Life was fine until my phone got sick. It became feverishly hot and shut down without warning. The young man in the smart phone shop shook his head.
“I had a problem like this once,” he said. “I had to get a new phone. We’ll have to go upstairs.”
As we rode the escalator, he chatted about the good old days before smart phones. He couldn’t have been more than 26 and his hairdo had been fashioned by a pencil sharpener. As if he could remember what it was like to live with a single landline. Still, his phone had turned him into an old man with a sore neck and arthritic thumb joint. He’d tried to leave his personal one at home once to have a disconnected day, but couldn’t face doing it again.
We stepped into an open space with gleaming pale, surfaces under blinding led lights. Serious-looking youths trotted about wearing white canvas shoes and lanyards around their necks. It could’ve been an A & E ward, if it weren’t for the ear shattering music.
A smart phone charge nurse bustled toward us. He was wearing a headset and a serious expression. I told him what the problem was and he scribbled on his clipboard. After muttering into his mouthpiece, he said I’d have to wait an hour, or make an appointment for another day.
I’d been hoping to catch an early evening movie about a sinister global tickling network. But the boy from downstairs took me aside and explained it would actually take up more time to come back for an appointment than to wait now. Besides, he added, I could go out for a coffee and they’d call when the specialist was ready to see me. I told him that would be impossible because my phone wasn’t working.
He pointed at a pale blue, kidney-shaped sofa next to an outsized television screen. I was grateful the volume was turned down so a bright orange Donald Trump merely brayed like a distant donkey.
I did my best not to hate the appointment people and the way they were ushered to intensive care straight away. I tried meditating but there was too much noise. An older woman arrived nursing her laptop as if it was a baby. She sat opposite me, glanced impatiently over her shoulder, and examined her watch.
It’s impossible to overestimate the vulnerability of people whose technology has fallen ill. A man in cycling lycra appeared at the top of the escalator yelled at the charge nurse, and clattered down the stairs. Nobody seemed surprised.
Some time later, a woman replaced the charge nurse. She ultimately introduced me to boy with his hair in a man bun. He escorted me to a table, stroked my phone and asked how I was for time. I said I’d given up on time.
After nursing my phone back to health with impressive patience, he told me to text him if anything went wrong.
“I only answer texts,” he said. “ Phone calls take up too much time.”