They’ve erected a memorial to unfortunate moderns who’ve met their makers through their mobiles. The Cenotaph for Cellular Casualties is located on a tiny bit of parkland in the shade of the expressway running through Akihabara – Tokyo’s shrine to high technology.
It’s made of some composite material or another, and shaped like an open clamshell cell phone in the palm of a large hand. The vertical, three-foot-high LCD display meets the equally large cantilevered keypad at an angle of 135 degrees. So very ergonomic.
It’s a moral memorial. If you died by your own hand and took no one else with you, then you can be transformed into bits of data and committed to memory. No chatting drivers or preoccupied pilots, thank you.
It’s also an interactive memorial. The keypad allows you to scroll through the ever-swelling list of names. Make your selection, and a digital rendering of the dearly departed is displayed. You are allowed to offer virtual incense and a personal message. Now clutch your handset and bow three times.
Before you go, why not request a requiem from the ring-tone database? Or perhaps a bouquet of CG carnations? These will have to suffice for the time being, since Nirvana’s outside the service area.
Responsibility for the memorial rests with the Society for Promoting Proper Mobile Phone Manners, which was established to assuage the guilt of the mobile communications industry. The grant from the cell phone sector is supplemented by a condolence charge assessed on every text message sent. It’s a very small charge. They say it’ll be phased out in a year or two.
The day I visited the cenotaph, several society members were updating the Dearly Departed Database. Here are a few examples:
Noriko S. (1989-2009) – She walked off Yokohama Station’s Platform 2 and into the path of an express train while reading her mail. The fateful message from a friend: “I think I’m constipated again.”
Ai T. (1982-2009) – Trampled at the Boston Marathon after wandering in front of the starting line while talking to her mother in Kawasaki. The costly conversation: “Can you hear me? You can? I can’t believe the clarity . . . BANG! . . . RUSH! . . . Ahhhh . . . beeeeeeeeep!”
Teruo R. (1986-2009) – Construction worker who walked off a beam into eternity while engrossed in a riveting exchange with his buddy. Highlights: “Really?!” “Really.” “You mean it?” “Really!” “I don’t believe it!” “Really! It’s true!” “Really??” . . .
If you’re ever in Akihabara shopping for a cheap computer or DVD recorder or figurine, why not pay your respects to those submerged by modernity’s neap tide? Meantime, mind your manners.