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15 May 2008 Edition

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Matt Treacy

Mobile madness

WHILE I was intrigued to discover recently (via an anonymous but trusted source) that my driving skills are a source of some mirth to certain parties who are regaled by a certain other party who shall remain nameless about my Fernando Alonsoesque command of the road, that is nothing to my difficulties involving mobile phones. Indeed, were it not for the assistance of Ciara, who treats me in somewhat the same manner as you would someone consigned to ‘care in the community’, I would probably not be able to use them at all.
Having lived for years with a phone that was around the same size as Kieran Donaghy’s right boot, which had survived been thrown against a wall in the course of an argument about Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (don’t even ask), on which all the numbers on the buttons had been erased, which had no ring-tone and generally only worked during lunar eclipses, it packed up on me.
I decided to visit my local “service provider”, only to be treated with something akin to disdain. Having deigned to take the phone in his hand, the sales assistant then plied me with a series of bewildering questions about sim cards and such like. The upshot of which was that I had to buy a new phone: one that can apparently do everything except boil an egg (although it could very well end up among the boiling eggs if it annoys me much more).
Or at least it could do all those things if I knew how to use it properly. Which I don’t, despite Ciara’s patient instruction. What it has done, however, is mysteriously restore long-lost text messages, hidden apparently on my sim card. Including ones which I thought I had erased. I’m not even techie enough to accomplish that, obviously.

ANYWAY, in reading back through them I discovered some interesting messages not unconnected to this column, caches of them which arrived after Dublin’s previous three exits from the football championship. I think a small example will suffice.
Tyrone 2005: “Ha, ha. Mugsy got youse. Queen lover.” “Boo hoo. Dry your eyes, you cry baby. Up Fermanagh!” (from the Donagh direction as I recall). Mayo 2006: “Mayo! Ye got beaten by Mayo. Jesus Christ. Sure, give up.” Some people just sent smiley emoticons.
Now the strange thing about a lot of them is that I didn’t even recognise the numbers but it was nice to know that someone not important enough to me to be included as a ‘contact’ had been sufficiently exercised to go to the trouble of getting my fecking number so that they could wreck my head. That brought its own perils, however, on the odd occasion that I replied to some of them. 
Last year a certain chap innocently mentioned the Kerry match in relation to another matter only to be responded to with abuse. Apologies, Emmet. Then another time I was woken late at night by a familiar and irate voice. “What did you call my mother?!! And why are you texting her at two o’clock in the morning?” Yes, I should have checked the message again.

TEXTING is indeed fraught with potential minefields. Never more so, of course, than when having had a few pints. Naturally, human beings have said and done stupid things when drunk as boiled owls as long as there has been the means to become as drunk as a boiled owl. But for most of human history there were no means of making a fool of yourself with someone who wasn’t actually there.
Theoretically, that was no longer the case with the advent of the mail and later of the telephone, each of which raised the bar, as they say. Then came e-mail, which not only guaranteed instant despatch of one’s most profound thoughts fortified by 13 cans of Heineken and a bottle of red wine, but crucially meant that you didn’t have to see or speak directly to the object of one’s affection or scorn (whichever the case).
Phone text is similar to e-mail but is arguably more susceptible to the sending of messages you might later regret. Not that I have ever done anything of the sort, other than in retaliation for hurtful communiqués regarding the misfortunes of the Boys in Blue (that’s the Dubs, of course, not An Garda Síochána – Editor).
I do, however, know of a chap who used to send text messages to his former partner, pretending that he was sending them to someone else and intimating that he was having a high old time since their break-up. He felt very pleased about this when cushioned within the rosy warm glow of porter but not so when he awoke one morning slightly groggy to read a message she had sent back to him. “Do you think anyone believes this shite? Grow up.” Time for a cure.
Then there was the time I left a meeting with someone and was walking down the street when I heard the electronic beep signalling that someone was trying to contact me through cyberspace. I opened the text and it read simply: “Treacy is an awful fkn eejit.” Sent from the person I had just left but obviously meant to be sent to someone else! Still, a sobering thought to realise that one is not the boon companion one might like to imagine oneself. 
Anyway, fascinating and all as it was to read back over some of your kind messages, you will be pleased to know that even without them Dublin’s exit from the football championship will find me wallowing in the Slough of Despair without any need for encouragement. KWIM?

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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