Harriet Walker: Face to face with a gadget bore

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The bray of the gadget bore takes a lower tone than a donkey's and an only slightly higher pitch than that of a public schoolboy on the drone-o-meter, I found out last weekend.

The bore in question had gone to the same Bank Holiday beer festival as me and my boyfriend, which is arguably proof that we're both bores too. But in his fluoro blue T-shirt emblazoned with the logo of an entirely average, anodyne mid-range urban casualwear brand, he made the classic bore mistake of holding forth to a table full of people he did not know. First they listened out of politesse and then, like us, in morbid, ear-entangled horror at what was dripping out of this man's mouth like so much 21st-century lifeblood ebbing away.

"Oh yeah," he continued, even after many had turned away, "I've named all my household appliances." How quaint, I thought, imagining a puffing kettle called Steve, Gareth the long-suffering toaster, and Colin the dilapidated fridge, eternally wishing and hoping for fresher and more colourful contents than beer and dry cheese.

"Yeah, yeah," he went on, "so, my iPad's called Hunter; my MacBook is Tyson; my Kindle, he's Boris; my iPod Touch goes by the name of Stanley; and my Wii is called Alexander."

"Humph, why not go the whole hog and call your toilet Caligula?" muttered my boyfriend, whose own gadgetlust had, I fear, been piqued by the bore's terrible chunterings. And with that, he got up to choose another beer from the selection of casques, which spanned everything from sparkling perry to a lava-thick hallucinogenic treacle that was to be served only in teacup-sized rations.

While he was away, I pondered the bore, who was still talking – at this point, in an egregiously patronising fashion to a fireman he had collared. The fireman was wearing the sort of expression that a man convinced of his own superior virility would wear while holding a conversation with a bitey child or bombastic little stoat.

"Hey! Hey! Hey!" the bore started shouting. "Hey, everyone!" In my experience, no one has ever bettered the astute observation of Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge or encapsulated so perfectly the agony of a person desperate to be heard who stands no chance of being listened to. Here was a Hegelian tragedy played out on picnic benches: the conflicting currents of making oneself not only centre of attention but also adored, all the while carefully playing one's audience in order not to turn them against you... The bore choreographed it like an elephant with vertigo.

"HEY I'M GONNA TAKE YOU ALL A PICTURE!" he yelled, pulling out a slim digital camera (called Nero, no doubt) and waving it around. After the flashbulb popped in the nonplussed faces of his drinking buddies, the bore then whirled around vigorously, dipped the camera into his pint and threw it at the beer garden wall. "DID YOU ALL SEE WHAT I DID?"

One might think that this display had become the ravings of a loon and that I should have come to his aid with a straitjacket at this point, but it was plain to see that he was still mainly boring rather than bonkers. (You could tell because he kept making sure that his designer sunglasses were sitting straight.)

But after this fit of apparent madness, the bore launched into a detailed explanation of how his camera was actually waterproof and shockproof. Ironically, it seemed the only appliance of his that he had failed to name was the most human of them all. How many days do you spend carrying out your essential functions while sopping with unabsorbed alcohol or feeling like your head has been repeatedly smashed against metaphorical brickwork?

At this point, the bore's girlfriend – who had so far lent only tacit consent to his wittering by pointedly ignoring him and smoking as if it were going out of fashion – stepped in. "Give me that thing," she cried, grabbing the sozzled and bruised camera out of his hands and stuffing it into her handbag. "Urgh," she emitted, with a gale-force sigh of distaste.

When my boyfriend returned, ales in hand, I attempted to explain to him what had just happened. "First he said this, then he did this," I said, as he shook his head in disdain. "But the moral of the story," I trilled triumphantly, "is that his camera might be beer-proof and shock-proof, but his girlfriend certainly isn't."

I thought that might hit home more than it did. But my boyfriend knows that in our relationship, as long as my pet name is just a touch above the fridge's in terms of warmth and affection, things will carry on stolidly, with only the occasional flickering light or low-level humming noise in particularly warm weather.