Tag Archives: mobile phones

Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour

Three vignettes from the past few weeks. Scene one: a woman is running as fast as she can downhill to try to catch a bus waiting at the stop. One hand is clapped to her ear. Yap-yap-yap-yap-yap… She is in danger of falling over and breaking her neck. Or, much worse, her mobile phone.

Scene two: a woman is climbing the stairs of a fast-moving bus, with her toddler. Toddler keeps falling over and slipping down the steps. She guides him with one hand, because the other is clamped to her ear. Yap-yap-yap-yap-yap… Toddler is in danger of falling down and breaking its neck.

Scene three; man walks into gents. Right hand is fiddling with his mobile phone. He approaches the urinal, fishes out what he needs with his left hand, and does what he must. Meanwhile fiddling with his mobile in his right hand. Hiss-hiss-hiss, fiddle-fiddle-fiddle. I didn’t much care to check his hygiene arrangements.

When do you people ever stop?


Noise Annoys

Many years ago, when we first used the Channel Tunnel, we persuaded the children that if they looked out of the window for long enough, they could see the fishes swimming past. It kept them quiet for at least half the journey. Happy days.

Eurotunnel now plans to enable passengers to use their mobile phones and laptops on the journey, thereby extinguishing another chunk of the public transport network where you can get away from the omnipresent mobile phone. The London Tube cannot be far behind.

I understand that businessmen are so pressured and so important that there must not be a single second of the day when they cannot work. Even if management studies suggest productivity is not necessarily linked to hours worked.

Yet it seems to me that we have raised an entire generation that is entirely unused to the sound of silence. The TV is blaring away in the background, homework cannot be done without a backdrop of music. Silence is a rare commodity in our overcrowded city. One of the worse developments for commuters was the introduction of taped messages. “You must have a ticket before you board this train…” “CCTV is in use on this train…” “Please keep your possessions…” It runs round in a tape loop, a maddening litany of the blindingly obvious.

Most mobile phone conversations on the train fall into two categories. The business conversation: “I think we should get in touch with the Reading office about this.” Anyone sensible could wrap this up in a few seconds. The sort of moron who conducts his or her business in a crowded carriage at high volume can’t. “Yeah, well like I said, we ought to get in touch with the Reading office about this… Yeah, get in touch with Reading…” On and on until journey’s end.

Then there is the personal conversation. I have never forgotten the sheer numbing embarrassment of listening to a woman, just dumped by her boyfriend, ringing him back to plead with him. Again and again. “Yeah, well, if we could just meet…” Click. Rediall. ”Look, don’t ring off, if we could just meet…” Click. Rediall. It went on for most of the journey. It was as if she was invisible, inaudible, and had no sense of shame. The whole carriage was transfixed. Horrified.

Most personal conversations sound like a desperate attempt to cancel out that worrying silence. Silence is when you can hear your own thoughts, and I think large numbers of people are uncomfortable with this. With silence comes the realisation of how empty your frenetic little life actually is, as you run around yapping  into your mobile phone and showing off how connected you are and how exciting it is to be able to talk non-stop and communicate nothing. Better to blot it out with noise.