But apart from that…

Commuting days until retirement: 521

One train activity I missed out in the last post was just simply talking on the phone. (Sometimes now it is easy to forget that a phone is still, well, a phone.) While people do text a lot on trains, which is considerate, and much better for the readers, like me, there are still those whose intimate domestic arrangements – or, worse, work problems – are offered up to the whole carriage.

I must admit I did once get a bit of unfair entertainment from a woman opposite me, who had the task of getting someone in her office to do something urgent that she would have been doing herself, had she been there. However it was obvious that this needed a more than elementary knowledge of how to work some application on the computer, and that the person at the other end she had to instruct was fairly slow on the uptake. Just as, with infinite patience, she was on the point of getting a result with some part of the task, the train would go into a tunnel and contact would be lost. I have never seen such a study in repressed frustration. As everyone else around stared out of the window, buried themselves in their books, or did anything to appear not to be listening, she looked likely to get up and kick us all in the shins.

But there are also conversations which remind you of the fact that, while mobiles have given people many more opportunities to talk to one another, they haven’t necessarily got anything more to say. I think this is what Harold Pinter had in mind when he responded to the advent of the mobile phone by writing a short sketch. (I thought of this because we are going to a Pinter play on Friday, of which more, I hope later.)

I remember the sketch pretty well because, rather unusually, it was performed on BBC Newsnight, and one of the characters was played by Pinter himself, probably something like a year or two before he died. I have just done a bit of Googling and found to my delight that it’s on YouTube. (Well obviously, once you think of it.) So I have put it below. Although the actors are sitting in the studio and reading from scripts, you’re to imagine that they are speaking on mobile phones. The vain attempts of the two characters to find something significant to say are both funny and tragic  Enjoy it.