Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Answer your tattoo, your phone is ringing
THE only good thing about having a cellphone is that you can turn it off. When whomever is tugging on that electronic leash asks you, "Why didn't you answer when I called?" you can always say "I was at a meeting," or (my favourite) "I was at church" or explain the Inkster Industrial Park where the Free Press and other unlucky industries have the misfortune to be located is mostly a dead zone, which has the advantage of being true about everything except cellphones so one can say it with some conviction.
But imagine a cellphone that can never be turned off, that would ring wherever you are and no matter what you are doing. It would be kind of like having a GPS device implanted in your brain -- you can be tracked and mapped, stalked even, by whomever is tugging on the other end of that leash.
That should be everybody's worst nightmare, but apparently it's not. We rush out to buy the latest, hottest, most intrusive cellphones we can find -- even I, I have to confess in the interests of full disclosure, recently updated mine.
Now, what should be everybody's worst nightmare has come true -- a cellphone that can never be turned off. It's not exactly a GPS device implanted in your brain, but it's close. It's actually a tattoo on your arse or your arm or anywhere else that will ring or, more accurately and perhaps more titillatingly, tingle whenever someone calls your cell.
When I was a teenager, I wanted to get a tattoo but it was illegal then. There were no tattoo shops in Winnipeg. The only way you could get one was to go to jail or get drunk or stoned enough at a party to let someone give you a tat with a ballpoint pen and a pin, and those tattoos were always ugly and sometimes came as a surprise the next day (I once knew a girl who woke up one morning to find the word "sex" unexpectedly tattooed on her thigh). I am glad now that I never got one.
Today, you don't have to do that unless you are really drunk, stoned and broke. Tattoo parlours are legal again in Winnipeg and you can find them all over the city, as is evidenced by the tats you see on the oddest places of the oddest people.
Where once tattoos were unusual, today they are ordinary -- all of my children, except for the youngest, has at least one -- but they are about to become something more than that.
In the United States, Nokia has patented a process that turns tattoos into cellphone receivers. Your tat will tingle to tell you that your telephone is ringing. What a treat. In this age of over-communication, it is exactly what we need, another way not to be allowed to be alone and you can bet that it will be popular among people who really love their cellphones. The only problem is that most people, when their phone rings, feel compelled to answer it. You can always turn off a cellphone and cut out those calls, but, as one critic of the concept pointed out, you can never turn off a tattoo without some radical surgery.
...by Tom Oleson
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 14, 2012 J2
(1 of 23 articles for this week)