Sunday, 30 January 2011

For the consideration of others, please turn off your phone!

Mobile phones. They have become so ingrained in everyday life that we would most likely not know what to do without them; holding them has become second nature, almost as if they’re an extended part of our hands.

Fiddling with their buttons absent-mindedly, or attempting to crack the various levels of games offers one way to pass time when waiting for a train, a bus, or friends. Issues with dodgy signal, the expense, the inevitable radioactive brain freeze and the weird deep-vein thrombosis feeling in your arm after using them for a decent length of time aside, they are extremely useful and in some instances life-saving.

But let’s all agree for a moment. At times, isn’t it easy to think that they’re the bane of modern life?

They manage to creep into every single facet of life, including places where they are categorically not invited. The theatre and the cinema are two that spring to mind. We’re all familiar with the ‘don’t let your mobile phone ruin the movie’ trailers, but as I’ve experienced so far, they don’t really work. I recently saw Harry Potter in one of those huge Odeon cinemas. Ten minutes into the film a girl four rows down got out her phone to browse Facebook. For crying out loud.

Aside from the fact that the light from her phone was terrifically distracting, who the hell starts social networking when they’re at the cinema? Who is that much of a slave to their cyber social life? And who has the attention span of a gnat to give up on a film so quickly? I personally managed forty minutes of The Wedding Crashers, a film so bad I have had constant nightmares about Owen Wilson’s nose ever since, before walking out. Even then I didn’t resort to my phone for comfort.

Then there’s the theatre. It’s more of a treat to go to the theatre, a little more cultured. Most of the audience will be of your parents’ or grandparents’ generation, so you’re lulled into the assumption that the majority have the decency and manners to turn off their phones, if they even own one.

Not a bit of it. Last night, whilst at the glorious Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, a woman at the back let her phone ring three times before the eventually the actors intervened and gave her a good mouthful. Luckily, the play itself involved mobile phone sounds, so the cast could be fairly good-humoured about it. despite the outraged huffing and puffing from the audience. Unfortunately, the offender didn’t do much to help her fast-growing reputation as public enemy number one by calling out ‘I don’t know how to turn it off!’  Who has a mobile phone they can’t operate? I hope she thanked her lucky stars it wasn’t Shakespeare.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not 100% chaste. I’ve definitely heard mine whirring away in my bag on unsuitable occasions, trying desperately to cough loudly enough to cover the noise up. But I am bemused at the situations in which people think it is perfectly acceptable to use their phone, forcing everyone else to join in on the experience, whether they wish to or not.

We’ve all been next to the guy on the train forcing everyone within the radius of three carriages to know that he was ‘TOTALLY FUCKING WASTED LAST NIGHT’, and the vacuous girl who manages to have a conversation that doesn’t actually involve any real information. ‘I know, I was like totally…yah, I know, I just said to him like, it’s…really?! Yah, I know…I was like…oh my God, I KNOW!’ Why don’t the socially inept and those with little or no manners realise they are just being a plain sodding nuisance?

And then there’s dating. Most definitely NOT the time to constantly fiddle with your phone. We’d all like the person we’re sat opposite to think we are at a least relatively interesting, or attractive. However, here’s a stark warning: there are people out there who, on a date, will not only make you feel invisible by regularly glancing down at their mobile, but who actually have the nerve to text someone else whilst you’re talking to them, as if you’re just an interruption to their evening. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the hat trick: they’ll wave their phone in your face at some point to let you know they’ve received a text message which they are powerless to ignore, and make up some wet excuse to leave. I think I’d even prefer the fake emergency phonecall to that.

So, what to do? We can hardly get rid of them. But, just in case you do come face to face with those who ignore basic etiquette and manners from time to time, make sure you order enough surplus popcorn to throw at tossers in the cinema, and thoroughly enjoy the self-righteous moan you can have in the theatre when the perfect moment of poignant silence is broken. If in doubt, practise your best angry glare, and, if you can, move seats on the train. Better still, keep it in your bag once in a while, to savour the messages when you do finally have a quick peek at work. And most importantly of all? Sometimes, just sometimes – turn it off. Read more by Rosie.