Something else likely to result in periods of isolation in a single room interspersed with episodes of careful questioning is Bluetooth technology. My phone has it. In addition to keeping my diary, taking pictures, downloading emails, and signalling the arrival of texts with a burst of birdsong (the first time was a shock – there seemed suddenly to be a flock of sparrows in my pocket), this thing is voice-enabled so you can give oral instructions to have it answer calls, make calls, and sustain conversations while located completely out of sight. You’re advised to choose for activation an unusual word and since the device is quite often doing something else: writing its shopping list maybe, or having a fag, it can be necessary to yell this unusual word several times quite loudly, and then follow this with whatever other unusual word you’ve chosen for the particular task you have in mind. It will not now be clear whether the person shouting neologisms into the air while negotiating a zebra crossing is engaging in a heavy internal conversation or just trying to phone home. After a while, probably both.
 It was a Sony Erikson – or it could have been an iPaq – and this was seriously new. The phenomenon is widespread now, of course, and who hasn’t said hello in response to a complete stranger who then strides on oblivious, leaving you feeling a proper numpty?
 And you thought Siri was new. We could be just as flummoxed and frustrated long before our iThings started waking us up to tell us they couldn’t make sense of something they just heard on the radio and would we like to try again.
From Not Being First Fish by P Spencer-Beck. Available from Amazon (non-illustrated edition). Second edition (illustrated) due 2018