I knew that mobile phones had become more popular during my stay in the monastery but I hadn’t realised just how much they were part of everyday life.
Having got on to the train which would carry me away from Skanda Vale and into my new life, I settled down in my seat expecting a peaceful four hour journey in which I could reflect on things. How wrong I was! The carriage was almost completely full and everyone, it seemed, was the owner of a mobile phone. For the duration of the next four hours I was obliged to listen to well over 20 different ringtones and their accompanying conversations! Before long I got to know each phone by it’s ringtone and the owner’s voice, so that when any particular phone rang I would know who was going to answer it! I was able to follow the development of various business deals and was being regularly updated about the status of several relationships, some of which had positive outcomes at least. Once or twice I took a little stroll through the carriage primarily to use the toilet but also to try to visually put faces to the people whose lives I was unwittingly becoming drawn into. I almost wanted to stop and speak to some of them! … “Oh I’m so happy she accepted your apology!”, “Congratulations with the new contract; I can see it means so much to you!”, “Don’t worry, give him a little time, you’ll see, he’ll come around to your perspective before long.”
Well, on my little trips through the carriage I also noticed how many people were listening to headphones. These appeared mostly to be the ones who weren’t using their mobile phones much. It almost seemed to be a way of blocking out the auditory disturbances from those around. What an excellent idea! I thought. I must get one of those iPodie thingies!
Finally the train arrived in London, slowly clattering and jolting across the multitude of track junctions as it pulled in to Paddington Station. Now my mind turned to how I would cope with the next leg of my journey… through London’s Underground where I would literally rub shoulders with the innercity-hardened denizens of Europe’s largest metropolis.
As I stepped off the train and walked along the platform I noticed a sign on one of the other train carriages: “mobile phone-free carriage”. Well well! Next time I’ll make sure I choose that carriage!