Markus Stocker bio photo

Markus Stocker

Between information technology and environmental science with a flair for economics, the clarinet, and the world of soups and salads.

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Recently, I was sitting on a train, reading the pages of a book, or perhaps just skimming through them. I don’t recall. I’m afraid, not even the book title. In front of me sat a woman in her late seventies, as I would have guessed. She held a cellphone with both her hands, the wrinkles resembling a precious pink marble. She truly was engaged with it, pushing keys, looking at the display, reading tiny menu labels. Mainly, she was trying to delete text messages, as I found out later. I had my eyes following the stream of words but from time to time I did look up at her. She was calm, at least she appeared to be so. Though, I felt she was a little irritated by her endeavour.

After awhile, roughly 10 minutes, she did ask me if I could help her in what she was trying to do. Her questioning was an enjoyable distraction from my book. My attention turned to her, she gave me her cellphone and wondered if I was working as a “cellphone expert,” in my professional life. I replied, not exactly, but I was confident I could answer her questions.

We deleted text messages. One after another, each was approved for deletion by her. I told her, there is a function to delete messages in bulk but I think to her it was just fine like that. Mine was just a note, anyway. We went on for awhile, scrolling through inbox, outbox, drafts; what a pain all those messages put in imaginary boxes, she felt. Then she started to tell me why we were busy deleting messages. Apparently, her granddaughter has the habit to read her text messages. (I won’t reveal anything about the content, but I can see why she wouldn’t necessarily agree with having someone read them, especially of her family, as I seemed to be a member of a more welcome audience.) I wondered whether they share the phone and how old her granddaughter is, so I asked her. She said, no, that’s her personal phone and she assured me, her granddaughter is an adult. At this point, the habit turned into a somewhat weird habit. The lady, clearly, was upset with her granddaughter about this.

We went on deleting messages. Inbox. Outbox. Drafts. I think, she prefers real boxes.

At some point, I told her about the password feature of typical cellphones. She was a bit confused. I appreciate, we didn’t have the time to explore this well enough in depth such that she would have felt comfortable in using her secret, password secured, cellphone. And rightly so, after all who wants to feel comfortable with a world where one has to password protect a cellphone from the reading of a granddaughter? The wise lady.

She had to leave. The train reached her destination. Visibly pleased with the successful undertaking, she stood up, took her personal belongings and thanked me, as I felt, a few times too much for the peanuts. Later while I was enjoying the aftermath of the unexpected exchange, I thought, if she would have asked me for more help, I think, I would have offered her a year of free consulting on cellphone tips and tricks by phone, 24/7. After all, she was too much of good nature to deserve to be chronically afraid of people curious about her text messages.