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     Volume 9 Issue 47| December 10, 2010 |

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Cheap Thrills


In the good old days of 'land phones only' one of the cheap forms of entertainment was to inadvertently get into a 'cross connection', a crude version of Wiki Leaks. For the benefit of those born in the post-cell-phone age, this is what it entailed: accidentally overhearing two people talking about some nitty gritty of life. If you were lucky it would mean at least twenty minutes of overhearing the most intimate exchange between two lovebirds. You could even mysteriously interject with your own opinions completely taking the two by surprise, thus having a good private giggle. Of course there is only so much of sweet talk one can take no matter how much of a romantic you are so the best type of eavesdropping would be on a lover's spat with the two of them wasting endless minutes blaming each other for loving them less. There was however, always that frustrating possibility of an invisible hand just cutting off the line just when the argument had heated to a peak and it was a do or die situation–would they or wouldn't they stay together. The whole thing was a bit like those exasperating Hindi drama serials that just freeze, leaving you dangling on a string, agonising whether Puja will dump Rahul forever.

Sometimes picking up the phone and even dialing the first two digits would give you a cross connection (maybe that's how intelligence agencies do it when they are tapping phones). But the conversation you had embarked upon by default would be so excruciatingly boring–say, a spare parts trader in Gulistan talking to his minion about what price he had quoted the customer, whether his wife had sent his lunch and so on. Then again from a tapper's point of view, it could be a coded conversation between drug dealers or smugglers or opposition activists. For you, the ordinary citizen, the best thing would be to put the receiver down.

These days with mobile phones predominating communication, things are quite different. Cross connections are rare but being an inadvertent eavesdropper is not uncommon. Many people whose names start with an 'A' will often find people calling or sending blank texts over and over again not because they love you so much but because their cell phone keeps hitting things like key rings, pens or wallets in their bags or pockets.

People often sleep with their cell phones; the attachment is so deep. Hence the sudden midnight calls from say, a male colleague who has probably turned left to right in his sleep thus pressing buttons on his cell accidentally ending up calling you over and over again. The sound of snoring instead of heavy breathing will certainly leave you reassured.

Once in a blue moon, an unknown call may come at say 3:38 am. If you are a light sleeper or an insomniac, this may prove to be an intriguing experience.

The micro-drama you are about to hear may go something like this:

Angry stiletto footsteps getting into a car and slamming the door, followed by car doors opening and shutting with less venom–possibly three more people getting in with the obviously irate young woman.

First Young Man in a dull voice: “Shamshara, what the (expletive) happened?”

“Just take me home,” is the terse reply. Repeated queries follow until she spits out: “ I saw the text ok? Now take me home.” Silence ensues for a few seconds and you hope your heavy breathing is not heard.

First Young Man, apparently inebriated: “Come on Shamshara, why do you want to go home so soon?”

Hello, you are thinking, it is almost four in the morning, going home would be a good idea children.

Second Young Man: “Shahara, I mean Shamsharrra you know how much we like you, I mean why do you think we came to hang out with you? You're awesome man, awesome!”

While you are wondering the incorrect address of 'man' for a young lady, Third Young Man blurts out: “Yeah, you know, you're like Spiderman and Batman rolled into one. Awesome.”

The young woman seems too disgusted to respond. First Young Man who you may assume is the cause of all the fuss says in conciliatory tones:

“Come on Shams, it was nothing. Don't make such a big (expletive) deal about it.
Then the line gets cut.

So while you couldn't get to the 'will she or won't she dump the fool' part you have certainly vicariously participated in the action-packed drama.

Some people may call this pathetic and tell you that obviously you have no life.
Hate to say it but maybe they are a tad bit right.


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