The Judge RANTS!
Ring Out!...Out! Out! OUT!
I don't have one.
I wouldn't have one if you paid me (or, at least, not unless the
sum were sufficiently large: in which case, I'd have one but leave it
switched off all the time).
For most people, what the hell is the point of having one? Unless
you're a medical professional on twenty-four-hour call, or on a waiting
list for a transplant, I fail to see any reason for them. All they do
is annoy other people.
As I don't drive (and that's another category of the wilfully
self-'disadvantaged' I'm happy to be in), I travel a lot by bus. In the
last couple of years, I don't think I've undertaken a single journey,
however brief, which has not been cut across by the ringtone, that
latter-day crime against musical sensibilities. This is then followed
by an apparently obligatory thirty-five seconds during which the callee
delves through her (it's usually a 'her') pockets, handbag or even an
entire week's shopping to find the wretched instrument and stop the
(It's funny - that is to say, not funny - how ringtones
lodge in your head. Even the most innocuous of melodies can turn into a
sworn tormentor in just a couple of hearings. Hear it in the morning,
it's stuck between your ears for the rest of the day, frequently in an
environment where there's no chance of being able to get to, say, a
compilation of classic death-metal tracks, in order to flush the
bastard thing out).
One is then treated to one side of someone else's conversation
conducted at a volume which suggests that the person at the other end
is working in a steel plant, as shouting seems to be the only method of
getting the message through.
The conversations themselves (or, at least, the fifty per cent of
them which are all too clearly audible) are not exactly of global
import either, being largely of the "Where are you?" "I'M ON THE
BUS!!!" variety, or the semi-tantalising "I LEFT IT ON THE
TABLE IN THE KITCHEN!!!" sub-genre (leaving one to speculate as to
what, exactly, has been left thereupon: her cheque book? Her Dutch Cap?
To this list of offences must be added the ones committed by those
who seem to have totally missed the point of the term 'mobile phone'
(i.e. the first part), and who wander off leaving it on the table, in
their coat pocket (said coat being draped over the back of their
chair), on their desks. All of which leaves the rest of us to either
put up with the dreaded bingly-bingly-beep time and time again, or to
be brave and answer it ourselves. I have a colleague who used to be
terrible for this: in fact, one week I'm sure I spent more time in
conversation with his wife than he did.
And this is all for...well, for what, exactly? Rather like
the way in which it has come to be the accepted wisdom that having more
and more television channels is far better than having just a handful,
it has become gospel that the mobile phone is a Good Thing. Its
promoters claim that ease of communication is a boon in these
hurry-scurrying times. But, as with television, you don't get better
communication, only a damn sight more of it, and of an ever-lowering
Besides which, why would anyone in their right mind (apart from the
very rare categories I cited at the top of this rant) want to
be easily contactable at any time? I know that I certainly don't. Given
that nearly all the calls I take on my landline at home are from people
trying to sell me things (Telephone Preference Service
membership notwithstanding), it's a positive relief to know that 'they
can't catch me'.
This is not to say that you can't have a little fun with them. A
few years ago, I had to have a mobile phone in work so that I could be
contacted in an emergency if away from my desk. The phone was returned
after a couple of years because it was never needed. It's not as if
it's a big building in any case. But I and two similarly-equipped
colleagues were having a conflab in a distant part of the building one
morning, when one of us (not altogether wisely) announced that he was
going for a pee. I and the other sysadmin gave each other a meaningful
look as our co-worker went in through the door of the Gents. We
estimated the time it would take him to get into the cubicle, lower his
fly and let go...then we dialled his number.
He questioned our parentage after that, I don't understand why.
But this is the tiniest of boons conferred by these wretched
devices, and doesn't begin to make up for the annoyance not only of the
mobile phone itself, but of the arrogant, self-regarding rudeness
of so many who have them. Nothing, it seems, not even the most
fundamental social rules, must be allowed to come between them and
their tedious conversations about spare socks or dorky boyfriends.
Which is why I salute the actor Richard Griffiths for his
insistence that a woman whose phone had gone off three times
during the same performance leave the theatre. Mr Griffiths did the
same thing last year, when some tosser's phone rang no fewer than six
times in the course of a play.
(Read the full story here).
I just wish I had the sang froid, the nerve, the courage,
to insist that one of these tormentors leave the bus
immediately...while it is still in motion at about twenty five miles
Failing that, why haven't they developed portable blanking equipment
which renders all space within a radius of, say, thirty metres,
impenetrable to signals? I'd buy it like a shot.