The young woman sitting opposite me on my train to work yesterday was arranging a surprise birthday party for her mother.
I know it’s wrong to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations but it was extremely hard not to.
She was talking at the top of her voice into a mobile phone, utterly unselfconsciously, for everyone in the carriage to hear.
I wish I could report that she had something interesting to say, but that would be the opposite of the truth. Her conversation was aggressively, maddeningly boring to those of us who didn’t know the dramatis personae involved - which meant everyone on the train but her.
Apparently, Sophie would have difficulty making it to the party if it was held on the Saturday, but Gary couldn’t manage the Friday. It would be out of the question to put it back a week because, of course, Mandy was getting married then and... "yeah, Mandy - you know, Steve’s sister - yeah, didn’t you know [shriek]? She’s marrying this guy, Greg, who she met on holiday in Capri and - yeah, it’s incredibly romantic.
"Anyway, we can’t have the party that weekend because, like, Mum’s going to the wedding and..."
"Oh, shut up! Shut up!" I wanted to scream at her. "Can’t you see you’re making everyone in this carriage hate you?"
But, of course, I said nothing at all. I gave her what was meant to be a withering scowl - which she didn’t seem to notice - and fought without success to refocus my mind on 24 across: "Dust began to settle in a legislative assembly (9)."
Is there anywhere on Earth you can escape from people bawling into their mobiles? In a week when a British climber became the first person to make a phone call from the top of Everest, the answer seems to be "No".
(Bang goes the last conceivable reason why anyone in his right mind would want to go mountaineering in the Himalayas. Imagine slogging through all that snow and ice, in quest of that ultimate spiritual experience, risking death at every muscle-searing step, only to hear Rod Baber, 36, yelling into his mobile at the summit: "Hi, it’s Rod. Yeah, I’m on the top of Everest... Sorry? You’re breaking up…")
TOM UTLEY, Daily Mail