I was living in Helsinki, right in the heart of Nokia Land, in the mid-90s when mobile phones turned from a glamorous-looking PR accessory into something everyone could afford. By the time I relocated to London in 1996, Nokia Land had colonised and expanded into Nokia World. After years of Bob Hoskins intoning BT’s mantra that it was good to talk, the mobile phone companies had all but stepped in and gazumped the market, crowning 40,000 years of human speech development with its ultimate achievement: charging people money to talk shite to each other.
The only way to make more money would’ve been to copyright the phrase ‘I’m on the bus.’ Suddenly, the mobile phone became the foremost public medium for the inane soundbite. You could give a running commentary on your daily life and all without the need for a face to face. Cool. Living life at one remove. Life at a distance. Life in the air age. In WAP we trust.
The mighty mobile conquered the known world. But in the process, it imposed its regime on the populace and transformed us into social retards. Now, we all find ourselves living in the Valley of the Phone Zombies.
Possibly the worst case of Phone Zombiedom I ever saw was a woman who’d stopped to read a text message . . . in a revolving door. It was a busy public building that no one could get in or out of because this pitiable sad-sack couldn’t walk and think at the same time.
What was going on here? Did she really not know the obstruction she was causing, or was it something else? Around this time, the Guardian ran a piece on the country’s most unusual rock bands, and one of them was called Selfish Cunt, with a record out titled ‘Britain is Shit’. Maybe they’d made a point. Britain was shit, because it was full of selfish cunts – and what moral courage they had to nail our society with that double crucifixion.
At the same time, Tony Blair had claimed that ‘We are all middle class now.’ Maybe ‘middle class’ was code for something else. Maybe that was just a respectable soundbite to assuage the masses. Maybe what he really saw was something more complex and sinister: that we were all living in the post-Copernican universe.
Hey, you – other person. Steer clear or keep your distance. Can’t you see I’m busy being self-absorbed.
Until Copernicus came along, people believed the cosmos revolved around the Earth. Then they discovered that the Earth was revolving around the Sun, and later that the universe was expanding, moving away from its centre. But post-Copernican Man or Woman puts him/herself at the centre of their own social universe, and other bodies must either orbit them or negotiate a way around them. Because they ain’t moving out of your way. Hey, you – other person. Steer clear or keep your distance. Can’t you see I’m busy being self-absorbed.
This attitude is hardly surprising, considering the endorsement it gets from the cult of celebrity and the glittering world of media publicity. Here are 10 slogans that have been channelled into our living rooms on a nightly basis.
Feed Your Obsession
Because I’m Worth It
Grow Up? What For?
I Want Them All
All For That One Moment Of Yours
Just Do It
Have It Your Way
Impatience Is A Virtue
Meanwhile, the mobile phones have added to their armoury such USPs as ‘text insult dictionary’ and ‘voice authority enhancement’. Hmm. The future looks good. The future looks Dalek. And we are their zombie slaves.
Here are 10 stars to look out for in the post-Copernican universe.
Wheelie suitcases are a great labour-saving device for travellers, but crowded stations and airports are crowded for a reason: there are lots of other people in them. And they don’t want their ankles chopped and cut up by you just because you’re too self-important to think about the vicious little chariot you’re pulling behind you.
They get on the bus, they see an empty seat and they stand in the gangway, creating a bottle-neck for everyone. What’s wrong with them – sitophobia? When invited to sit, Bus Statues’ excuses range from the specific (I’m only going a few stops’) to the nebulous (‘I’m all right, thanks’) and they’re all equally inane. We’re all only going a few stops. I can see you’re all right. The point is, get out of the fucking way.
Though the term is already plural, the collective alternative Bus Forest is also available, as in the expression, ‘I got on and walked straight into a fucking Bus Forest.’
Similar to Bus Statues, only blocking the Underground elevator by insisting on standing on the left, where others might want to pass. Aka, Travelator Dummies in airports.
Tip: don’t leave it till you get in the shop to phone home to ask your partner what to buy – make a fucking list before you set off.
Empty Basket Cases
Found in supermarkets. They can’t shop because they’re too busy on their mobile phone. They might pick something up, a cabbage, say, and hover in the aisle with it in their hands for a minute or two, like poor Yorick’s skull, but then it goes back on the shelf because they’re too busy yabbering to think about what they’re doing, or to care that they’re getting in other shoppers’ way. Tip: don’t leave it till you get in the shop to phone home to ask your partner what to buy – make a fucking list before you set off.
These can come in the shape of individuals or whole families. They materialise in front of you when you’re walking down the street and are characterised by their tendency to expand to fill all the available space.
They wake you up before the alarm’s gone off or they disturb your TV viewing because they can’t be bothered to get out of the car and walk up to their mate’s front door when they can honk their horn from the kerb instead. Wankers.
The rotund little woman walking in front of you with a heavy shopping bag in one hand and the other swinging out wildly for ballast. She’s clearly in need of a rearview mirror. Exercise extreme caution when overtaking.
Anyone who gets in your way by walking along the pavement at a glacial pace or suddenly stopping in front of you because they’re too busy yakking on or gawping at their fucking phone. They should be made to walk in the road with the traffic. That’d soon learn ’em.
On buses, these are those self-satisfied arseholes who occupy the aisle seat instead of sliding over into the empty window seat. They might make some pathetic attempt to justify this by carrying a large rucksack which they place on the empty seat beside them, but effectively, they’re hogging two seats. Now, with Phone Zombies, or Nut Whackers, or even Ankle Boudicas, I’m prepared to concede that they may simply be cretins. But every Seat Blocker is undeniably a case of a selfish cunt. If you want two seats, then cough up twice the fare. Cunt.
The definition here becomes obvious if you’re at all familiar with the Australian anti-littering campaign that ran with the slogan ‘Don’t Be A Tosser’. And the police are tossers too for not fining more of the bastards.
Click here for more stories about Life
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook