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Rear View Mirror: The Picture

Cabbie Tony Schumacher’s touching reminder of why smartphones aren’t that smart

Written by . Published on March 28th 2011.

Rear View Mirror: The Picture

I LOVE my mobile phone. In fact I feel a bit guilty calling it “my mobile phone” as to me it is much more than that.

She smiled behind a massive pair of glasses, with watery eyes and wrinkled face… dirty yellow wedding and eternity bands hanging onto her fingers like rings on a pigeon’s leg

It has Twitter. Without twitter and my smart, smartphone how would people I have never met know: “I’m about to cut the grass as it’s sunny.”?

And: “Off the pub tonight with the lads, sunburnt after cutting the grass.”?

And: “Back frum pob, knot tat drunk.”?

And: “Slept on floor again.”?

As well as Twitter it has Wi-Fi, so I can spend my day looking for hotspots to “speed up my connection”, walking around holding the phone at arm’s length while it searches for somewhere it can call home. I bump into other people doing the same: one of the masses who walk around stations and cafes looking like an away team from Star Trek.

Even better, it has email, enabling me to say things like “I just need to check my emails (always plural)” and then tut and push the screen and nod and say things like “I’ll deal with it later”, when I am in company. I therefore can look important without revealing my “Special Offers From Rapid Hardware” newsletter).

On top of that. I can read newspapers on its “HD 3.5 inch capacitive touch technology” screen. Prior to this phone, I could often be found pestering newsagents at 6.30am as they dolefully cut plastic ties from bales of damp pulp that had been outside the shop teasing me since 4.30am.

“Have you got the magazine as well?”

“I haven’t opened them yet.”

“I think they are in that pile over there.”

“I’ll have to go through them all.”

“If you could I’d appreciate it.”

“Is it this one?”

“No it’s the one with the free film.”

This phone is brilliant. It has an MP3 player so I can listen to old songs. And, even better than that, it has a radio so I can listen to Radio 2 playing old songs.

It even tells me the weather and outside temperature in my current location (in case my windows are painted shut with blackout curtains in place). I swear if I am ever unlucky enough to be taken hostage in Lebanon and chained to a radiator I hope I’ve got my phone with me so I can tell if it’s raining or not.

My favourite feature, the one I use the most, is the camera: it is a “Five mega pixel dual LED flash auto focus” one (according to the manual, which I’ve never read).

Now when I say use it the most, what I mean is I have about 130 pictures of the inside of my pocket. If you ever see someone walking towards you with a “dual LED flashing” pair of jeans on, stop and say hello. It will be me.

I do takes lots of pictures outside of my jeans as well, lots of arms length ones of me - surely the most tragic form of photography ever invented - and lots of empty streets at four in the morning (so I can stick them on Twitter).

The photo at the top of this page was taken with it one night, I took it in between tweeting about taking it and then posted it on Facebook while I was waiting for Newsnight to buffer.

Such is the joy that is my life.

For all the genius of design that the wonderful people who made my sleek stylish HD brushed metal 16 GB 1 GHz communications device of joy put in... I’ve some bad news for them.

It’s not as good as an old woman’s purse.

And the purse in question wasn’t some Fendi, lamb-skinned jewel incrusted bling either.

It was about six inches long, black leather, a bit tatty with a silver clasp that kept popping open, not because it was full of money, but because it was full of stories.

This purse belonged to a lady I picked up at a bingo hall one evening. She was a proper traditional scouser: lots of “Alright lad!” and “I’ve been playing with our Cissy, she’s a miserable cow!” (Names changed to protect Cissy who, being a miserable cow, will probably complain if I she reads this... the miserable cow.)

My elderly lady had one of those screechy voices that only 65+ female Liverpudlians have, worn out by years of shouting across tenements for kids to “get in” and gossiping with their their mates across the lines at Meccano or Delco.

We chatted and she told me of her late husband, bingo nights and TJ’s. Kids living away and “doing very well, the pride of a lonely mother.

Eventually we pulled up at her house and a fat old cat peeked from behind the nets of a battered old two up two down as I told her the fare.

“Ee-ar lad, you get it out, can’t do nothing with this arthritis.”

She smiled behind a massive pair of glasses with watery eyes and wrinkled face, passing me her popping purse, holding out her smooth pink hand; dirty yellow wedding and eternity bands hanging onto her fingers like rings on a pigeon’s leg.

“That’s a nice picture.”

I was looking at the photo, half hidden behind a receipt and a scratched plastic cover; it showed a man, on a beach, sitting on an old fashioned wooden deck chair. He was laughing and was wearing rolled up trousers and vest, a little girl was holding a hankie above his head, her sunbeam smile danced under squinting eyes.

In the foreground, at the man’s porcelain white feet, a little boy was importantly digging a hole in the sand, his skinny little arms holding a red plastic spade. He was peering into the hole assessing its depth and wondering if he’d make it to Australia before tea time.

“That’s Charlie, he’s gone now. Our Alan and that’s Diane.”

“It’s great.”

“I took it in Wales... a lovely holiday... so long ago now”

She peered at the picture at arm’s length, as if seeing it through the viewfinder all over again, its colour faded slightly, like her irises and her memories.

I realised she wasn’t listening to me; she was back on that beach all over again, worrying if she’d made enough jam sandwiches, if the orange squash had enough water in it and whether they had enough money to get the kids an ice cream again.

After she had gone to feed the cat, I thought about the phones I’ve had. How many hundreds of pictures I’ve snapped and stored never to see again. Gone are the days of eagerly crowding around Truprint envelopes and smudging sticky new prints.

We’ve lost those tangible memories, memories you can hold in your hand, real things that grow old with you, get bent at the corner, and suffer the odd tear, as you shed the odd tear.

Pieces of paper with names and places written on the back, in a young woman’s handwriting, hidden behind a receipt and a scratched bit of plastic.Biding their time. Waiting for Alan and Diane to find them one day.

Follow tonyshoey on twitter @tonyshoey

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womanMarch 25th 2011.


HippychickMarch 25th 2011.

Wow! Everyone, everywhere should own a box of memories. Every photograph can tell a story, happy or sad. I love this read!

The Big SisMarch 25th 2011.

Would be more upset to loose my purse pic and 'stuff' than to loose my money. Treasures.

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