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

Kelner's view

Share

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

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: The Job:TEACHERS REQUIREDWe are...

Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are currently...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Special Needs Teaching Assistant ...

Year 4 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is urgently recruiting...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Hislop the Younger, by-election polling and all about the olden days

John Rentoul
The bustling Accident & Emergency ward at Milton Keynes Hospital  

The NHS needs the courage to 'adapt and survive'

Nigel Edwards
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?