The Independent - Number 34 - October 27th 2001

The doctor was just saying “Mr.Rosengard, we have just had the test results back, and we have discovered that you were born with the biggest brain tumour in medical history… as big as your entire head. However, the good news is that, because of the incredible number of mobile phone calls you have made over the last ten years, the tumour has shrunk to nothing and totally disappeared.”

Then I woke up this morning, and got out of bed. Recently, I’ve been having trouble sleeping, so I had thought I would try counting the number of calls I made last month on my latest mobile phone bill that Orange have just sent me. I had got up to 3021 calls when I finally fell asleep.

That’s a lot of calls isn’t it? O.K, I admit it, I am a compulsive mobile phone addict.

Actually I have recently become a founder member of PPA (Portable Phones Anonymous). We have our own Twelve Step programme.

Step One: We recognise we are powerless over our addiction to mobile phones…and believe that a mobile- phone-free way of life can lead us to recovery.

Step Two: We come to believe that a higher power than Nokia exists and by surrendering to this power we can once again lead normal lives, and we pray that someone will invent a phone that is fixed by a line to the walls of our homes.

Like AA, we have our own 24 hour emergency service. So, if a member feels they are about to break out and make that first mobile phone call that will inevitably take them on the slippery slope towards self destruction, aka mobile phone bill hell- they just have to dial 077780 456 328. (All calls will be charged at a special premium rate of £1000 a minute). Recently there has been pressure from some members that it should be changed to a 24 -hour hot letter line.

We have weekly meetings all over London.

“Hi my name is Peter and I am a mobile phone addict.”

“Hi Peter” the group responds.

“I haven’t made a mobile phone call for twenty minutes.” Applause.

Ring …ring…ring…ring.


Someone in the group – who clearly is not successfully working the recovery programme – has been getting hold of members mobiles in the coffee break (all mobiles are meant to be checked in at the door) and changing everybody’s ringing tones. He then calls the phones from the loo. Everybody goes crazy, their personalised ringing tones are coming out of someone else’s pocket or bag…and they start trying to grab other members’ phones. When we find out who is doing it we have voted to call his mobile phone network and have him terminated.

We had a potentially very nasty incident at Thursday night’s meeting when Warren, the bond trader from New Jersey’s, ‘Oh Beautiful America’ ring, started coming from Mohammed’s (the Halal butcher from Finsbury Park) carrier bag, and ‘Ossama’s greatest hits’ went off in Warren’s trousers.

(I have just had an idea. To avoid all the millions of accidental 999 calls that Scotland Yard said they are receiving the other day (apparently they are being made by mobile phones self dialling 999 from people’s pockets and handbags) why don’t they just change the emergency number from 999 to 4297415512978? I guarantee that it will reduce the number of time wasting calls to the overworked emergency services by 99% at a stroke.)

I have to admit I am finding it very difficult to give up my 100-a-day mobile habit. But at least one positive side- effect of attending PPA, is that I have finally had the confidence to ‘Come Out.’ Yes, after years of ‘Anonymous Caller’ flashing up on people’s phones when I ring them, last week I started letting my number show for the first time.

I know I am meant to be going cold turkey, but I am cutting down, honestly. I only made 96 calls yesterday.

I always hid my number because I liked to surprise people. I thought half the fun of getting a phone call, in an all too predictable world, is not knowing who it is who is calling you. But my friends kept telling me “I knew it was you Peter, ‘cos you are the only person who withholds their number…so when I see ‘anonymous caller’ I know it’s you.”

(A reader has just e mailed me, anonymously, to say “No, that’s not the reason you hid your number, Peter- be honest, you thought if people saw it was you calling they wouldn’t answer.”)

Interestingly (if you are doing a PhD into compulsive mobile phone behaviour that is) whilst I am quite capable of sitting in a restaurant and making non-stop mobile calls for hours on end … which, for some reason, seems to upset my dining companions… I get very upset if other people near me do the same thing. So I was very excited to read the other day about the hot new gadget in Japan that allows you to turn off other people’s mobile phones within 20 yards of you.

The catchingly called ‘Shutupmobilephonedevice’ (trust me on this) will be in the shops here by Christmas. You just point the remote control looking box with a floppy aerial on the end at the offending mobile phone user and the next second “You hear “Hallo… Hallo? You’re breaking up. Hallo? You’ve broken up!”

As a safety precaution, I suggest you point it through a hole in your newspaper, and try and sit at a table next to an exit.

Finally, an excerpt from my forthcoming book on Mobile Phone Etiquette (aka ‘The Adventures of a Mobile Phone Addict’):

A reader asks: “What should I do if someone shouts abuse at me on answering my call?” Answer: Hold the phone away and say nothing. Carry on eating your apple or reading your newspaper. Finally the angry shouting sounds will stop coming from your phone. When they do, hold the phone to your ear and say in a very friendly manner “I am terribly sorry, but I was interrupted at the beginning, I am afraid, and I couldn’t hear what you were saying. I wonder if you could possibly repeat it?”



Copyright Peter Rosengard 2001. All back columns including those that first appeared in The Independent 1993/1995, are now up on the site. Please see The Saturday Column Archive.