You’re on the train? Good for you!

FURTHER to my earlier posting on confronting inconsiderate mobile phone users on trains, Nigel Harris (no relation) of Rail Magazine has posted on his own suggested solution in his blog. It’s actually the best suggestion yet and I’m looking forward to trying it out one day.

My only problem on that occasion was that I was in the Quiet Zone, where notices specifically prohibited the use of mobile phones. I have never understood the general public hostility to people using mobiles aboard trains. It is surely one of the most tired and over-used comedian’s routine to bang on about train passengers yelling “I’m on the train!” into their phone.

I mean, why wouldn’t they? Why shouldn’t they? They are, after all, on the train, so the information they’re communicating to their loved one is accurate. No-one seems to have a problem with using a mobile to tell your loved one that you’re in a shop or in the office or in the car*. But if you’re in a train, that’s a no-no, apparently.

And if the person who’s annoying you by conveying factually accurate information to his wife using a piece of technology which most people have these days is speaking too loudly, could that be because the noise of the train is making it difficult for the person on the other end of the line to hear?

Personally, I’m convinced that the “I’m on the train” hostility is a hang-over from the early days of the mobile phone, when only “yuppies” (golly, remember    them?) and the elite could afford to own them and there existed a certain resentment/ jealousy against their owners from the rest of us.

Now that mobiles are as common as the cold, maybe it’s time we showed a bit more tolerance and moved on.

Unless you’re in the Quiet Zone. Obviously.


* provided you’re using a hands-free kit, of course



Filed under Blogging, Society

23 responses to “You’re on the train? Good for you!

  1. As with most things in life there’s a balance to be struck. In this case between banning or tut-tutting at things and preventing oafish or inconsiderate behaviour. The Third Way is, as always, the answer…

  2. Johnny Norfolk

    Its not the mobile phones that are the problem it is the people using them. as with all thing there is a time and a place. However it is quite interesting listening to other peoples phone calls. If someone is iritating me I make sure they can see me listening to them. They then move some where else so I cannot hear them. Perfect result for both parties.

  3. braddogley

    The only problem is that people don’t tend to repeat their numbers out loud these days. Other than that, it seems okay to me as a solution. Your pal Dom Joly did a very good routine on the issue in his last Channel 5 series. And Larry David also did a great routine about the nuisance.

  4. Auntie Flo'

    It’s not just on trains, Tom, it’s everywhere. Even shopping is disrupted by people on mobiles blocking shelves while they loudly discuss what they should buy with their nearest and dearest.

    Mobile ring tones disrupt concerts and conferences and every piece of space everywhere.

    People walk into my office shouting into their mobiles and are put out when I will not tolerate them polluting my work space, disrupting my work and wasting my time until they’ve finished their chat with their pal.

    This is a particular problem for people who rely on hearing aids as I do (plus lip reading in my case), because the volume at which people make these calls is electronically blasted even more loudly into our ears and blocks what we need, and are already struggling, to hear: the necessary conversations of everyday life.

    And there is hardly a town or village that isn’t polluted with ugly mobile phone masts.

    Sorry, I’m sick of mobile phones. They should be restricted to text messages except for emergency calls.

  5. Auntie Flo'

    As for the early days of mobile phones, my business had one for out of hours call out in our homes, though I could never use it.

    It was hugely unreliable, weighed about a half a stone and was the size of an overstuffed A4 file with a handle. This did not, I can assure you, generate envy on the part of those who saw it.

  6. Auntie Flo'

    One more disturbing fact about mobile phone technology:

    We’re assured that phone masts do not damage our health. Well, I discovered a worrying effect of these masts on hearing aids a while back which I believe should make all of us rethink that claim.

    Walking near a phone mast located next to a busy road my hearing aid suddenly cut out completely. Only when I was out of the range of the mast did my hearing aid begin functioning again.

    Modern hearing aids are designed to cut out at sound frequencies or volumes that damage the hearing centres in the ear or brain and it was presumably the damagingly high, though inaudible, frequencies from this mast which caused my hearing aid to cut out in this way.

    Why hasn’t this ever been investigated?

  7. Andrew F

    You don’t even need to determine their number. Assuming both phones are equipped with “blue tooth” (which most are), you can send people in your vicinity messages for free and without their permission.

    It makes for great pranks on the train, actually. 😀

  8. Auntie Flo'

    Another point about those who object to mobile phone usage on trains, in shops and other public places: many of us will object because we are very deaf or hard of hearing.

    The RNID states that 1 in 7 of us – that’s 14% of us – have a degree of hearing loss sufficient to affect how we live our lives.

    That means that 14 out of every 100 train passengers are likely to be severely deaf or hard of hearing.

    Why are so many of us in UK going deaf, Tom?

  9. No idea, Flo, but I get the feeling you’re going to blame the government. Am I right?

  10. The gag is a throwback to earlier days of mass uptake where people would make calls specifically to tell people what mode of transport they were on, and receive calls asking them where they are. Answer: on a bus etc.

