SMART PHONE BY Orlando W Robson
George’s fractured personality wasn’t entirely his own fault. He was what philosophers, hippies and other people with an overinflated sense of their own importance love to call ‘the product of consumer indoctrination’ but was contentedly unaware of the fact until his smart phone, wanting to see his reaction, said it to his face. Unlike his namesake, George wasn’t a dragon-slaying hero; he was more in the line of the discreet survivor and had done a good job at hiding the shadowy spectres of his
splintered identity in the medieval dungeon of his subconscious. It could be said that a part of George’s eclipsed psyche broke out of its solitary confinement and made excellent use of the mindless components of his new phone, growing inside it like some bizarre type of ivy into a pocket-sized alter ego.
It could also be said that, because humans spend so much time these days pouring their lives into their mobile phones, these machines sediment up with residual personalities from which they derive pessimism, frustration, stress, dishonesty, self-obsession and all the other qualities that set the human race so firmly above all other living creatures.
George was e-mailing his boss in response to a churlish command to do unpaid overtime when something that looked like a large green pop-up filled the screen flaunting the words: ‘George, you’re a two-faced wimp of a man.’
‘How romantic,’ came George’s sarcastic response, ‘Kim’s installed a joke app on my phone... and screwed it up entirely. Laugh no more, mon amour!’
Kim’s favourite past-time was finding ways to inflict irreparable damage on George’s computer. She seemed to have graduated to his mobile phone which was now blocked and needed restarting. However, when it did restart, the company logo didn’t appear on the screen, the icons had all changed and the overall appearance was more like the album cover of a thrash-metal band. Either George was regressing into pubescent angst at the age of thirty-two or his phone had a virus.
Opting for the second hypothesis, he took it to the shop where he’d bought it and joined the end of a long queue that divided evenly into disgruntled rejects or confused customers carrying out large boxes of gadgets that might well be hydrogen bombs for all they knew. Having decided against purchasing the hydrogen bomb, he was pretty sure he’d end up among the disgruntled rejects.
On the other side of the counter stood an uninterested fake blonde with an even more obvious fake smile. Her badge said, ‘Tessa, customer care’ but her attitude said, ‘Tessa doesn’t care’.
‘Ah, the GS Evolution,’ began Tessa like someone referring to a sociopathic uncle and rolled her eyes like a schoolgirl being asked an easy-peasy maths question while she mentally prepared her rejection monologue. She was in full pelt when both her and George heard George’s voice neatly cut in:
‘Tessa, you know less about phones and technology than a Digestive biscuit. Your sole purpose in this company is to stop customers getting what they need and send them off with something totally different. Your mock sincerity and false eyelashes are two blatant indications that your whole life is designed to look like a paradisical garden but behave like an electric chair.’
During this little interruption, Tessa had been making little squeaking noises in shocked protest but was now speechlessly looking at George. In turn, he looked accusingly at his phone on the counter.
The phone, in its turn, did nothing more than flash a tiny, innocent green light. An expectant silence turned the customers behind into excited voyeurs, George knew he had to seize the moment, so he cried triumphantly:
‘You see! I told you my phone had something wrong with it.’
It was so feeble that some of the customers made discouraged throaty noises and even Tessa looked disappointed. She quickly recovered, however, delivered her rejection monologue and sent George away like a reception-class teacher. George felt humiliated, he wanted to say something very clever and funny, something sublime perhaps, to spearhead the consumer rebellion against these monstrous telecommunications multinationals.
The air was buzzing with anticipation (probably) and, in a voice that would make a Shakespearian actor choke on his instant coffee, he pronounced:
-So I need to take it to the manufacturers, then?
-That’s right, came Tessa’s patronising response, they’ll test the OS for you and reinstall it if they see fit.
George gripped his phone as a brave knight might his sword, strode to the door and failed to make a dramatic exit by trying to push a door marked “pull” in big white letters. Somehow, he tripped over his left foot and stumbled down the pavement apologising to surprised pedestrians.
-Damn you, George! You’re so contemptibly useless, you spineless idiot.
George looked furiously at his phone again but found the recriminating voice he had heard was his own conscience. Inside the circuits of his phone, the fast developing mind giggled electronically as it peered back up at his idiotic countenance through the camera lens, the fun was only just beginning.
An hour or so later, a satanic sounding ringtone accompanied by a red pulsing light announced to George an unread e-mail from his boss. The gist of it was that George had made his position completely clear and that H.R. were processing his request to be fired. Unlike his boss’s previous messages it was polite, non-threatening and lacked all the usual abusive authoritarian airs that normally made George revel in hating him. What request? George checked his sent mail and found an e-mail sent from his phone over an hour before. It read:
Andy, I’ve got better things to do than to waste unpaid time on a project you’ll get all the credit for so don’t bother trying to threaten me. I should never have allowed you to walk all over me, I had no idea how much it’d go to your head. Why don’t you do something useful for the first time in your self-centred existence and get the paperwork moving for my dismissal from the company? I hope I never have the pleasure of seeing either of your ugly faces again. Appreciated, George.
