Simon Kelner: A modern life challenge: man plus mobile on a bus

Kelner's view


As anyone who knows me will attest, I'm a pretty mild-mannered person. (I can hear those who know me very well respond wearily: really?) Anyway, I found myself yesterday in the unusual position of feeling a visceral hate towards someone merely on sight.

I was on a bus in the rush hour, and this man got on while talking very loudly on his mobile phone. "Absolutely," he kept repeating. Everyone else swiped their Oyster cards, but he just stood there barking into his mobile while casually searching his pockets for his own card. The packed bus couldn't move until he found his card, but he seemed unaware of this, continuing his conversation for everyone to hear.

"There's plenty more where that came from," he said at one point, leaving a bus-full of strangers to hope that, in fact, there wasn't. Eventually, he succeeded in locating his card and the bus was able to move off. Undeterred by the force field of antipathy around him, he didn't miss a beat. "Absolutely," he continued, "I get it completely."

I found myself convulsed with loathing, and not just because of what I considered anti-social behaviour. Was it his clothes? He was wearing yellow corduroy trousers, a red V-necked jumper and a Barbour-style checked coat, and I've always thought it is an indictable offence to wear country garb in a built-up area. Or was it his high-handedness, making the bus driver (and the other passengers) wait until he was ready? There was something about his self-satisfied tone, too.

And then I realised. I hated myself. I hated the fact that I hadn't tapped him on the shoulder and said: "Excuse me, do you mind not talking so loud. Not everyone wants to hear your telephone conversation." That's all it would have taken. A simple, polite request and I am sure he would have desisted.

The truth is, sadly, that I'm not that sort of person. I'm not the one who makes a fuss. In fact, I'm the one who gets slightly embarrassed when someone else does. I have always wished I was more like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, who is always pulling strangers up for what he perceives to be anti-social acts, such as cutting in on a queue on the pretence of meeting someone (the old cut-and-chat manoeuvre).

Of course, there's something noble and heroic about such behaviour, and I'm sure that had I remonstrated with the man on the bus I would have been admired by my fellow passengers. But I would have no sooner done that than driven the bus away.

It is one of the problems of public transport: at some stage, you are going to be confronted with a situation where you have to act counter-naturally, whether it be having the moral rectitude to pick an argument with a stranger or showing physical courage in a potentially dangerous situation. It is one of the modern world's small challenges.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive - Graduate / Entry Level

£22000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital advertising infras...

Recruitment Genius: European Sales Director - Aerospace Cable & Wire

£100000 - £125000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Project Manager

£17100 - £22900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Caitlyn Jenner's first shoot is a victory - but is this really best version of femininity we can aspire to?

Sirena Bergman
The sun balances next to St Albans Church in Earsdon, North Tyneside.  

The world’s nations have one last chance to slow climate change

Michael McCarthy
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral