The Sweet Smell of Dumb Phones

Dear KK,

There’s a lot of smarts in your family. I will balance that by saying there is also a lot of immaturity, mild unhingedness (I just invented that word in case anyone wishes to credit me), terrible wind, big feet and the ability to try the patience of the most saintly of saints. But smarts we do have. This is why I am so fucking annoyed about ‘smart’ phones. If you ask me, they are anything but smart. They turn people into boring knobs who are completely incapable of participating in normal human activities.

Allow me to provide you with some examples. When I was young, we used to attend gigs and dance, mosh, fall about the place, sneak onto tour buses (ask your French Mimi about the time she followed me and some of my friends onto Def Leppard’s tour bus in 1981 or so – you have a very cool French Mimi) and sometimes, if our French Mimi wasn’t there, we’d get drunk, stoned, make out with someone and possibly puke and fall over. Now, the so-called generation of the ‘smart’ phone stands in one place, holds their phones in the air like a bunch of dildos, occasionally looking at them to see if anyone has Tweeted or Facebooked them and posting selfies. Seriously, what the fuck is the point of even going to a gig anymore?


Go to a wedding these days and see the entire congregation fighting the professional photographer for the best vantage point from which to outdo the other guests and get a photo to post on Instagram before the couple have even said ‘I do’.  They, apparently, care about enough about the couple to dress up for the day, buy a gift and eat crap food for and instead of participating and enjoying the moment, they are looking at their fucking phones. I’ve even attended a wedding when the fucking officiant’s phone rang in the middle of it.

A great restaurant. You are there with friends, or even worse your date, loved one or best friend and you’re supposed to be enjoying a meal together that you are paying for. You take photos of your food and then eat in between checking to see how many likes your photo got and looking at other people’s meals on Pinterest.

Walking. One of the most basic human functions and now people are even incapable of doing that without hurting themselves because they are too busy looking at their ‘smart’ phone. Enjoy this short shadenfreudian video of just that.

I’m proud to say that I was and am a proud owner of a ‘dumb’ phone except for a brief period, which I’m going to tell you about. I have a little old Nokia. It looks like this.


It’s been dropped on concrete daily, bounces around with my keys in my bag and has never let me down. For some totally illogical reason, I decided that it was time to upgrade slightly and so went on a search for another similar phone. I went to trusty Amazon but couldn’t believe that any similar phone was now very difficult to find. You could find the ocassional one for sale from some dodgy dealers that I wouldn’t trust with someone else’s barge pole or you would be paying silly money for them. What I found most hilarious of all is that you could find an iPhone cover that made it look like an old Nokia. That’s just fucking bizarre. Here it is if you wonder what it looks like.

Nokia jpg

Apparently, smart people are starting to realise that ‘smart’ phones are not all that clever. In fact, they may even be part of the unclever infection I told you about in a previous letter. Remember them…the unclever…like zombies but infecting us with stupid instead?  Yeah them. I think that smart phones may actually be a vector.

According to the Financial Times (which I must add is listed as the most credible UK newspaper by the Press Gazette, so this must be as close to true as you can get),

In January, British actor Eddie Redmayne made headlines around the world as he became the latest in a growing band of smartphone refuseniks.

“It was a reaction against being glued permanently to my iPhone during waking hours,” he explained, turning instead to an old-fashioned “dumb phone” handset that could only make and take calls.

He is not alone. There is a small but busy market for phones that are simple and cheap at a time when smartphones are becoming ever more complex and expensive.

Truly, I have no idea why this made headlines. I suppose that’s a sign of the times (hahaha! get it? ‘Times’. ‘Financial Times’? Never mind) because the fact that 76 children were burned to death in Nigeria around the same time, didn’t make headlines very much at all unless you are one of the very few that reads the ‘word/international’ sections of the papers.

Anyway, returning to the subject – not only are dumb phones making a comeback, but some of the phone manufacturers are responding by creating phones that are less smart than before. This can’t be anything but a good thing because I’m concerned that young people are really becoming incapable of enjoying life except vicariously through the social media posts they read continuously, all day and every day on their smart phones. Maybe by the time you’re old enough to have a phone of your own, you’ll be living in a world where people want to interact with each other, talk, eat, enjoy gigs and travel without being glued to a virtual intelligence sapping piece of technology that has been sneakily mislabeled by the unclever as a ‘smart’ phone.

So, my Badass Auntie wisdom to you today is. If you ever want to be a real trend setter- way ahead of everyone else. Just keep doing what you’re doing if it works for you. It’s likely that if it works for you, it will be working for everyone else and eventually they’ll see sense and realise that you’re not behind the times, but are actually ahead of them. You learn these things as you get older.

