THE good people of Port Stephens were in the news recently complaining about their poor mobile phone reception.
The situation was so serious, the member for Paterson, Bob Baldwin, felt it necessary to pop into town personally and remind them about the government's $100 million black spot policy.
Thus sparking hysteria among local rose growers. Just kidding. He was talking about phones, of course.
The public outpouring on the Herald website was summed up in the following comment: "Reception is not good in Belmont either."
Translated, that means: "Get over it Nelson Bay, it's bad everywhere!"
And it's true, whining about mobile phone coverage is becoming a global pastime. Ask Angela Merkel or Edward Snowden.
I know in my house reception is pretty average. Which may have something to do with living in a culvert below sea-level in the shadow of a hill.
Technology can't solve everything, it seems. I should have known after the "set top box" revolution when they pulled the plug on analogue.
That didn't improve the quality of TV shows, nor the reception.
To this day my viewing remains disrupted by the merest hint of a Westpac rescue helicopter.
Not that I begrudge anyone making the flight. I suppose it was my choice to live beneath a hospital. I should have chosen to live beneath a telecommunications tower.
But with shows that set up unbearable tension, like 24 or My Kitchen Rules or Beauty and the Geek you'd think people would have the courtesy to wait until after it's been revealed who's been eliminated before they have their car accidents and get medivac'd over my house and fuzz out the reception.
The timing can be diabolical.
Jack Bauer, by the way, never seems to have any trouble with his reception.
And if he does, someone gets killed, which seems a good way to keep service providers on their toes.
(Good to see he's making a comeback with 24 by the way. I wonder if it will be called 25: The Daylight Savings Hour.)
It's worse with mobile phone reception.
The mobile rings regularly enough in our bunker, suggesting, how to put this technically, that the phone fairy has entered the building.
But when I go to talk, there's usually a squawk, garble and then dead air, as if Jack Bauer's taken out the phone fairy
(Chloe, expand the parameters!)
This is annoying, particularly if someone's ringing to tell you you've won the lottery. Chances are, if you can hear and speak to them, you HAVE won the lottery. Otherwise it's silence.
It's like there's only one spot in the house where the mobile will work. And unless you have a theodolite to work out where that spot is . . . and stand exactly in it, at the right height, in a hot yoga position, holding the device rock steady, there ain't gonna be much of a conversation beyond, "Can I ring you on the landline?"
This can have serious ramifications if you're thinking about embracing the future, as we have been doing, by ditching the landline and getting smart phones.
Industry observers predict that's where the world is heading. And I suspect that's why the world is making it so hard to get there. So they can work out how to charge for lost line rental.
One small step for mankind, one giant leap for mobile phone retailers.
Getting the right phone/internet deal is imperative, otherwise you'll end up paying more for less. And reception is critical.
So what if, as one member of the family fun police asked, we can't get consistent mobile reception at home. Which we can't.
Where will that leave the expensive smart phones we're so keen to get if we don't have a back-up land line?
A distressingly logical point, it seemed. Quite possibly a dealbreaker.
But no, the desire for new technology, particularly smart phones, is strong once ignited, and commonsense is no obstacle.
As I proved by suggesting at that moment that it wouldn't matter if we didn't have a landline because our mobile phone service comes through the modem . . . with the help of the mobile phone fairy.
This total lack of technical grasp, quite rightly, alarmed the fun police person.
She sensed that I was willing to sign up with the first smart phone plan that came a knocking at the door . . . just like the last time I signed up for a phone plan.
And she was right. Sometimes you have to be bold.
What I was saying, actually, was that it wouldn't matter if the smart phones worked or not at home. What would matter is we'd all have smart phones, finally.
I got a rousing round of applause from my teens on that one, even though it made absolutely no practical sense.
To combat the issue of poor reception, I suggested we could move out of home and live in tents along reliable mobile phone coverage zones - like the Pacific Highway - as technology Bedouins.
But not near Port Stephens, of course, until Bob made like Macbeth and sorted out the black spots.
And yes, to paraphrase Jack Bauer, this conversation actually took place.