The trouble with modern technology is also one of its strengths. It makes you accessible.
Long gone are the days when you’d make a plan to meet on Saturday night – in front of Brown Thomas on O’Connell Street – two days in advance. If something came up, then you’d call on Saturday afternoon, hoping you’d be able to speak to the other person, in order to cancel. Occasionally you’d end up, waiting, like a marriage proposal that never arrives. You’d hope the person was just late. And you’d stand there. Waiting. Half an hour was about my limit. Days later you’d get a phone call – on the landline – with the other person apologising profusely, explaining that they’d been unable to reach you,. Alternatively they’d say ‘ My bike had a puncture in the tyre, so I had to walk, you weren’t there when I arrived.’
Mobile phones eliminated these situations. There was no valid excuse for standing someone up anymore.
Then came the smartphone where people – whose phone numbers you didn’t have – could contact you instantly via some messaging app. This can be irritating. Particularly if you’d written some post that was getting traction on the social media. The phone beeping away like it was on fire. For this reason my phone is on silent while I am asleep. Nothing is so important that it should interrupt my shut-eye.
On the other hand you will occasionally receive a message which states ‘I am in Dublin for the weekend , fancy meeting for a beer later?’
Such a message came yesterday from an Amsterdam alumnus. It was a Finnish guy, I’d known from the Low Countries. I was always in with the Finnish mafia in the Netherlands. In this instance, we didn’t know each other well enough to have each other’s number.
Facebook makes that unnecessary these days however.
I put on my evening face and walked to Smithfield. We met at The Generator Hostel on Smithfield Square. This hostel also has a popular bar and restaurant. They self- advertise their burgers as the ‘best in Dublin’. Well I’ll be the judge of that, I thought to myself.
Until about fifteen years ago Smithfield was a dodgy part of town. As well as being a red light district (when I lived there, I worried about being accosted by hollow-eyed women as I left my flat, who wanted to know if I was ‘looking for business’ – I wasn’t) on a monthly basis it also had a horse market on the square. It has gentrified in the years since I lived there. The tram line accelerated the district’s metamorphosis into a neighbourhood for young, urban office folk.
I met my friend and his mates. We had a beer and a burger (which while tasty is not as good as my homemade ones – even if I do say so myself).
It was really good to catch up. Neither of us could remember how exactly we knew each other. We put it down to our links to the Finnish Hotel, where my Finnish connections originated.
Looking around the crowded bar, a realisation dawned on me – this must be one of the places where young, beautiful people hang out. I felt like I was gatecrashing a fashion advert. Beauty, youth and Murphy. All in the one room. It was all very sophisticated.
After our meal we headed over to Frank Ryan’s pub. I had never heard of this place. It was friendly and cosy. Gezellig as the Dutch would say.
I saw someone I recognised. I smiled and was about to raise my hand in greeting, before I remembered how I knew him. Every morning we stand at the bus stop to await transportation to the industrial wastelands. We studiously ignore each other. I turned on my heel and fled to the other side of the room. I don’t understand why the people I see each day, avoid any communication with each other. It’s the way it is though. I’m not going to change it.
It was incredibly warm, so we went outside to the yard, where some tables and chairs were set up.
I noticed the woman staring at me before, she’d said a word.
‘Aren’t you from Limerick?’
What kind of fresh hell is this, I thought to myself.
‘I am.’ I replied.
It turns out we’d been in accounting class, at secondary school way back when. I still have no recollection of her from those days. I pretended otherwise.
We had a catch-up and I used the chance to promote the play I’ve written that will be performed next month.
It wasn’t a late night. It was great fun.
Technology is a gift. Not only did it enable me to catch up with an old buddy from my war years in Amsterdam, but you could say that it also facilitated an encounter with an old school friend. and a silent acknowledgement of one of my fellow bus passengers.
I might actually say hello to him on Monday.