How smart are you with your smartphone?

Almost everyone, including the author typing this post is using smartphones these days.


1. Two passengers on a train who in the pre-smartphone era could be attracted to each other spend their time texting and tweeting away or watching movies – no interaction between them until they, perhaps, ‘check in’ at the same place.

2. A smartphone user who suddenly arrives in a new city abroad where internet roaming costs a fortune has three options: buy an ‘analog’ map, bite the lip and bare with the cost, or, third, head straight to a local mobile service provider and buy a new simcard. Guess which one she/he is going to choose?

3. Cut off from all the social network he/she feels lonely

Loneliness in a social network

I come to think that in present times it has become unacceptable to be idle. We are shielded off from the outside world by technology. On the subway, everyone is checking their blackberries, playing on their phones, texting, or at least listening to music, as am I when typing this on the way to the city center. I have no idea what my neighbors are talking about but they might be aware of what I’m listening to. Or, in fact they might be reading this post from over my shoulder.

I have no doubt that modern technology has brought about many positive changes. But when exactly was the last time you stroke a conversation with a stranger sitting or dining right next to you? Even at parties, when our friends go out for a smoke, we update our statuses on Facebook or check our mail.As if we actually had something important waiting for us in our mailboxes… As if being alone and unoccupied were a shame. It isn’t and shouldn’t be!

Trying to meet people has, perhaps, become the most absurd. You can no longer just call someone and meet that person right then. People now need time for consideration, meetings can no longer be impromptu because no one wants to admit that she or he isn’t busy at the given moment. Busy is the new cool.

The Shanghai encounter

Maybe it was Shanghai that stimulated her mind so well. In Beijing she felt threatened by the guards guarding everything, she felt threatened by the dust which she felt was settling in and destroying her lungs. She felt threatened by the huge, grey buildings and the lifeless streets. But Shanghai, oh, Shanghai was different. She already knew it would be different when she sat on the plane and so it was. It had that wonderful, somewhat humid air. Similar to the one London has. The air that makes your hair all curly.

And so she was, totally alone in Shanghai. She went to the Bund, strolled down the Nanjing Donglu at night and had no one to share her thoughts with. Nevertheless she enjoyed it. Being in and discovering a new city all by herself was like a meditation, like a trip to her inner self.

She went to the Jade Buddha Temple and bought a jade tiger necklace there. She felt this unique, spiritual ambiance only Asian temples have. The thing you don’t feel in European churches.

She went everywhere, explored the entire city. All by herself. Well, not completely by herself. The Shanghainese air was there. No matter where she went, she could feel it. She could feel the old, decadent times. The thick opium air, the ladies all dressed up, the frivolous atmosphere. She started soaking it in.

Everyday she felt more confident, more beautiful, she even dressed nicer, although she did not know whether everyone was looking at her as a sort of curiosum or if it was that they marvelled at her 1920s-like appearance. She wanted to believe in the latter version. And then he came – the one she did not want to live with but had to, since the hotel was so expensive. They barely met for breakfasts and at night when they were going to sleep (in two separate beds).

And it was before one of those breakfasts that she (they) saw him. He came into the elevator on the 8th floor letting an old gentleman enter the lift before him. She looked at him and from that moment on, it could have been anyone getting on the elevator and she wouldn’t have noticed. He was wearing a perfectly cut navy-blue suit and a little pin in the chest pocket. They smiled at eachother and his perfectly white teeth lit up  his dark complexed, handsome face.

And then they arrived on the 3rd floor and she had to get off. She ate her breakfast sitting with the roommate and thinking of the man from the elevator. In the afternoon of the same day, she was coming back from one of the many sites, all dressed up and pretty and she saw him at the reception desk. She hesitantly started going in the direction of the elevators, stopping here and there, pretending she was interested in the shoe-cleaning machine or some panda figurines. And then he came. They entered the elevator together. They were going up. He asked how her stay was, they talked about the bad air-conditioning but it could have been a talk about absolutely anything since they both seemed to enjoy the mere presence of eachother. Once again, it was her who was getting off first, once again it was the 3rd floor. She sat at lunch, alone in the restaurant thinking of him, the Indian prince…

On the last day she, and her stupid roommate were payng for the room at the reception desk. And then he came, once again seeing her with the other guy, probably thinking they were a couple, or not thinking about it at all. He was wearing a white polo shirt and was in a hurry, asking for the fastest way to get to the airport. She saw him, said hi, smiled. He “hied” back and once again the beautiful smile lit up his face. He made sure that everything was ok with her invoice and rushed away. She hoped to see him again in the lobby or anywhere during her last day in Shanghai. She even purposedly stopped on his floor a few times but he was nowhere to be seen.