Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Phone Wars

I was at a meeting the other day, one of those meetings with quite a few high powered people. And me.

There were about twenty people there, all business types. Most of them were pretty well known and biggish players in my industry and around the table sat many large, well nourished and well trained brains and many more large and not so well trained egos.

I go to these meetings about four times a year as, in theory at least, I'm part of this business group. The truth is that I go because I want to learn from these fellows, I want to learn more about my industry and about running a company, all that serious stuff that I no doubt would have learned had I gone to university. Even though I'm about the same age as most of them I sit there and feel as if I'm a child in an adult world.

One of the chaps has an unusual appearance and demeanour. If you imagine Father Christmas on a day off, dressed in a business suit and with the beard packed away in a box, you'd have a decent image of him. That's the physical appearance taken care of, the demeanour is friendly but in a "I always stand up for my principles and take no shit" kind of way. In several meetings I've witnessed him push a point beyond the boundaries that most others would, seemingly because he digs his heels in and wants to win, more than his desire to really analyse a point.

I reckon he's in his late fifties or early sixties. He comes across as the sort of bloke who's been in the industry since he left school, who knows nothing else and has no desire to know anything else. The sort of bloke you want on your side not on the other side. Scary, and until some months ago I stayed fairly well clear of him. Then I overheard him chatting to another fellow. They were talking about drums and my drum radar went into overdrive. I scraped into the conversation and he's now my new best friend.

So, there I was in the meeting last week sitting next to my new mate. Before the meeting had formally begun we did some serious drum talk, of snares and cymbals, sticks and kits. It was good, if you're a drummer.

The meeting began and I observed something taking place. It was a phone war, slightly subtle but even more slightly unsubtle. Most people put their phone on the table in front of them. They then got involved in the meeting at the appropriate moments. But, at almost every other opportunity, they all checked their phones, replied to a text message (seemingly) and trying to portray an air of being busier and more important than they actually were.

The subtletly was signified by the fact that all the ringtones were turned off, the messages were silent and the actions were a bit hidden. The lack of subtlety was in the fact that it happened at all, a bit like an elephant trying to hide in the butter dish in the fridge.

All these fellows had flash phones. Blackberries, blueberries, iPhones and Star Wars phones were out in abundance. It was a bit of a competition to prove that each had the best phone, the one with the best flip out QWERTY keyboard. I must admit that's the first time I've ever typed out the word "qwerty" and strangely I was totally surprised at how easy it was to physically type out. That's a bit mad isn't it? It shouldn't really have such a shock to me. Try it and I bet you'll catch yourself looking for the keys.

And I've got a brand new phone, a flashy one without real buttons. It's got a keyboard that appears on screen and turns on its side when it eventually decides it wants to. The instructions say that the phone senses when it's turned and adjusts the display automatically. The instructions lie, the truth is that you turn the phone sideways, bang it a bit, give up on the whole display going horizontal thing and turn it back the other way. Then the display turns on its side and catches you unawares.

It's got wifi, a cubey thing that spins around and that general array of functions and applications that we've all been fooled into thinking are essential for us to exist in day to day life. I use it to make and receive phone calls, to send and receive texts and to look at the weather so I can decide which shirt I'm going wear the next day. As far as I'm concerned the best thing about it is the silicone rubber case that I bought with it, it's got a very sexy feel to it, a bit like writing with a ballpoint pen when you're on the conveyor belt at the supermarket.

After a while I thought I'd better get my new phone out. I went through a myriad of menus and a score of screens to put it on silent and plonked it on the table. For the next couple of hours, while the other chaps played their phone war, I checked my phone at the appropriate intervals. Nothing happened, not even my Mum called.

I pretended that I was important though. In the couple of hours I sent about thirty fake messages to about thirty fake people. I made a screwed up face several times as I pretended to read an email about some slightly puzzling topic. I smiled quietly to myself while making sure a few people caught sight of me as I read a pretend message about something amusing and I sighed with dismay as I pretended to receive one that was a pain.

Then I wondered if that's what all the others, with their sideways qwerty keyboards were doing too.

And later on I won six bottles of French wine.



Serendib_Isle said...

Hah ha ha. I usually “float” when I'm bored at meetings. I imagine myself floating above the boardroom watching everyone below. Works really well if there are some cleavages in sight. :D
Don’t call me a perv (again), its just fun, I tell ya!

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

No cleavages S Isle, just some bald heads and really uninspiring sights. Sadly.

Anonymous said...

The way I describe your writing would be articulation of subtle, witted, total and utter sincerity ! You oughta right a book on human behavior...as you're pretty darn good at this : ) ...

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Gosh, thank you Nat, I think I do spend a lot of time observing various things that go on around me.