I was waiting to make a purchase. The young woman in front of me was buying several things and mining her purse for a series of coins thrust out onto the counter, but not quite enough to cover the cost, So she had to search for her credit card to pay for the rest. And all the time she was speaking (loudly) on her mobile phone. At no point did she acknowledge the person behind the counter. I tutted a bit as I waited for what seemed a long time and for a moment as she moved away, she gave me an angry glance. ‘No face to face communication’ I said to the assistant. ‘It happens all the time’ she said, with resignation.
Earlier in the day I travelled home on the bus. A woman came aboard, heaving her pushchair into the luggage area as her little girl, running before her, chose a seat immediately in front of mine. Her mother joined her as her daughter stood on the seat and made brief friends with me. From the moment of their arrival to their departure, the mother was involved in a conversation with her mobile phone.
She was making sure that her child didn’t overbalance, a protective arm holding her up, but didn’t respond to her when she spoke to her. The bus stopped where the couple wanted to get off, the driver waiting as the mother reluctantly ended the phone conversation, collected her luggage and child’s balloon and eventually left the bus.
It was cold as I waited for a train in the evening, and I was hesitant about going into the shelter where a young woman was having a loud conversation on her phone. But I did join her and said I felt like I was interrupting a private conversation. ‘Oh it’s alright’ she said, ‘we are only talking about films’. I tried not to listen and the arrival of the train solved what in this case was a problem only for me.
Is the mobile phone culture only a problem for old fogies like me? The other travellers on the train were mostly men, many of them searching their phones with great concentration, catching up on messages perhaps or entering new realms of information and interest.
At the touch of a finger, instantaneous connection.
I may expect too much of human interaction – in that old word ‘fellowship’ – looking into the eyes of the person you are talking to, and meeting them. I just get this feeling as I watch the talkers that their gain may be matched by loss. Although they are talking to others, part of their fascination in the exercise is that they are actually talking to themselves. Bryan