Wednesday, November 14

how to use #phones to your advantage in #annoying situations

As an experienced pedestrian I have learned to be quite assertive in traffic, despite the obvious power differential. It's even possible to enjoy creative jay-walking, as long as you pay 100% attention and recognise when not to take risks.

I have even been known to stand in the road and stop a car. For example, if a driver signals right then turns left into your path, you can stop dead and face the driver, arms out in a WTF pose. It only takes nerve, and assumes the driver is paying attention.

Surprisingly, when I was nearly run over last week I was actually being completely law-abiding, and the traffic was stationary.

I was walking over a pedestrian crossing, after a bus had pulled up to let me cross. The bus driver may have been in a hurry, or perhaps just decided to have some sport. As I stepped onto the crossing, he started inching across, calculating his speed so that the front of the bus would just miss me as I passed in front of it. So long as I didn't slow my pace. For a moment I was almost tempted to stop in front of him and see what he'd do.

My next thought was to slap the side of the bus. They hate that.

But instead I decided to play it safe and keep moving. As I passed his windscreen I gave him the international digital signal. His cab was high up, so my arm was at full stretch so he could see my finger. I was in the mood for a total meltdown if he wanted to raise the stakes, but fortunately it ended there. If necessary I could have photographed him and his number plate, and asked him to wait while I called the cops. At last a double use for my mobile phone!

I met the second annoying person that afternoon. I was in a shop, and when I took my purchase to the counter there was nobody to take my money. It was a large busy shop, the kind where the casually-dressed staff look indistinguishable from the customers. Normally I would leave the exact money on the counter and walk out, but this time I tried something different. A horrible tinny "music" was playing from a mobile phone beside the cash register. Obviously the shop assistant had turned up the volume so they could continue listening no matter where they were in the shop. (Don't ask me why they hadn't just kept the phone in their pocket where they could hear it without stinging everyone else's ears.) I reached over the counter and turned off the speaker on the phone. The reaction was immediate. From the far end of the shop, a young assistant emerged from the crowd, probably worried somebody had stolen his phone. As he wrapped my purchase in sullen silence, I said with mock-helpfulness "by the way, I turned your phone down, to save your battery".

On the bus home, I sat beside the third annoying person. The rush-hour traffic was at a crawl, and it would be a long trip. The guy beside me decided to fill in time by phoning friends. When I heard him say "I'm stuck in traffic" I couldn't help snorting. By leaving out the words "on the bus" the guy was trying to give the impression he was in a car!

Phone calls from a bus are invariably so banal that it's funny. I took out my own phone, and considered faking a call of my own, and saying "sorry, it's just the annoying guy next to me shouting on his phone". But instead I decided to record his call using the (excellent) WavePad app. Maybe I would get enough material to start a regular podcast of idiots on buses.

When he finished his call and complained because I had recorded him, I said "I quite understand - you probably don't like the idea of other people listening to your private conversation."

Actually I made up the last bit.

Phones enable people to be annoying in new ways, but phones can also help in dealing with annoying people. The phone giveth annoyance and the phone taketh away. It all balances up.


  1. Some days are just more fun than should be allowed.

  2. Nanners. I've just stumbled on a twitter hashtag called #NaBloPoMo. Reminded me of your current activity.

  3. I suspect it may be related. There are a lot of us scattered out in the world.

    I don't do twitter or facebook or any of those.

  4. Albert? I can'y believe you've started making rude gestures to bus drivers. Does this fit in with starting to be an alcoholic? You'll be a football hooligan before we know it! Hotboy

  5. Hotters, just as you've discovered sobriety, I'm developing my inner proletarian. It all balances up.

  6. I say!

    Have you tried 'white line walking' - down the middle of the road? Quite popular, hereabouts.

    MM III