| 7.7°C Dublin

Ian O'Doherty: Oh what bliss it was to live without my mobile phone

You know what? Despite all the grief, worry and fretting the whole country has been enduring since Christmas -- you know the drill, we're all facing more pay cuts, more pension levies, and this year promises to be the hardest any of us have ever experienced -- I have been walking around in a kind of Zen-like trance of tranquillity.

Am I suddenly doing a load of drugs? Have I begun to drink so heavily that I am now inured to the bad craziness that is engulfing us? Have I, God forbid, (as it were) found peace through religion?

Nope -- I have simply not had a mobile phone in my hands since two days before Christmas.

I touched on it briefly in iSpy earlier in the week, when I wrote about how I had lost my phone after tripping in the snow while running for a taxi.

Certain readers pointed out that drink may have been taken at the time, but I can neither confirm nor deny that, merely point out that I had indeed been in a pub meeting a friend who was home from Israel for a week; other than that, my lips are sealed.

So, two days before Christmas, without the umbilical cord that is the mobile, what would I do?

The answer was . . . nothing.

I was running around like an eejit trying to get everything done before the big day -- think that scene in Goodfellas when Ray Liotta has a million things to do just before he gets busted and you're getting close.

Between getting to the supermarket, queuing outside the butchers to finally get the turkey, ham and goose and then trying to get to the off licence to stock up on booze while also trying to navigate the snow and ice-strewn streets, I had enough to be doing without going into town to pick up a new phone.

As I said to myself, I could get a new one a few days later. And then, a few days later, I said I'd wait . . . another few days, sure what was the rush? After all, I had a few days off work around that time, so I didn't have to worry about missing phone calls from my boss. And the few people who need to be able to get to me when they want already have my home landline.

And at some point it hit me -- I was just really, really happy not having to answer the bloody phone all the time.

Indeed, I took such pleasure from the tranquillity that I developed something of a routine over the Christmas and it was, rather like me, quite simple.

I'd get up in the morning, walk the dogs, potter around the house for a while, watch a bit of telly and then, around 3pm, I'd head up to the shops, pick up the papers and go into my local for two pints -- as Christopher Hitchens once said about afternoon drinks, they're rather like breasts, one is too few and three is too many -- safe in the knowledge that the only person who knew where I was was the missus... and she was just happy I was out of her hair for a while.

And it was during those days of quiet reading at the bar and letting my mind wander that I rediscovered something I hadn't even realised that I had lost -- the sense of being relaxed.

We've all become so used to stress, worry, running around the place and general anxiety about things that we ultimately have no control over that I am convinced we've become secretly addicted to the adrenaline that stress brings.

Only a decade and a bit ago, only half of us had phones and the world still turned; jobs were still done, meetings were still kept and people went about their day.

Now, however, people are attached by the hip to their phone, frantic when they can't find it and then giving out when it rings constantly.

And a lot of it comes down to a sense of subconscious self- importance -- if I lose my phone, how will people be able to contact me? And if people can't contact someone as important as me, then the world will fall apart.

Well, here's a newsflash -- it won't.

I don't want to sound harsh, but people will still function if they can't contact you, and once you realise that then things become easier.

Obviously, I'm not talking about a heart surgeon who needs to be contactable at all times to perform life-saving transplants; I'm talking about the rest of us schmucks who have (for the moment, anyway) a regular job and a regular routine.

And this self importance-cum-arrogance is most obviously manifested by the way people use their phones in public.

I don't want to sit on the DART and listen to you braying on your phone about aspects of your private life. And I certainly don't want to go to the pictures and hear someone talking on their phone.

That, in particular, is a smacking offence, yet such is the sense of entitlement of a whole generation of young Irish people that they genuinely don't see why they shouldn't ruin everyone else's enjoyment of the movie.

In fact, I've had such a beautifully relaxing last couple of weeks that I may as well have been walking around listening to John Cage's 4:33 of silence.

But the (quiet) party is now over.

As soon as I finish this, I'm off to buy a new phone -- my bloody boss says if he can't shout at me at least twice a day on the mobile he won't be happy.

Ah well, it was nice while it lasted.

Irish Independent