If you live in a city, you probably think that cell phones are ubiquitous. You see people using them in the grocery store, or while driving their car and even while in the bathroom.
As hard as it may be to believe, there are still plenty of places in the world where cell phone coverage isn’t available or is just now coming in.
Take the far north: Service providers are reluctant to set up in places like Inuvik. It’s hard to make a profit when you have a huge land mass to cover, and a very low population.
But those are only the two most obvious problems. Consider the issue of where to locate towers:
TECHNICIAN ONE: Joe, it’s Mike. We’ve lost coverage around Tuktoyaktuk again. Can you check the tower?
TECHNICIAN TWO: Sure. [Pause]. There’s no tower.
MIKE: What do you mean there’s no tower?!
JOE: Well you know how last month, we had to move it 500 feet so it wouldn’t be on the caribou stampede path?
JOE: It looks like we put the tower on a frozen lake.
MIKE: A lake?! But the map…
JOE: Was wrong. And we just started spring thaw here. Know anyone with cold weather scuba gear? A really strong fishing pole?
Using a cell phone would also be difficult. Residents must wear, on average, 54 layers of clothing to stay warm. You couldn’t hear a phone ring under all that insulation, so you would have to A) Use the vibrate feature to know someone was calling and B) Keep the phone close to the skin so that the layers wouldn’t muffle the vibration as well.
This means that normally quiet, sane people will suddenly be seen to leap into the air, fall to the ground, and laugh hysterically while digging through layers of clothes to stop the tickling.
Once the phone has been extracted, the user would have less than 2.5 seconds to stuff it under the 23 layers of headgear to take the call. The phone you see, could stand 2.3 seconds of exposure to the extreme cold. At 2.4 seconds it would have become cold enough to stick to the user’s ear, requiring the application of either boiling water or surgery to remove. At 2.5 seconds, the phone would freeze solid and shatter. “Hello, are you there? Your call is breaking up!”
Using the special features of cell phones would be just as difficult. Text messages are hard enough to decipher at the best of times. When entered with gloved fingers, something like: MEETING RUNNING LATE. CUL8R! would become MNERERYTIONMGH RTUINMNMINMGF LKASTRER. CVU89TYER!@
Camera phones would be equally useless, at least outdoors. It’s dark 24 hours a day for roughly half the year in the far north, and if it isn’t dark, it’s snowing. Photos would have to be captioned: “Bob in his black parka, 2 p.m. If you squint you can see the flash reflecting off his visor.” Or “Polar bears checking out our white pickup truck, blizzard of December ’05.”
Speaking of polar bears, can you just imagine if any of the local wildlife managed to snag your cell phone? Trying to get the charges reversed from your bill would be a nightmare.
JULIE: Hello I need to dispute my recent charges.
DODGERS WIRELESS REP: Which ones please?
JULIE: I didn’t make 32 calls to the Aklavik Pizzeria.
REP: Ma’am, you’ll need to provide some proof that-
JULIE: They only serve pizza with seal toppings. And there’s an overfed bear passed out in my driveway, clutching the remains of my cell phone.
REP: Yeah right, why don’t you send photos of that…
JULIE: Yes, photos — I also didn’t download 425 mb of images from the Polar Bears 2014 calendar website.
REP: You can’t possibly expect me to believe…
JULIE: Further, I did not download the games Penguin Bowling, Polar Express, or Ice Fishing Derby.
REP: Ma’am this is ridiculous, I—
JULIE: Shall I put the bear on the line?
In spite of the obstacles however, it’s good to see that our northern cousins are finally getting access to the same sorts of modern conveniences we are.
Now they too can be annoying in movie theatres.