I Say! Excuse Me! Do You Mind?

Dave Haste
By Dave Haste Last edited 156 months ago
I Say! Excuse Me! Do You Mind?

There’s frequent evidence of a peculiar moral indignation associated with being forced to listen to one side of someone else’s phone conversation in a public place. Especially on trains, for some reason.

OK, it’s not frowned upon as much as the insanely annoying broadcast of tinny garage music from poxy phone-sized speakers to the rest of a carriage’s population. But people do still get quite inexplicably huffy about having to listen to other people talking on their mobiles.

So, just imagine the self-righteous stroppiness that will surely greet the proposal to put transmitters on the London Underground. One report is already describing phone usage as ‘the bane of modern commuter life’, somewhat hysterically we think (we reckon the interminable delays and dangerous overcrowding might be more of a ‘bane’, but that’s just our opinion).

So why do some of us get so hot under the collar about people using their phones in public places? After all, surely that’s what they were designed for, isn’t it? And, apart from the propensity of appalling novelty ringtones, why should someone having a conversation with a friend on a mobile be considered any more rude or irritating than someone having a conversation with a friend face-to-face?

Maybe it’s because public phone conversations can tend towards the higher ranges of conversational volume. But can they really be any louder than the groups of excitable tourists that randomly swarm onto the tube and excitedly converse with each other at EAR-SHATTERING VOLUME every day? Or maybe it’s because roughly half of all conversations on trains seem to involve continuous repetitions of “Hello!”, “Can you hear me?”, “Where are you?” or “I’m on the train” before eventually hanging up and trying again.

From our perspective, probably the biggest problem of introducing mobile phone transmitters onto the London Underground is that we can no longer use the excuse that we were stuck between Euston and Camden Town on the Northern Line and couldn’t phone in late for work. Damn.

Anyway, if any readers have strong opinions on the matter, why not share them with us? (Extra marks will be awarded for explaining your reasoning.)

(We were originally going to comment on the debate of whether allowing phone coverage on the tube represents a terrorism risk. But frankly, it’s such a stupid discussion that we just can’t be bothered to waste any more precious words on it.)

Last Updated 19 April 2006