Have you noticed them? Every big city you go to these days, you see people staring at mobile telephones.
They walk absently down the street, eyes glued to tiny screens.
They walk off railway platforms, they stroll off cliffs, they die horrible deaths, or, worse still, they bump into me.
I have a newspaper cutting about a 17-year-old woman in Seattle who was so absorbed in her phone that she didn’t notice the approach of a train that ran her over.
There's a woman I see on the way to work whose eyes never leave her phone. I realized it was only a matter of time before she walked into a hole in the road. For weeks, I seriously considered getting up early and digging a hole in the road myself, just so I could watch my prophecy come true.
Why have I been sneering at these people? I could see why they would want to escape from the dullness of commuting, but staring at phones seemed so naff. Phone entertainment stinks. I’ve checked it out. Even on fancy 3G services, you get tiny, fuzzy images, childish games and over-priced sports clips.
And then, one dark day, something happened that changed my mind for ever.
I was on a business trip as usual, jumping from plane to plane, when I found myself running late for a connection. There was no time to stop at the airport bookshop.
I made it through the departure gate a fraction of a second before it closed. It was like Indiana Jones rolling under that descending stone door, except the airport was more primitive and the journey more dangerous.
Boarding the plane and finding my seat, I sat back and breathed a sigh of relief. Then I noticed how ancient the aircraft was.
There were no magazines.
In fact, there were no pockets in the seats at all.
There were no television screens.
There was no newspaper rack in the cabin.
There were no books in my bag.
I didn't have a pen or paper, so couldn't do any work.
I suddenly realized that I was going to be stuck in a seat with no entertainment except my own thoughts for several hours. I found this utterly terrifying. (And so would you, if you had a brain like mine.)
When that flight was over, I was a shivering wreck and had to be helped off by attendants.
The next day, I asked commuters on the bus to teach me how to download interesting stuff onto my phone. They showed me a service at www.mobipocket.com which has loads of top bestsellers. I even found, at www.ebooks.com, downloadable versions of my own books! Good grief.
I was a next-gen hi-tech writer without even realizing it myself.
Now I have this huge great library of books on my phone. It's amazing. You switch it on, and the gadget goes straight to the page you were on.
It remembers your favourite type size.
It remembers your reading speed and scrolls the text at that speed.
You don’t even need to turn the pages, which was a tiresome chore I always deeply resented.
Last week I read Deep Storm, a novel so gripping that I was glued to my phone screen all the way to work.
And that's why I fell into a hole in the road.