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Her old phone was kept, turned off, in a cupboard.
If she was doing something out of her routine, say, a doctor’s visit, the phone was moved to the bottom of her bag. If it rang, hysteria ensued. ‘What’s that noise? Is that my phone? OH, WHO IS PHONING ME NOW!!! It’s like a telephone exchange in here!’ Because everybody knows busy telephone exchanges receive an impossible-to-manage one phone call every six to eight months. After five minutes she’d fish the by-now-silent phone out of the bag, take it out of its old NHS glasses case, flip it open in a temper, fiddle with it pointlessly, accidentally set the alarm off, and be none the wiser as to who’d called.
Which is why we were most surprised when she wanted a smart phone. Stunned, even. The first day. That was a long day. We told her to swipe gently across. Still, she aggressively poked at it like it had rusty buttons. We showed her how to press the telephone symbol to make telephone calls, and still she insisted on attempting to make calls with the calculator. She did learn to use the camera – ‘Look, Flavia, you don’t look that ugly in this picture!’ – and despite never again managing to find that picture in the elusive gallery, accidentally sent it to my dad, who got cross because mobiles are not toys and only for house-on-fire type emergencies. She took a picture of herself with the reverse camera while trying to make a call, and wondered who that scowling lady in curlers was who had just appeared on her phone – had she accidentally Skyped someone?
Then, suddenly, after many, many days of this, she learnt. To use the phone. To send a text. She discovered the wonders of the internet. There were a few teething problems of her typing ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys videos’ into a text message to me five times instead of into Google, but before we knew it, she had been transformed.
Transformed into a grunting teenager at the back of the bus, I mean. Her phone was always in her hand. I heard her jonesing like an addict, mumbling ‘I am going to need more jigga (she meant giga). This isn’t enough! I have to get more!’ She watched videos while she cooked, she sat at the table on her phone, refusing to engage with her loser family, and she cruelly mocked my dad’s old brick phone. We had created a monster. But it was a mere gateway drug. Now, she is asking for a tablet. We are doomed.
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