THE NUMBER OF BATTERED city-dwellers is growing fast.
I have a purple bruise on my knee where I walked into a locked door.
The woman next to me had a red scrape on her forehead from a lamppost.
A third member sprained her ankle when she tripped over a small dog.
We compared wounds at an informal meeting of the Phone-Starers Club, a group of SAD people whose entire lives have been sucked into their mobile phones.
We are the people who walk around holding the things in front of us.
We are the folk who resent the few minutes a day we have to tear our eyes away from our tiny screens, for other activities, such as leaping onto a bus, engaging in sport or having sex.
Our numbers are growing. You can now find us in all major cities. South Korea has become a country full of people who couldn’t care less about losing their wallets, passports, or children, but would instantly commit suicide if their phones were mislaid. But they are everywhere.
“I just joined the ranks of phone gazers about three weeks ago,” said Angela, a reader from Singapore. Aware of potential dangers, she recommends you do it “on the train or bus only, else you might walk into a hole”.
The first time I admitted to having a major pedestrian traffic accident while reading a particularly gripping text message on my phone was in March.
I promptly received a note from a Filipino reader named Vince A: “Your column gave me an idea about the next killer mobile feature: the ability to show on the screen what the user is walking towards.”
I told him it was a good idea. Phone-starers have blindly walked off cliffs, under buses, and into the paths of trains. Not only can these accidents be fatal, but worse, they can be humiliating (falling over a baby stroller is INCREDIBLY embarrassing).
Stop laughing! It’s not funny. For critics who see us as pathetic technology addicts who should get lives, I reply: Yeah? So? What’s your point?
On my way home from our phone-starers meeting, I decided to check my email. In the inbox was an excited note from Vince saying that the technology he had envisaged two months earlier has now been launched.
Yes! You can now walk down the road reading your phone screen AND see the pavement ahead of you. A program called Email ‘n’ Walk makes a live, real-time movie of everything in front of you and plays it as the background of the email on your screen. In practice, it makes your phone see-through. The system is ready for download for i-Phone users (look up Phase2 Media on the Internet) but should eventually be available for all phones.
I can’t wait. Once I get that, I need never look away from my beloved mobile phone again. If my children want to talk to me or my wife wants her conjugal rights, I shall just tell them to position themselves in front of the phone and get on with it.
The news from Vince made me so happy that I forwarded it to several people while I was walking down the road. Which was when I tripped over a baby carriage. It was SO embarrassing.