Friday's child

22nd October 1999 at 01:00
Reva Klein on what it's like to . . . get a mobile.

Mark's lost his innocence, his boyhood, his dorkishness. This boy is on the map. Being 14 and possessing the latest Nokia (shocking pink with multi-coloured pads on it and a hologram on the little screen) is the rite of passage Mark has been fantasising about for an eternity. Well, six months at least.

Being the first in his ganglet to own a mobile phone has catapulted him in the coolness stakes from nought to . . . well, way up there, anyway. It's the latest object of the lad's desire. If it's not in his hand he's reminded of its presence by a violent rendering of the Queen of the Night's aria from The Magic Flute. His ears glow pink with pleasure.

But being so very new, the euphoria quickly descends into urgent fumblings to locate the phone, hook in his earpiece and deal with his pressing affairs of state - usually his mum asking where he is and when he's coming home.

There's a whole culture around mobiles that Mark's had to absorb quickly. Being a consummate magpie, he managed it in record time. Like the way you don't say hello when you answer the phone. It's more like "yeah...awrat?" in an Ali G, slurring kind of way. And there's the body language when you talk on the mobile (even, or especially, if it's to your mum) - hunched over, knees bent, the occasional downward chop movement of the arm to show impatience with having your precious time intruded upon.

Then there's the way you don't move away from your mates to talk on it but conduct your conversation in their faces, just to make sure they have full view of you in all your glory. Mark's dying for the day when he gets the singular experience of walking down the road on his own, talking into the hands-free mouthpiece and looking for all the world like Mr Cool - or prize prat, depending on your perspective.

But one experience he's already had, and which he fully intends to avoid again, happened the first day he brought the phone into school. In the middle of an English lesson, in the one deathly-still moment of the whole hour, the chirruping of a muffled Mozart aria rang out from the back of the room. It started off quietly but gained intensity with each ring until Mark, ears not so much shocking pink as Dracula red, and hands atrembling, finally managed to switch it off, the whole world watching and smirking away.

He didn't even need to look up to know that Miss was standing beside him, hand outstretched. He'd observed the sad scenario many times before. As he resignedly deposited the thing he loved most in the world into her upturned palm, she not altogether kindly muttered that if he hadn't yet learned that mobiles needed to be switched off in class, at least he'd learned the meaning of the word confiscate.

Parting is such sweet sorrow, even if it's only for an hour and then an extra 20 minutes in detention. But it makes reunion so much the sweeter. With his mobile, nay, his very identity, back in his loving little mitts, the swagger returns to his hips, the glint to his eye, the Mona Lisa smile to his lips. Mark is once more happy, at peace, complete.

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