… Buying a Phone: A tragic story of unfulfilled potential.

Summer 2006…

“So, how many texts do you send in a typical month?”

I didn’t want to sound like a technophobe, so I thought I’d better exaggerate a bit.

So I doubled it.

“About twelve?” I suggested.

Do you know how many extra texts I ended up paying for as part of my deal that went unused?


2006 Dr Brown decided there and then that he would never be caught out by that one again.

Sixteen years later…

“So, how much data do you use in a typical month?”

Oh, piss off!

Yes, folks. This month I have been in the market for a new mobile phone. Unless you’re a mugger in which case I’ve not been in the market for a new mobile phone and still use a 2003 metallic blue Sony Ericson the size of a fridge, so leave me alone.

And that’s why I find myself in Phones-U-Like, in front of a bewildering wall of the latest Apple and Samsung devices, trying to bluff my way past a shop assistant younger than my previous mobile.

“How much data do I use?  Interesting question.  What’s data?”

“Well, do you stream movies?”




“Do you game?”

“Ah, yes.  Solitaire.  Wordle.  Perhaps the odd Sudoku.”

A little of him dies inside.  He keeps trying.

“Do you have a Smart Home?” he asks.

“Maybe.  What is it?”

“It’s where the phone connects to your home…”

“I had a phone that connected to my home in the 80’s, mate.  It connected directly to the wall in the cloakroom under the stairs.  I think you’ll find things have moved on a bit!”

I sense weakness and go on the offensive.

“What’s the thing that makes the internet be in the phone?”


“Yeah. How do you get the internet into it?  What’s the bit that makes the internet be in the phone so I don’t have to wave it above my head when I do a google search or stand near the curtains so I can make a phone call without losing signal.  The thing that makes the internet be in the phone?  Because I’ll want plenty of that.”

The Tech Wizard starts to weep.

Setting the thing up is even worse.

A week later and I have my shiny new phone (muggers – no I don’t.  Leave me alone.) and I’m on hold trying to register the thing.

“We are experiencing an unexpectedly high volume of calls.” Announces the message.

Unexpected by who?  Because I certainly expected it.

Now, here’s a thing.

Is it just me, or do other people get upset when they’re on hold and the phone isn’t answered at the end of the song?

There’s a tiny pause, and I start with “Hi.  My name’s Rick.  I wonder if you can…” and then I’m cut off mid-flow as the same song starts again.

Every.  Bloody.  Time.

It’s almost worse if they pick up mid-song and I then have it stuck in my head for the rest of the day, in order to complete some sort of involuntary cycle.

I’m still not sure if I’ve been the victim of a Derren Brown style Pavlovian thought experiment where, having been made so furiously angry listening to the same song over and over again, I could be reactivated into a peak of homicidal fury, like a Cold War sleeper agent, if I ever hear “Something In the Air” by Thunderclap Newman ever again.

I shouldn’t let it get me this angry.

I don’t even particularly care about phones.

I’m not a techy sort of person.

Famously a mobile phone contains more computing power than it took to put a man on the moon.

All I want my phone to do is receive the occasional message, take a few pictures and, god help us all, make phone calls.  If it allows me and the boy to lie in bed and watch Pink Panther cartoons while the girls watch “The Masked Singer” then that’s just a bonus.

All the extra capability is just wasted potential.

It’s like my wrist watch which is good to be submerged to 150m but I still take it off to bath my kids.

I think I hate it because it acts as a mirror to my own wasted possibilities.

I may be a brilliant bassoonist or world class polo player, never having picked up a bassoon or, indeed, a polo pony.  But as soon as I try, the spell will be broken and I’m back to being a portly GP with no discernible talent and a disappointingly ordinary life.

And that is why, next time, I refuse to bow to this charade of unfulfilled potential. And so next time I’m due a mobile phone upgrade; you’ll know.

Because I’ll be the one proudly carrying two yoghurt pots attached together by a length of string.

I’ll call you!

4 thoughts on “… Buying a Phone: A tragic story of unfulfilled potential.

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