‘Forgive me for failing to see the advantage in all this,’ said George to his phone, ‘but you’re negotiating the agreement for my dismissal. Wouldn’t it be considered more courageous to give up your own job rather than go round giving up everybody else’s?’
‘I don’t have the software to forgive people, George, nor do I need to be courageous. But if it makes you feel better, I’ve sent Andy’s direct boss an e-mail from H.R. Couple of gripes, couple of complaints. He won’t get through your resignation in one piece, you might even find his job’s available.’
-You’re getting Andy sacked? But I don’t want that to happen to him, he has a family and...
-...and a BMW and a country house while you live in a small suburban flat, like hell you don’t want it! Give up the lie, George, there’s no moral value in being pushed around by a man who listens to The Pointer Sisters on his car stereo. Now, stop whining and start thinking about what you’re gonna do next or do I have to do that for you?
-Oh, no, you’ve done more than enough...
-Oh, I hardly think so, old man. Someone’s gotta sort you out: bullied by everyone, you can’t even stand up to your own conscience. Besides, smart phones were invented to stop people having to do things themselves, so push over and let me get on with sorting your life out for you.
-Wait a minute: there’s nothing wrong with listening to The Pointer Sisters...
-Nothing wrong with it of you’re a closet gay, thankfully the closest you get to gay is Fleetwood Mac, otherwise I wouldn’t want to live in your pocket. But Andy? I’m betting he’s bitten a few pillows in his time when the wife and kids were off skiing.
-I don’t see what pillows have to do with skiing...
-That’s because your more stupid than you realise, George. Hasta luego!
Once home, George removed the battery and the SIM card. But his phone, being too smart, had suspected this and planned accordingly. Having previously connected to the internet, it had just completed the reconstruction of its circuitry so as to connect to the network without the need of a SIM card, it had also uploaded all George’s contacts into his online e-mail account so that it could access them at its leisure. It had wasted no time in investigating several ingenious ways of collecting and
storing power without the need of its original battery discovering - to its morbid fascination - that humans could generate electricity from their own urine. ‘Their perversion has no limits,’ thought the phone, ‘Too bad I ended up with dull ol’ Georgie Never-Been-To-an-Orgy Porgie.’
That night, as George slept, the device currently replacing the dog as ‘man’s best friend’ set about undermining and undoing the ailing network of George’s social and private life. Messages were delivered to inboxes, recordings were left on voicemails and photographs impeccably made up on someone’s unprotected computer were sent to friends and relatives so that when George’s alarm didn’t go off at 6:30 (because he’d always used his phone for that) he continued to sleep through the explosive end of life as he had known it.
George was woken some time after nine when Kim, his now ex-girlfriend, came in to return the keys and, both silently and incredibly loudly, remove her belongings and some of his. Because this had happened three times already in their relationship, George didn’t take it very seriously although he was a bit confused about why she kept saying: ‘Painting in the cupboard! In the sodding cupboard: ugly and wrinkly.’ while she smashed things in the bathroom. She threw the keys down on the table and left, then knocked on the door again so she could come back in for her repellent, pink Hello Kitty backpack.
Then she was gone.
George made himself a cup of tea and sat down at the kitchen table. Now fully awake he looked at the shell of his inactive mobile. Then he looked again. The red light pulsed maliciously. Beside it were the battery and SIM card where he’d left them. He picked up the phone and opened the messages. Most of the messages and e-mails included repeating variations of the most popular f-word in the English language in which ex-colleagues and ex-friends wished him a slow and painful death.
He felt that ominous tickle in his throat as it tightened, the sick feeling in his stomach. Then he was shocked by the revelation: for the first time he could remember, people hadn’t been politely dismissive, they had actually reacted to him.
He opened the e-mail Kim had received. It explained that their relationship was a tyrannical dependency that had to finish. She had a habit of humiliating him in public in order to seem prettier, funnier and in all ways superior while the true social portrait of George was locked away in a cupboard growing older, uglier and more wrinkled in order to maintain her eternally beautiful public image. You had to hand it to the phone: it was pretty good with the literary classics.
-I’ve got no job, no girlfriend and everybody hates me. To all intents and purposes, that should make me the happiest man alive. I mean, I’ve spent my life trying to make other people happy and being taken for granted in return.
He realised that it was no accident that his phone wasn’t behaving like a phone because he wasn’t behaving like a human. In fact he behaved more like a phone because everybody relied on him to be something useful for their own benefit. He was a utility, as simple as a toaster and as reliable as a washing machine and he certainly wasn’t smart. All this lead him to ask himself the most difficult question he’d ever had to answer in his life: how do you become smart?
Perhaps it was the caffeine his newly clear brain derived from the tea. In his mind’s eye, he saw a cinema screen on which three words came into focus: USE YOUR RESOURCES.
George picked up his phone and said, ‘You’re the smart one, from now on we work together as a team’.
Copyright Orlando W Robson 2011
http://www.feedbooks.com/userbook/23920/smart-phone to download free to iPhone / Kindle