Monday, 29 May 2017


                                                 Mobile phones: smokers are losing out.

THERE'S a major flaw in the design of smart phones. And it's one I spotted very recently, as I passed a busy restaurant on a Friday night.

Inside the restaurant, people were eating, talking, snap-chatting their food and keeping their children quiet by letting them play on their phones.

Outside, was a small group of smokers. They chatted in that way strangers chat, when they know they will only share a few minutes of conversation, but are linked, and somehow bonded, by their mutual habit.

Smokers already have one hand occupied - holding the cigarette.

Because of the public places indoor smoking ban in Ireland, our smokers congregate in designated areas, to indulge their craving. In the workplace, this tends to be in an outside 'shelter'. For bars, restaurants and caf├ęs, it's simply on the pavement.

And here's the problem with the modern smart phone: it's not designed to use with one hand. Smokers already have one hand occupied - holding the cigarette. It's simply not practical to try to negotiate all that swiping and scrolling and social media posting, with the other.

Which means they're left with nothing to do, except smoke their cigarette and talk to each other! Sometimes, they even make eye contact. Somebody might crack a joke and others will laugh.

A new person to the group might introduce himself. A bit of hand shaking has even been known to happen. Because that's still something you can do with one free hand.

Nothing quite so archaic happens amongst the non-smokers. A friend of mine has lunch every day in her staff canteen. And every day she notices two twenty-something women who lunch together. At least, they sit opposite each other at the same table. They could be friends. She's not sure.

She's never actually seen them talk. She has waited, patiently, trying to catch them at it. But so far, nothing. Sometimes, they pick at the food in front of them. But mostly they take pictures of it.

Rarely do they lift their heads from their smart phones. Clearly, there's no need. The phones provide everything the two women want.

They barely look up from their phones when she is serving their food.

Another friend works in a restaurant. She regularly serves a family of five. The couple have young children. All have smart phones. Apparently, it works brilliantly for everyone involved, as nobody has to engage in conversation.

The parents don't talk to each other. Nor do they talk to their children. They barely look up, when she serves their food.

Neither of the parents seems to smoke, she tells me. Which must be a relief, as one can't imagine how they'd manage, for however long it takes to smoke a cigarette.

As I said, a flaw. One IT solution that has so far eluded all the brains in Silicone Valley.

Because right now, on any given day, and through no fault of their own, smokers enjoy the most sociable breaks of us all.

If that isn't discrimination, what is?


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