Friday, March 24, 2006

Too Connected

In a previous entry I gleefully sang the praises of mobile telecommunication in the "developing" world. However, I think I might have spoken too soon.

Cell phones are annoying in the West: the businessman walking down the street apparently raving to himself but actually talking into his Bluetooth earpiece, the guy who forgets to turn off his phone in a movie theatre and then answers a call during the most suspenseful part of the film. The "developing" world - or at least my corner of it, Morocco - has these problems too.

The vacation I took this past week ended in Tata (see photo), an isolated provincial outpost in the far south. In order to get back to Rabat, I took a 10-hour overnight bus (believe it or not, the best way to go). This would have been unpleasant enough, had it not been for the cellphones. Everyone on the bus seemed to have one, including the driver and "first mate." The first mate was merely annoying. I wondered why people were calling him so freqently, if he was a drug dealer or a courrier of some kind. Unfortunately, he was speaking Berber, so I didn't understand what he was saying. The driver's talking was more of a problem, though: I was worried we might crash. When the women sitting next to me (who had a mounstache, incidentally) began chatting on her cell phone, I had really had enough.

Usually Moroccan phone calls are almost farcically short: "peace be upon you and your family - may God bless you; I'm coming on Friday - ok, God willing; bye-bye" because 20 cents a minute is prohibitively expensive. However, this general pattern was not in evidence on the bus. Maybe prices are going down.

So, to amend my previous glowing appraisal of telecommunication: the proverbial "silver bullet" can kill. Even solutions bring their own attendant problems. While the broad availability of cellphones in Morocco is certainly positive, it is not without its negative... RING RING... excuse me, I have to get that.

categories: the "developing" world_, Morocco_

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