    I think it is the making of calls to pass on banality about the technology’s inherent “mobility” – they should try to save time and encapsulate that in the name somehow? – that is the butt of the joke.

  11. James

    That’s nothing Flo, the percentage increases to 100% when it comes to this Government listening to the public.
    They convenniently ‘turn a deaf ear’ to public opinion.

  12. And the prize for Best Attempt to Lever in a Criticism of the Government into a Completely Unrelated Thread goes to…

  13. Auntie Flo'

    “No idea, Flo, but I get the feeling you’re going to blame the government. Am I right?”

    Now, now, keep your tammy on, Tom. No need to get twitchy and defensive, all I’ve done is to post the stats, I’ve not once mentioned the government. Why should I? I’m not your mum. You decide for yourself 🙂

    What I’m suggesting is that our high incidence of deafness in UK should hardly surprise us given that our generation have transformed our lives into one long series of overcrowded acoustic traumas, almost purpose designed to damage our hearing.

    We can’t shuffle off responsibility for this onto modern life either, life is what we make it, especially in terms of our occupational, individual and community life styles.

    Among high risk occupations (unless protection is used): Construction workers, factory workers, airport workers, musicians policemen, fire-fighters, military personnel, farmers, and HGV drivers.

    Yet unprotected occupational noise is only one side of the story. In years to come ‘boilerman’s ear’ will be replaced by ‘ipod ear’, ‘music mutilation’, ‘airport ototisis’ and ‘flightpath fuzzy ears’.

    Of course UK isn’t the only country with a high incidence of deafness. Up to 28 million Americans are estimated to be hearing impaired, a third of them due to acoustic trauma

    Even in Sweden, traditionally a country of good hearing, deafness has risen from 10% to over 14% in less than 15 years.

    This rising tide of deafness affects increasing numbers of young people, two thirds of Swedes aged between 16 and 84 years with hearing loss are of working age (2007 Swedish deafness association)

    And that should worry us all.

    Of course, deafness isn’t the end of the world, some of us mutt and Geoff lot cope a darn sight better than hearing people. However, you can’t all be deaf super heroes like me 😉

  14. James

    To be absolutely fair Tom, I should have stated that my previous comment applies to any Government, not just ‘this’ one.

  15. Auntie Flo'

    Ever wondered why you sometimes get ringing in your ears after a very loud concert? That’s the cilia and nerves in your inner ears screaming that they’re been injured and are dying.

    Vibrations caused by sound produce a shearing force on the hair-like cilia in our inner ears which send electrical impulses along the acoustic nerve to the brain. They’re such delicate little things, excessively loud sound subjects them to excessive force, which can badly damage them. The cells can recover from mild damage, but severe damage will kill nerve cells, producing permanent hearing loss.

    We treat our hearing like it’s indestructible and delude ourselves that we’ll always be able to hear. Yet hearing is so fragile that many of us will lose our hearing. Our ears are not designed to cope with the constant onslaught of artificialy generated high decibels we pound them with in our towns and cities.

    There’s already too much noise on trains, we don’t need more from idiots shouting into their mobiles.

  16. davew

    Auntie Flo: I assume you have no understanding of how mobile phone masts work, as the closer you stand to the mast the *lower* the signal strength (there is an “umbrella” effect which results in the beam of greatest intensity striking the ground at around 150-250m from the base station). Therefore, I suspect you are incorrectly attributing the cause of your hearing aid failure.

    On the matter of annoying Quiet Coach phone users, on a train the other day some woman demonstrated why being too determined to tell the other person off can be just as irritating. A girl received a call whilst sat in the Quiet Coach, and took it, speaking really rather quietly. After perhaps 30 seconds, the elderly lady sat behind me leapt up and marched over, screaming, “DO YOU REALISE THIS IS THE QUIET COACH?” and almost trying to grab the girls phone and turn it off. I found this behaviour so alarming and inappropriate that I leapt to the girl’s defence, remarking that I would prefer it if the elderly lady would please also be quiet as she was now disturbing me…

  17. Guthrum Eckinshaw

    I always say (in a very loud voice) “Yes I am in Northampton, as planned. The train is running on time”. I say this regardless of what part of the country I am in.

  18. Surely the point about mobile phone use in a confined space is that it might affect/irritate those around you? I would never fart in a tube train because it’s not very pleasant for those sharing the carriage. Just because everyone has a backside does it make it OK?

  19. Chris

    I would be in full agreement that people ought not to use their phones in the quite clearly marked out quiet zones if it were not for one issue… National Rail’s annoying ticketing system…

    If you book ahead, then you can specify whether you want a table or not, whether you want to face forwards or backwards and sometimes even if you want to be located near the buffet car, however the option as to whether you wish to be in the quiet zone is never posed. In the past I’ve been allocated seats in the quiet zone when I need to make calls, and on a busy train (which they all are these days) you don’t give up your allocated seat in a hurry, especially if you’re on a lengthy journey!

