Pissed-off Toff

Mobiles 1

in The Way We Live Now

Pissed-off Toff generally rather hates mobiles. This is his introductory essay on the matter. Much more is to come …

Nowadays almost anything to do with mobile phones is liable to make my blood pressure rise as fast as the mercury of a thermometer plunged into boiling water, turning me from one second to the next into a pantomime version of an apoplectic colonel. Some idiot dawdling in the middle of the pavement like a lazy bluebottle, his mind elsewhere as he yells into his phone, or some puffed-up sales executive jabbering inanities into his phone on the train, when one was foolishly hoping to be left in peace … yes, such things are a guaranteed winner, in terms of the reaction they will get from Pissed-off Toff.

Just occasionally, however, the modern plague which is the mobile phone – or smartphone, nowadays – gives rise to scenes at which one can only laugh. And one such scene took place in the Belgravia-based gastro-pub where from time to time I enjoy a solitary pint.

On the table next to me was a family of four of Asiatic origin – the father, with his wife and two sons, both in their late teens. They had not yet ordered, and the wife and two boys were playing with their smartphones, while the father, abandoned (but presumably due to foot the bill), was sitting there disconsolately, gazing into the distance. It was, to my mind, an extraordinary scene, with not even the pretence of this being a social occasion, or of anyone being in the here and now. And if all the poor man’s family wanted to do was to stare into their smartphones, why were they there at all?

So I observed discreetly, and before long a waiter came and took their order, and the food appeared. Ha! This is interesting, I thought. Now they will have to put down their smartphones, won’t they? In order to eat?

And I was almost right. The wife and sons did indeed put their smartphones down on the table. For one second. But it was too painful. No gadget in their hands to fiddle with! Nothing to distract them! What were they going to do?

Unable to be parted from their mobile devices for an instant, the clever diners hit on a solution; and acting quite spontaneously and as one single body, the wife and two sons picked up their smartphones, aimed them at their food, and took photos.

Then they ate in silence, and left.

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