Journalist and novelist Andrew Martin is the author of the 'Jim Stringer' series of novels based around railways. He has written for the Independent on Sunday, the Evening Standard, the Sunday Times and the New Statesman among others.
Sunday 10 January 1999
Regarding the latter, my excuse is that it's primarily so the nanny can contact me in extremis. And I hereby swear that I will never do what a man beside me on a train to Oxford did this week, namely make three calls in half an hour, saying each time: "Are there any more messages for me?" like a child greedy for chocolates.
Nor will I upgrade to one of those remote, hands-free systems, so I can lope down high streets booming: "Yah, I think I've got a window at six, John!" while appearing to be talking to nobody but myself.
On purchasing my phone, I resolved, in fact, to be the only male owner of a mobile phone in the United Kingdom who is not a total jerk. But it's an uphill struggle.
All the hallmarks of the total jerk are rapidly accumulating about me. The other day, for example, I recorded what I had imagined to be a bland addendum to my answering machine message but, on playing it back, I heard the unmistakable sound of a total jerk saying: "...or try me on the mobile on..." in a tone at once affectedly casual and archly proud.
Next came the recitation of the irritatingly long number, which I found that I had delivered in time-honoured mobile phone-owner style - ie, just that bit too quickly for the caller to hear.
Then, only a few hours later, I passed what may have been the point of no return. I was sitting in a Polish restaurant in West Hampstead and the mobile rang. Upon answering, I explained, rather loudly - because it was a bad connection, after all - that I was sitting in a Polish restaurant in West Hampstead.
As I did so, all the diners around me naturally turned to one another and muttered "See that guy? He's a total jerk", while giving me that murderous look that I've been directing at mobile phone users for years.
I was appalled to be on the receiving end if it, though, and I felt like shouting: "No, please, I'm not like the others! I only have this mobile phone for my kids' sake!"
Yet I'm perfectly well aware that every mobile phone call I take is a slap in the face of the people around me; that every time I speak into the thing, it's as if I'm saying: "My immediate surroundings are not sufficiently important; I can, and will, transcend them."
This arrogant subtext is at the root of the mobile's macho appeal, which is slowly getting to me. I don't wear mine on my belt like a gunslinger, but I have found myself letting its subliminally phallic antennae protrude from my jacket pocket. It's a shame because that earlier Andrew Martin, the one who existed before the mobile came along, he wasn't such a bad bloke, really.
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