Much love from your Badass Auntie

Dear CK,

I wrote to your brother today about smart phones and started to tell him about my attempt to leave my dumb phone behind and somehow got sidetracked. So, allow me to tell you the rest of the story as there is so much more to tell.

So, I did step into the world of smart phones. I bought one, had it sent to friend’s house and turned it on. It seemed to work fine. So, when I got home I inserted my sim card and thought ‘Oh no. Here I go into a whole new world. It must be super special as so many people seem completely obsessed with it. How exciting and terrifying.’ And then … meh.

The only thing I did like is that I could play music on my sound system from it. I was quite freaked out that it automatically seemed to connect with various machines in my house and gather data on me. I felt like I had purchased my own stalker. It beeped, buzzed and trilled at me endlessly and so most of my early bonding time with it was spent finding ways to turn off all the variety of alerts.

No. I do not want to know that twenty friends like something on Facebook and no, I don’t care that Mike from Khazakstan wants to be my friend. If I fucking cared, I would go and look on my computer when I had spare time. You know? The time that you use for recreational activities such as social media.  Oh my fucking god. That’s the problem. People don’t know that social media is a recreational occupation unless, of course, it’s related to your job or living. I have the best of both worlds. I work for myself, can spend as much time on social media while I’m at work, but I can leave when I want and when I leave, it isn’t there anymore. Then I can do something useful like watch Law & Order reruns on the telly.

Get a grip folks. Society is the real world. That place where you make eye contact, taste food, have conversations, smell things…back up a bit…rewind. Smelling things. Did I mention that I had a conversation with your father about being able to send farts via smart phone? Now, if we could do that, I would consider it a smart phone. No, wait a minute…it would be a ‘fart phone’. I would be first in line for one of those.

Some years back in the UK there was an attempt at smellavision and many thought this was the first time it had ever happened, but it wasn’t. Before that the absolutely incredible movie director/actor/artist John Waters, who is, in my not so humble opinion, one of the greatest movie directors who ever lived, used it in 1982 for his movie ‘Polyester‘ and coined the term ‘odorama’. This was, admittedly a very niche film – and I by niche, I mean it was a smellovision film about foot fetishes, so maybe it makes sense that not everyone was familiar with its ground breaking artistry.


In fact, John Waters was paying homage to earlier attempts at smellavision, which was actually conceived in the early 20th century and used, effectively for the first time during a movie called ‘A Scent of Mystery’ in 1960.

scent of mystery

Due to technical problems with the machines that dispensed the smells, it was a bit of a flop, but MTV tried to revive it 20 years later with a scratch & sniff version. This was followed by other channels also trying scratch & sniff programming in the UK, but unsurprisingly it never really took off…until now. Apparently, to be launched this year is oNotes, described by their inventors as the ‘speaker phones of scent’ so that ‘scent enters the contemporary conversation’. So, there you have it – the ‘fart phone’ may soon be reality and then, only then, am I likely to venture away from my dumb phone.

The smart phone I bought from Amazon was clearly not that fucking smart. It didn’t know it was going to stop working less than a week after I got it and immediately after I found the only other use for it except to play music and that was as a torch. I’ve returned it to Amazon. It’s costing them more in FedEx than the phone actually cost me. I lovingly resurrected my dumb phone and I promise that I will be much more careful with it in future as I appreciate it so much now.

Talking of broken techonology, after the smart phone became a defunct phone, I discovered that an old laptop of mine had the Bluetooth technology necessary to play music in exactly the same way as the smart phone, through my audio system. As further evidence of my pushback against technology, I consistently get laptops that have as few frills a possible and so my most recent one does not have Bluetooth, given that I had no idea what it was, what it was for or why I might need it. But somehow it had made it onto an old laptop, which has a broken keyboard and now I am back to enjoying music. You know what else? I already sleep with a fucking torch next to my bed because we have frequently power outages, so even though I was irrationally thrilled that my smart phone could provide this service, I’m quite satisfied with using a real torch.

A bit like being satisfied by having real conversations and watching movies on a real TV and reading newspapers in print…OK…maybe not, though I wish I could. So, my Badass Auntie wisdom to you today is this – John Waters was a fucking brilliant director and actor. Go see some of his films. In a fucking cinema.

Much love from your Badass Auntie



2 thoughts on “The Sweet Smell of Dumb Phones

  1. Yep, They’re coming back. I have a samsung flip phone that I have been using for about a year now. I love it. it’s complex enough to stay connected with people that matter and simple enough to force me to avoid the noise. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I still have a functioning flip phone that I am keeping just in case my current dumb phone finally dies on me. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. If you want me, call. If you don’t have my number, there’s a good reason for that. 🙂


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