Tomorrow's Inconvenience Today — It's Just a Phone Call Away!

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We call them “Keitai” in Japan. You folks in the West call them “handy phones” or “portable phones.” Sure they are portable, but I often wonder if they are anything but handy.

I think I mentioned in another article that new products are tested in Japan, and if they do well, they are sold in the USA. The brand spanking new keitai in Japan can do everything! Of course you can make phone calls, send e-mail, view the Internet, and take photographs. In fact they even have the newest generation that is billed as a “digital video, digital camera, and keitai.”

You can video tape scenes from your keitai and send it to anyone who has a system that is capable of playback. That would either be a computer at home or office or another person with a new-fangled high-tech handy phone. Keitai in Japan already allow for TV viewing and are capable of FM/AM radio reception.

The newest little trick we have here in Japan, is a keitai with a removable digital chip that will store about 280 mega-bytes of photo or video. The 680 mega-byte chip (that’s about one CDR) is coming out this summer.

That means you will be able to record your favorite show or movie on your phone and watch it later on. Throw in the video game adapter cable and, not only does your handy phone work in place of a "game station" on your TV, but you will no longer need a VTR video tape deck to watch movies on your home television set.

But that’s not all! The absolute newest models have Global Positioning built in and not only will the screen show you a map of where you are, the phone will actually tell you at which intersection you should turn!

No kidding. I’ve heard them already. A beautiful girl’s voice will be coming out of someone’s keitai and saying:

"Turn left at the next stop sign."

All of this high technology just has me confused. My own keitai can do just about all this stuff, but I only know how to answer the phone and how to call people. I don’t even know how to use my built-in phone messaging service.

I don’t know how. And I don’t want to know how. I think the more you learn about this stuff, the less intelligent you become.

Many people who call me and finally do get a hold of me sometimes complain:

“Why don’t you ever answer your portable phone?” They say. Or:

“Why do you even have a portable phone if you never answer it?”

Well, all this high tech convenience is for my convenience. Not your convenience. Right? I didn’t fork over all this money for a keitai so that I could be bothered when I don’t want to be bothered!

Notice the price is zero yen

Well, that previous sentence isn’t exactly true. In Japan, portable phones are usually free. That’s right, free. Or one measly yen. The phone companies are all competing with each other so fiercely that they are basically just giving them away so that you will use their service.

This had led to all sorts of problems in Japan with people young and old. The young people have to have their keitai with them all the time. They even call all of their friends at night just to say “good night.” And if their friend is unavailable and they leave a message, they can’t go to sleep until their friend calls them back to return the good night wishes.

I’ve sat and watched young couples get on the trains together before, sit and not speak a single word to each other because they were busy sending text messages over their keitai. I wonder if they are conversing with each other by e-mail instead of just talking to each other?

I guess that might be useful if they were “talking” about something that they didn’t want people to overhear. For example:

“That’s it. I’ve had it. I want to get a divorce.”

“I’m not in right now. Could you leave your name, message, number, and I’ll get right back to you when I can.”

The problems for the older crowd with the keitai is that they recognize the usefulness and convenience of such a device. But as with all new technology, us old folks just can’t figure out the instructions, so they will spend months badgering their kids and grand-kids on how to use the phones. This just drives the young-uns crazy as I often hear, “Grand-ma, I’ve told you this so many times! You do it like this….”

Well I guess, at least, the family is talking to each other (in order to learn how to not talk to each other in the future by relying on text-messaging).

I gather so often used text messages are important stuff like:

“What time will you come home?”

“What’s for dinner?”

And, “When can we meet and talk again?”

I don’t know how to use all these various high-tech funky functions and I don’t want to know. It’s not convenient. It’s a pain!

I wanted to make a phone call, but I couldn’t figure out how to change the channel.

These keitai have gotten to be a real social problem, if you ask me. Anytime I go to a meeting or just to dinner with the family, I demand that all keitai are turned off. I can’t believe it when I am at a meeting and some one answers their keitai and says, “I’m in a meeting. I can’t talk right now…” Then they go into a conversation with the person on the other side of the line!

One of the other problems that has arisen here is the “Wan-giri.” Wan-giri was some system whereby some underworld types had set up a computer to randomly dial phones and hang up after one ring.

The person who received the call would see some strange phone number appear on their portable phone screen. People, who weren’t so smart, would call back this number and be hooked up to a Tele-porn site and be charged exorbitant amounts for the phone call.

Since people are so compulsive-obsessive, this became a social crises and instead of people wising up and not returning calls to numbers that they are unfamiliar with, they demanded that the government step in and shut down these “wan-giri” businesses.

Why don’t people just have a clue and do what I do? I don’t call anyone back. I never call people back. Well, except my wife and a few friends who know me well enough to know that it had better be pretty darned important to call me and interrupt my cigarette break or deep train of thought about the various important stuff I so often ponder.

So Big Brother decided to come down on these guys who were running the “Wan-giri” sites and they seem to have gone away. Which has lead to the next little fun problem: Text-messaging “wan-giri.”

Yeah, these are great. I have no idea what my own keitai e-mail address is and yet, I still get important messages! Yes! Important stuff like:

“Last night was fun. Let’s do it again!”

“Do you feel the way I do?” Or;

“Do you want to play?”

Well, maybe I do want to play. What is it? Blackjack? Hearts? Crazy Eights?

I usually ask my wife to erase these messages and she gladly does, all the while checking to see all the numbers of people who have called me and the exactly zero phone calls I’ve made over the last week.

So this last text messaging “Wan-giri” problem has lead to a new solution, that by judging from the e-mail addresses all you folks in America are using, you haven’t yet to face. In order to make your portable phone e-mail address difficult to access by a random dialing computer, people have responded by making extremely long and difficult keitai addresses.

For example (and I’m not making this up) my second daughter’s keitai e-mail address was: silly-little-selfish-baby-boy-acts-like-a-childish-fool@whatever.co.jp. She now has an even longer one. All of her friends do. Can you believe it?

So I guess she no longer gets junk messages.

That’s fine for me. Heck, I can’t even remember how to return a call. There’s no way I can remember my daughters keitai e-mail address.

And you know what? Just like most 15-year-olds these days, she never really seems like she wants to talk to her father anyway… That’s probably the way she planned it too.

But I won’t stand for this insolence! I am the ultimate authority at this home. I am the king of all that is good and fair! I’ll fix her little red wagon. She thinks she’s so smart, eh? I will send her a message demanding that she come home immediately and clean her room…

And when she does come home, I will demand an explanation! I will demand that she explains to me again, “How does this thing work?”

I figure that way, we can spend some “quality time” together.

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the mass media for nearly 30 years.

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