Cell phone or hell phone?

S Upendran

When I joined this noble profession, I was told by the veterans in the field that if I wished to survive as a teacher for any length of time, I needed to grow eyes on the back of my head, and fine-tune the already existing sixth sense. Like most teachers, I acquired in a matter of few years, the required super powers to survive the slings and arrows of outrageous students. My senses tingled à la Spiderman when mischief was afoot, and like Superman my super-hearing powers helped me detect the source of a careless whisper. I was the monarch of all that I surveyed; God was in his heaven, and all was right with the world! Or so I foolishly believed till some three years ago.

cell-phone The classroom ceased to be my castle with the invasion of the cell phone. My lectures were frequently punctuated by the ringing of someone’s instrument, and the oft repeated mantra, ‘Please switch off your cell phone’, uttered before every class, failed to elicit the required response from the students. With the instruments becoming smaller, I found that I had to double my effort to stay half a step ahead of the students – not an easy thing to do considering the age difference between the teacher and the taught. I was frequently compelled to make quick dashes to different corners of the classroom to ensure that the students were not busy texting or playing some video game. Perhaps, if I had been an ardent user of the cell phone, it would have helped me bond with my students. But I loathe the instrument, and have contempt for all those who are a slave to it. The only thing that interests me about this wretched instrument is the number of words and expressions that it has given rise to over the years. They creep into conversations when you’re least expecting them, just like the ring of the thing itself.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry?”
“To the roof.”
“Wow, that’s a cool cell phone. What happened to the old one?”
“Went to cell phone heaven (1).”
“Listen, I’ve been texting you all morning. Why haven’t you replied?”
“I couldn’t! The phone was with the cell phone Nazi (2).”
“What happened?”
“She caught me texting in class and took….”
“Again? Why don’t you be a little more careful?”
“It wasn’t my fault, really. Was trying to cheer up Ravi. He said that he hasn’t had textual satisfaction (3) in over three days.”
“So while you were in class, you were trying to provide him textual satisfaction! You’re crazy, you know that?”
“Well the poor guy is down with a fever and I thought I’d cheer him up.”
“You don’t look so great yourself. Are you coming down with something?”
“I’m sure it’s just a mild case of cellphoneitus (4).”
“What about your phone? Has it had any cell phone constipation relief (5) yet?”
“Not yet. I’m going to the roof for that.”
“Before you go, are you coming for this evening’s party?”
“This evening? Are your sure? Your text said the 23 and not 22.”
‘Well, that must have been a slip of the thumb (6).
The party is today and I’d like ….”
“If it’s today, I can’t come.”
“But you have to come. It’s a long drive and I need a designated texter (7).”
“Why don’t you ask Ritu to be your designated texter?”
“She has the texter’s thumb (8). So, she isn’t….”
“How about Ramesh, then?”
“You must be joking. The guy is textually challenged (9).”
“I’m sorry, I can’t help. I’m going to the roof.”
“You might have to do the cell phone samba (10) while you are up there.”
“I know. I’m prepared.”


  1. Cell phone heaven: when one loses the instrument or seriously damages it that it cannot be repaired. A new instrument has to be bought.
  2. Cell phone Nazi: a teacher who keeps telling students to switch off their cell phones.
  3. Textual satisfaction: the feeling of happiness you get when you have a missed call or a new message.
  4. Cellphoneitus: having gone without a cell phone for a long time.
  5. Cell phone constipation relief: when your cell phone has been turned off for a long time, and when turned on begins to receive new messages, voice mails, and calls.
  6. Slip of the thumb: mistake made while typing/sending a message.
  7. Designated texter: someone who sits next to the driver and types in and sends all the messages that the driver wants him to.
  8. Texter’s thumb: the callus that you develop on your thumbs due to excessive texting.
  9. Textually challenged: one who finds it difficult to text and send messages.
  10. Cell phone samba: the erratic movements a person makes in order to get a better signal.

The author teaches at The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. He can be reached at supendran@gmail.com.

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