It’s not yet clear when it’s a bad call to use your phone
The decorum of portable communication is still in its infancy
The story does, however, confirm how this handy communication device has altered every aspect of our lives. There is virtually no point in the day when we are free from the tyranny of the telephone. Alerts from forgotten apps wake you in the middle of the night. Fit people use their headphones when running marathons. Slope-headed Neanderthals answer them in cinemas and discuss dinner arrangements while decent people strain to keep their attention on the film. If usherettes were equipped with sabres they could . . .
I’ve got off the topic again. The case of Ms Clarke illustrates that, so rapid has been the rise of mobile phones, we have yet to work out the correct etiquette governing their use. Is it acceptable to answer the phone when talking to a friend in the street? Probably. After all, you would answer the blower at home if you had guests round. A text is, however, a different matter. Your remote contact can, in those circumstances, surely wait until the current sentence has been finished.
Fiddling with your phone when in the company of casual acquaintances should seem unimaginably rude. You would not, after being introduced to a stranger, take out a newspaper and begin scrutinising the racing tips. But the phone has come to seem like an artificial limb or (more to the point) a remote extension of the owner’s brain. Couples now sit in restaurants poking at their devices while waiting for the starters to arrive. So what? Couples have been sitting in silence and thinking for centuries.
The truth is that nobody is yet sure whether it is “correct” to keep speaking on your phone when paying for cat food. It took centuries for medieval man to decide the correct protocol governing the wearing of swords. The decorum of portable communication is still in its infancy. That said, if some poor sap is scowl- ing at you then you are probably best advised to hang up.