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A man’s news best friend ?

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By Muyiwa Adetiba

I spent the entire Christmas break in door. It wasn’t what I wanted. But it was what I got. I started noticing something wrong on Thursday. My throat was itchy.

I knew the sign. A cold was coming big time. I increased my fruit intake and added a generous dosage of vitamin C. It had been a frenetic week and stress had accumulated. The horrendous traffic in Lagos hadn’t helped either. Lagos had been on a lockdown for two weeks with no respite and this had added to the toll on me. I silently pleaded with my body to give me a few extra days so I could fulfil some of my social obligations during the yuletide period.

One of them was the annual President’s party for Emeralds, a club I belong to, which was slated for Friday. I had missed the last two end –of- year parties and was determined to make this one. I did. But at a price.

A distance that should have been covered in ten minutes took two hours in a snarling traffic. My discomfort had increased by the time I got out of the car. I felt there was something in my throat and in my ear drums that wanted to come out yet could not find an outlet. Fortunately, the lively jokes of the club members and the warmth of the host helped me to ignore the ominous signs.

Anybody who knows our club President, Admiral Mike Adelanwa (RTD) will attest to the fact that he can be very lively when he is in his elements. And he was in his elements that Friday. He boasted that as a seaman, all drinks were available.

Some members took him up on this and asked for cognac. Now, brandy drinking had virtually disappeared over the years due to the advanced age of our members. It had been stylishly replaced by ‘softer alcohol’ like champagne and wine. In fact, brandy – or whisky, would hardly be missed at an Emerald function these days.

Which probably explains why these members playfully dared our president. He therefore rightfully asked who it was meant for. These members who know I don’t drink champagne, pointed at me. I should have said ‘no’ given my state. But I stayed silent. A bottle of Martell materialised and found its way to my table.

A couple of ‘elders’ joined to help do justice to it. I knew I had made a mistake but didn’t realise how grievous it was or much my already fragile immunity had been further compromised until later.

When I left the party, I tried to make amends by going to the nearest supermarket to get fruits. To make matters worse, I woke up with a runny stomach the following day which made consumption of fruits inadvisable while further depleting my immunity. By evening, my head had become heavy and my brows were aching. Nobody needed to tell me that I wasn’t going anywhere soon except the hospital if I didn’t shut down immediately.

So in bed with home-made concoctions, I turned to the only companion that would get into bed with me in my state without fearing an infection. Let me say here that I am old school when it comes to the use of phones. I don’t tweet, don’t do Facebook or Instagram. I don’t feel any need whatsoever to project my private life into public space.

So my use of a phone is largely limited to emails, text messages, whatsapp and making phone calls which is what it was originally meant for. Even those uses are perfunctory at best. But with nothing much to do, I paid attention to messages I would ordinarily have glossed over and I found my company was well and truly kept.

With Christmas in the air, messages kept tumbling in – from the serious to the hilarious; from news, fake or otherwise, to comedy; from graphics to videos. Day one turned to day two. In between, I watched sports and listened to mainstream news. More fluids, more concoctions, and I was feeling a lot stronger.

Strong enough to be grateful that my Christmas was not spent in a hospital. Strong enough to empathise with many who did, or worse, many who lost loved ones on Christmas day. Strong enough to ponder on the inevitability of death and worry if my life has been well spent or spent along the will of my maker.

This led to my assessing the last two days in bed and wondering if I could have made a better use of the time. Yes, I was amused, entertained and socially informed by my faithful companion. But I couldn’t for the life of me recollect the body of knowledge I had gained.

So on the third day, which was Boxing Day, I turned analogue. I picked up a book by my bedside. ‘Left To Tell’ by Immaculee Ilibagiza is a book I had been meaning to read for a while. It is a story on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and how a young lady survived it physically and spiritually having lost everything, including a loving and closely knit family. I read a few chapters and felt better enlightened. Besides, I was on my turf and it felt good.

It is said that an average European child would have spent a total of one year in front of a devise by the time he is ten; either alone or with people. That’s frightening. But we can’t be that far behind. A young African parent these days feels safer when the child stays in door watching TV or playing with his phone.

What they don’t know is that they are alienating the child from the culture of his environment and replacing it with the culture of his favourite site. What they don’t know is that they are nurturing an insecure, anti-social child. Such a child can be easily radicalised. And everywhere we go – at the airport, train station, bus stop or party, in a bus, plane or pub, the first thing people do is reach for their phones. Nobody strikes a conversation with a stranger anymore.

Some people even walk the streets with their ears pugged to their phones. Some idiots will attempt to cross a street with their eyes glues to their phones. I met and chatted with fascinating people during long flights in my earlier travelling days. It doesn’t happen anymore. As long as there is a Wi-Fi on board, we are all fine it seems. The smart phone or tablet has become our companion; our new best friend. Aided and abetted by our phones, the social media has made many of us profoundly anti-social.

And how was your Christmas? Hope it was more eventful than mine.

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