TV SMITH's Dua Sen: Fone Fears
TV Smith's Dua Sen
TV Smith's Dua Sen. The politically incorrect irregular columnist combines his idiosyncratic observations and tangential commentary into a blog...


by TV Smith

I was talking to my friend Jean at the open car park of a shopping mall when a burly guy appeared around the corner from nowhere. He was shouting profanities and gesturing angrily, as he walked aggressively towards us. I looked at Jean and inquired gently but tactfully as to whether this unfriendly stranger was one of her many demented ex-boyfriends. She asked if I had borrowed money from this guy instead.

Fearing the worst, we instinctively jumped into her car, locked the doors and hoped to make a quick getaway. Unfortunately, like many other women, Jean decided to have a quick check of her hair and lipstick before starting the car.

Moments before meeting our maker, we noticed the raging lunatic beeping a vehicle remote and getting into an expensive model parked next to us. Hey, what do we know? Hospital Bahagia escapees now drive sleek German cars! It was only then that Jean and I realised that he was actually having an intense conversation on his mobile phone while connected to a tiny hands-free kit. We had freaked out over nothing.

Using a hands-free kit outside a vehicle is becoming fashionable. Day, in day out, we see more people talking to themselves loudly in public with tiny tethered or cordless earpieces. How the useful little device emerged from the private confines of a car into public places like banks, shopping malls and restaurants, escapes me. What I know is that with such equipment, people tend to walk around in circles and speak at twice the normal levels. The irony is that Malaysians adopted the word “handphone” instead of calling it a cell phone or mobile phone as in most other countries.

The other unique Malaysian peculiarity is that we have replaced the gentle greeting “Hello” with the intrusive question, “Where are you”? Every mobile conversation almost always starts with that, no matter the language or dialect.

There appears to be another glaring hazard. The keypad and screen illumination on cell phones are getting brighter with each new model. Some are so bright, the owners don’t need to invest in torchlights ever again. Maybe I am unlucky. I always end up sitting near someone with one of these blinding phones in a darkened cinema hall. Fortunately, most Malaysians have now become accustomed to turning off the ring tone when watching a movie. So, silently a beacon of light will appear in the darkness and blind you for the few seconds until the call gets answered. I can put up with someone whispering on the phone 20 seats from me. What I can’t stand is the visual distraction of someone in the seat in front engaging in a prolonged SMS conversation with a “torchlight”.

Of course, such inconsiderate behaviour is not unique to us. Handphone etiquette, or the lack of, plagues every society with a mobile communication network. Hospitals, restaurants, concert halls and theatres, worldwide, are now forbidding or dissuading the use of such devices within their premises.

Some even install jamming devices to disable the phones. Sounds like a very appealing idea, even if it is illegal in many countries. At every conference or seminar, there is bound to be an idiot whose phone will ring loudly when the speaker is in the middle of an important presentation. Of course only idiots use the most irritating ring tones and bury their phones in the deepest part of their pockets or handbags.

It may be annoying but at least it is not dangerous, like the other newfound and increasingly popular Malaysian habit – reading and sending text messages while driving.

This article also appears in print and online in today's StarMag (The Sunday Star).

© 2004 TV SMITH
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