Hostage to the phone

20:19, Feb 21 2013
Pat Veltkamp Smith
Columnist Pat Veltkamp Smith was Southland Times women's editor until 1997 and is a former president of the Southland Justices of the Peace Association.

Few things trigger more alarm than those televised ads that say you can ring anyone anywhere and talk for as long as you like, all for just $2, writes Pat Veltkamp Smith in And Another Thing.

And you can do this, we think, to anyone, over the whole weekend.

Now there are folk who'd think twice about spending 70 cents on a stamp for a Christmas card.

But they'll think nothing of tying you up for hours on a free- to-talk phone call.

The discounts appeal to our innate sense of thrift.

Just $2 for as many hours as you like? Make it the day and have a go the next day. The offer covers the weekend, right?


The tired guy passing the phone over to his wife - "here, talk to nana, son" - typifies how we all feel.

He has heard the lad's every move in the winning cricket match, or, worse, in some obscure PlayStation game, and knows the tale can be repeated endlessly with few variations for the whole afternoon: So he suggests grandma takes the next round.

Unaware of what's up, she smiles yes into the phone and he wanders off, a free man.

If there's a time/cost limit to phone calls, we adhere to it.

Even free local calls have scant appeal. But announce there is no charge and see the response.

I've been there myself; heard that calls to India are half price over the weekend and become concerned at finding someone to ring. Mad.

And one of the worst things about being caught for two hours on a free call, is the sudden awareness that the caller is not concentrating solely on you but on some task in hand.

While you have sat mesmerised, motionless, she has moved round - made a cake, done the dishes, hung some washing out, put the baby down and started icing the cake.


Heaven knows and you don't - until she gives a satisfied sigh, says now she's finished she can sit down and chat.

"Busy?" you ask.

"Nah, not now that all those bits and pieces are out of the way, now I can concentrate."

Wish we had a phone like that so that we could talk all day and make cakes and ice them too.

Instead we are held hostage by our phone.

The Southland Times