Misuse and abuse of trust

2009-04-06 00:00

I happen to have had a mother who knew the value of education for her children even though she never saw the inside of a classroom as a pupil, but only when summoned by my class teacher to hear the mischiefs of her only son. That’s why when a neighbour’s son came to borrow some books from my sister, our mother saw in that boy an innocent pupil who was only after assisting her daughter with her studies.

After greeting our mother, the conversation between the boy and my sister went something like this: “Do you have the book called I Want to See You Today?” The response from my sister was: “The one I have is called Let us Meet Tomorrow at the Spaza Shop near the Taxi Rank.” At that time she would probably give him any novel just to legitimise the conversation.

Those conversations were always in the mother-tongue and only the lengthy titles of the “books” in English, just to avoid suspicion from some inquisitive parents. I am not a saint either, since I also used to borrow books from my friend’s sister.

But now the ghost is haunting many of us. This time it’s not borrowing books with lengthy titles. The whole misuse of trust and abuse game is being played using cellphones, right in front of our eyes and ears. While you are watching television or reading a newspaper in the comfort of your living room, your spouse seated close to you could be sending or receiving text messages from their “partner-in-affair”.

In many affairs, the use of cellphones is prolific as they are discreet. You can step out of the living room and head to the balcony to receive a call claiming that the signal inside the house is weak. Some calls are made in bathrooms while the water is running or even when toilets are flushing.

But if it happens to be a relative calling, the signal is normally strong.

Those involved in the game of cheating have ways of protecting their illicit affairs. To avoid being caught, the names in the phonebook are normally not the actual names but nicknames, while in some cases a female contact in the phonebook is given a male name and a male is listed with a female name just to confuse the spouse. If it happens that the spouse is nosy then a security code is put in to prevent any access. All “foreign” text messages either sent or received are immediately deleted, as applies to the calls record.

A guilty party could have two sim cards, one of which is unknown to his or her spouse, or even a second cellphone kept out of sight. Those using only one sim card never put their phone down, especially when at home or if the partner is around. The other trick is to have it permanently switched off when at home or when the spouse is around.

The survival of many “affairs” depends on cellphones, as it’s the necessary part of keeping them alive. But the bottom line is that using a cellphone to perpetuate these liaisons is an abuse of trust.

• Tiema Haji Muindi is a Kenyan journalist based in Durban.

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