An unidentified number may be announcing a raffle jackpot, a scam, or a telemarketer pushing personal bank loans. Gone are the land-line gatekeepers to ask, “What company are you from?”
Mobile connections are direct. They leave a target defenseless, with no polite means to avoid a call. (Sorry, I’m having an anxiety attack right now. Can you call later so I can lie down and switch off my phone?)
What’s to stop a pest from sending inappropriate messages to another person whose number he got from a stranger? (Are your earlobes pierced?)
The simplest approach in fending off unwanted communications is simply to ignore them. Cutting off an incoming call in mid-ring alerts the caller with a fast busy and the brusque response this entails. It’s better to let the phone ring, maybe with a voice intercept after seven rings — I’m not running out of the shower to take your call.
And everybody is on the phone. There are pedestrians who seem to be talking to themselves with a cockroach ear transmitter picking up the other one in the conversation. Is walking while texting also a traffic violation?
There are ways of telling if the mobile connection is still working.
A quick response means the person welcomes the message and has time to fashion a short reply, even if it is not the desired response. Gone are the days when an assumption can be made that the message has not yet been received and is being queued in outer space.
Not to get an instant reply can no longer be blamed on a technical glitch. The delayed response of 30 minutes (maybe, he’s feeding the koi) can be allowed. But messages have a certain urgency that requires even just an acknowledgment of receipt, “K” being a frequently sent message. A day’s delay is an answer in itself — don’t hold your breath.
Still, the silent treatment of unanswered messages (also referred to as “ghosting”) with the sender increasing his intensity and pleading levels, is the modern equivalent of unrequited love. The disinterested, even badgered, party no longer reads the long messages before trashing them.
Reforming party girls (I want to go straight after saving your allowances) who want to turn into nuns or get married to wealthy suitors clueless about their past simply change their SIM card and melt back into anonymity and their real names.
The fleeting nature of the contact number which is prepaid and unspecified allows intimate relationships to be mobile. The ATM girl uses the phone as her business address for entrepreneurial forays in e-commerce. She needs no manager and does her own brand ambassadorship, supplying vital information on availability, red alerts, and skin tones. She sets her own fees without deductions for commission and VAT. The phrase “I miss you” with an accompanying teary emoticon is shorthand for “I need to withdraw from your deposit” — preferably the cash variety.
Mobile communications are transforming the way the oldest profession, after landscape architecture (hanging gardens of Babylon), is conducted. Mobile romance is now part of the social scene. While the ’70s system of paging screened out lewd vocabulary which needed to be sanitized for transmission (Can we have coffee), mobile messages go on the air in their purest (or impurest) form — Junjun misses the twins.
The human barrier is removed from even the most inaccessible personality once the contact number is discovered. Still, the connection is easily broken by the simple expedient of ignoring the beep.
Breaking off a mobile connection for good requires merely a new number. And if the other number is kept somewhere in analog form, handwritten in a notebook, the ATM relationship can be revived, unless, of course, the other party too changed number and kept his deposit accounts safe.
As in anything mobile, even the most intense relationships are portable and easily disconnected… or transferred.
Tony Samson is Chairman and CEO, TOUCH xda.