22
Nov
2004

Vodafone, we've got your number

Ileagally cut and pasted by Phil

Guest contributors

November 22, 2004

Vodafone, we've got your number

Matin Samuel

If high-frequency masts are so safe, why aren’t they in the boss’s back garden? Vodafone, we’ve got your number PHONE MASTS: do they cause cancer? You need to find out, I need to find out; one judge says this, some scientists say that. Nobody seems to know for sure. This is the solution. Site a giant one in the middle of the lawn of each director of each mobile telephone company in the country. By law. You say they are safe, old chum. Well, on you go. Explain that one to the neighbours next time little sweetums complains of a headache. Give them the earnest speech about safe levels of radio wave emissions. See how it plays at Tumbletots. If tumours the size of pancakes start popping up on your estate, then we will know. Maybe you don’t think this is such a good idea. We will know then, too.

Your product, you use it. Sounds a fair manifesto to me. The Government did not need to ban smoking from public areas last week; a decree stating that to claim a dividend from British American Tobacco the recipient would need to be firing up at least 60 a day would have done the trick. Get that through the Lords and see what happens; by the end of the week 20 Bensons would contain more vitamin C than oranges. Gangs of inspectors could swoop on board meetings at Rothmans. If they can see across the room, they disqualify everybody in it. “This badge says you better spark up that big boy, pal. Those nails don’t look very yellow to me.”

A new era of corporate responsibility. What fun. Make the chairmen of banks keep their money at the Ealing branch, anonymously. No staff falling over each other to act efficiently when the boss walks in, either; no special treatment, no “better look after this one, George, he owns the place”. The big shots are given the same 17-year-old trainee that haunts us all; she is trying to reboot her computer using a paperclip, the supervisor has gone to lunch and the rest of the staff are on a team-building exercise near Coventry. The executive personal banker drives a car worth about two grand, same as the bloke they sent to talk to me about investments. He looked like he was more in need of racing tips.

Why stop with the boss? Celebrity beer-pushers should not be teetotal. The guy prescribing 20 grams of sugar and a small salt mine to kids at breakfast should not get to start his own day with grapefruit and blueberries. Let us have some accountability here. Would the proprietor of shopping channel Auctionworld have been selling items for 27 times the value price if he were made to kit his own house out with the same bargains? If phone masts are such a healthy addition to a rural landscape, let the chairman of Vodafone hum along to one in his back yard.

“Is this your car, sir?”

“Yes it is, officer. I wasn’t speeding, was I?"

“No, sir. In fact, you were 10mph under the limit for this stretch of road.”

“I see. Everything else is in working order? The lights, the exhaust...”

“Absolutely, sir. Your vehicle appears to be in excellent condition.”

“Then this is just a routine check, right? No problem, officer, I’ll be on my way.”

“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that, sir.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re Richard Branson and it says here you should be on a train.”

“But, hold on, I’m running 30 minutes late already. The nearest station must be ten miles away. I’ll have to change twice. There are leaves on the line. It’s a Sunday service. Engineering work near Milton Keynes. A replacement bus service beyond Knutsford. I won’t get there until midnight. You have to understand, I . . .”

“Very sorry, sir. Rules are rule.

(Branson hands his keys over and is escorted to a bus stop, sobbing.)

“Don’t worry, Mr Branson, I’m told they will be putting an extra cheese sandwich on at Redditch.”

We could call it Bernie’s law. A few years ago Bernie Ecclestone, the chief executive of Formula One, had the misfortune to mislay his VIP pass and was forced to make his way to the British Grand Prix as a regular punter. He was directed to a park-and-ride in a nearby county, dropped off in a swamp, herded across three paddy fields, negotiated his entry with the aid of several attendants who could not have found their back pockets using both hands and a compass and by the end of the day was so taken with his consumer experience he was talking about wiping the event from the calendar. He has had it in for the Silverstone circuit ever since.

An hour-long yomp through the scenic splendour of Northamptonshire is a minor inconvenience, though. Playing fast and loose with what Woody Allen called his second favourite organ, as companies do over phone masts, is a national tragedy in waiting.

Earlier this month Vodafone turned up at Tolladine golf course near Worcester after nightfall and erected a 45ft mast without planning permission or local consent. A retrospective application was made for a temporary mast and lodged with the council last week.

A spokesman said the company liked to work speedily to provide the best quality of service. He didn’t say that at 9pm, though, because like just about every other Vodafone employee — beyond shadowy ninja mast erectors — he had long gone home, no doubt to a residence that does not have a buzzing steel pole beside it. As it stands, one might call that a perk of the job.
s.”


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