    I remember one occasion last year when I was allocated a seat in the “Family Zone” which seemed to be code for an area where children are free to run wild and generally annoy other passengers. No idea how their crazy system decided that a person travelling on their own desired to sit in an area where their non-existent children could be at ease!

    Anyhow, I’m going a bit off topic now, just thought I ought to put in a shout for all those using their phones in the quiet zone who never actually chose to be there in the first place!

  20. Auntie Flo'

    Davew said:

    “Auntie Flo: I assume you have no understanding of how mobile phone masts work, as the closer you stand to the mast the *lower* the signal strength (there is an “umbrella” effect which results in the beam of greatest intensity striking the ground at around 150-250m from the base station). Therefore, I suspect you are incorrectly attributing the cause of your hearing aid failure.”


    Your assumption re my lack of understanding of how mobile phone masts work is correct, Davew.

    However, understanding didn’t come into it, my hearing aid simply responded to the signal from the mast. I’ve no doubt that this is what happened because:

    1. My hearing aid (Or aids when I wear two) have never previously, in 30 odd years of wearing these, cut out in this manner under such circumstances.

    2. The aid/s only cut out where there is some extremely loud external stimulus and, one that is initially audible.

    3. The only sort of sounds that have this effect on my hearing aid are the sirens of police cars or ambulances and fire, intruder or smoke alarms.

    4. There’s always a warning when a hearing aid is about to cut out due to these sounds. I am briefly aware of the very high pitched sound before my hearing aid/s cut out.

    5. When my hearing aid/s cut out in this manner it is always accompanied by a very unpleasant pressure in my ear that can be painful.

    And that’s exactly what happened as I drew near this mast, except that there wasn’t any initial sound to warn me.

    6. When my hearing aid cut out near the mast there was no loud noise in the vicinity except for the sound of ordinary traffic and that sound has never made my hearing aid cut out.

    7. The loop system in hearing aids play up near PCs. If I use the loop switch when I’m very near a PC I hear loud electronic sounds, a sort of buzzing noise. That doesn’t switch my hearing aid into standby as the mast did nor does it create pressure in my ears , but it does interfere with the aid’s ability to amplify the sound I need.

    8. When I realised that it was the mast having this effect on my hearing aids – and I am still certain that it was the mast – I walked away from it and my hearing aid gradually returned to normal. I’m not sure what distance I was from the mast when my hearing aid began working again, I must test this out .

    Could you explain what you mean by the ‘beam of greatest intensity’. Do you mean that the signal is stronger there, or of a different frequency? Could the signal be at a different frequency near the mast? Also, how broad is the ‘band’ of greatest intensity?

  21. Lady Finchley

    Phones? You think they’re annoying? What about personal stereos played out loud? Or played with earphones but still so bloody loud that you can hear it? There is a by-law which forbids this but there is nothing on the tube that says this and only a very wimpy sign on the bus. I cannot tell you the amount of altercations I have gotten into about this and not just with kids. The other day 4 nitwits on the tube had them with the music leaking through their earphones – a veritable cacaphony – no amount of dirty looks did a thing and I didn’t dare say a thing because the last time I did I was assaulted. The British Transport police were marvellous – they arrested both – but the guy who assaulted me is not to be charged says the Crap Prosecution Service. Not only was I assaulted but the rest of the carriage thought I was assaulting HIS civil liberties.

    I fare a bit better on the buses but the other night I was accused of racism because the perps who were playing the music out loud were Asians! A fellow passenger (a man) whispered to me that I had done the right thing but really, where are your cojones, man?

    Boris had better get his act together and put some signs on the tube because the anti-social use of this stuff is not going to stop in a world where and I quote ‘it is my right to play my music as loud as I want where ever I want’ is the attitude and where adults of all colours and persuasions actually agree.

  22. Auntie Flo'


    Your post states:
    “the closer you stand to the mast the *lower* the signal strength (there is an “umbrella” effect which results in the beam of greatest intensity striking the ground at around 150-250m from the base station). Therefore, I suspect you are incorrectly attributing the cause of your hearing aid failure.”

    Yet research in 2004 is at odds with that.

    From the BBC Press Office on 8.11 2004
    “New research reveals that…out of a total of 26,532 schools in the country, 2,350 (8.9%) have at least one macro mast within 50 to 200 metres of a school, where the emissions from the masts are usually at their strongest.”

    Would you agree with that statement – that emissions are at their strongest within “50 to 200 metres”?

    Because, I’d parked my car about 200 metres from the mast in question and had begun walking nearer to the mast when my hearing aid cut out. I can’t honestly say how far I was from the mast at the time. I was initially puzzled and taken aback when my hearing aid suddenly went dead for no apparent reason and was not happy walking near busy traffic with no hearing the last thing on my mind was how close the mast was.

    Then it dawned on me that the proximity of the mast was the only possible cause and my main concern was to move away, pronto.

  23. Er, sorry to interrupt, and fascinating though this is (yawn…), do either of you want to comment on the actual post?

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