Why Ollie risks being attacked with a fish slice for using his phone

Instant communication is robbing the Banks family of personal time, and it’s making Lizzie angry, as she ‘explains’ to husband Ollie…

“Personally, I blame Alexander Graham Bell. He has a lot to answer for in this house.” Lizzie was scrubbing hard at the kitchen sink in what husband Ollie recognised as a cleaning frenzy. it didn’t happen often, but seeing it was a bad sign; it meant his wife was releasing pent-up anger.

“Bell has been dead for almost 100 years. How can he have done he done to upset you?” he asked, looking up from his phone.

“There,” she said, inadvertently flicking bleach-laden water at his shirt as she pointed to the phone. “That.”

“I think you’ll find that Bell had nothing to do with the mobile; that technology came along much later,” said Ollie, unadvisedly.

Lizzie paused in her scrubbing, and rested both hands on the edge of the sink. “You really don’t get it, do you? I blame Bell for the telephone bell, and the way we have to jump up and grab the instrument at once, in some kind of Pavlovian response. It’s the rudest instrument there is. That ringing might as well be shouting ‘talk to me now, talk to me now, talk to me now’. It doesn’t care what else you might be doing, and how important that might be.

“And we’ve extended that to the mobile, and all the ways we communicate with each other, to such an extent that it rules our lives. I don’t think any company pays people enough to expect them to answer text messages and emails at all hours of the day or night just because there’s technology that makes it possible.  Why do we need phone calls asking if we’ve seen emails or texts? Just what it is with people?

“It’s the weekend for goodness sake, and time you should be spending with us,” she went on, now in full flow. “Remember us? Your family. Your kids. Your parents. If you looked up from your phone once in a while you’d see that the kids are growing up; that your parents are getting older. There’s a day coming when you’ll look up from the screen and find your parents have died and your kids have left home. There will just be the three of us; you, me, and that screen – and I know who’ll be third in that pecking order if I’m not careful. It’s not a prospect I’m looking forward to, and I’m going to make sure it doesn’t happen, one way or another. Unless of course you want it just to be the two of you; that can be arranged.”

Ollie saw the fire in her eyes, opened a cupboard and put his phone between a box of teabags and a jar of instant coffee. “Sorry,” he said.

“Oh brilliant,” said Lizzie. “Now you won’t be able to find the thing when Monday morning comes round.”

“I’ll ring it,” said Ollie. “Then we’ll find it.”

“Oh, for goodness’ sake, Banks, take it out of there and be man enough to turn it off. It’s good for your heart.”

“Really?” asked Ollie. “How is turning my phone off good for my heart?”

“Two reasons,” said his wife, brandishing a fish slice. “The first is that if you turn it off, I’m unlikely to want to stab you to death with this fish slice…”

“Not sharp enough,” said Ollie, sensing that her anger, which had been totally justified, was abating.

“Don’t make me prove you wrong,” she said. “And reason two is that they say it’s good for your heart if you do something that scares you every day. Turning off your phone will terrify you, but no-one will die if you do. And of course, if you don’t, I shall rip it from your grasp and encourage Jack to bury it in the sandpit. You won’t be able to stop him because you’ll be too busy fending off a frenzied woman attacking you with a fish slice. Are we clear on that?”

Picture: David Castillo Dominici via Dreamstime.com