“I vividly remember my first experience of hands-free mobile phones. It must have been around 1998 in Stockholm. I arrived by night, in the teeth of a blizzard, and distinctly shaken up by having flown from London sitting between the pilots of the SAS flight. I was, shamefully, on a press junket, and this was the only seat available. I wandered the concourses of Stockholm airport waiting for my onward connection and absolutely freaked by the numbers of soberly dressed businessmen who strode about the place gesticulating and talking aloud, even though there was no one there.
“What was this, I wondered – the atavistic Scandinavian bicameral mind in action? Were these guys talking to Wotan, or were they schizophrenics? It took me a while to notice the little pigtails of flex dangling from their ears, then grasp that this was only the stringy extension of a communications revolution hell-bent on inverting private and public space. Ah! The mobile phone – how can we imagine life without it? (Well, if you’re, say, over 30, the answer is: with perfect clarity – after all, we can remember that carefree era of less paranoia and greater punctuality.) More specifically, what was civil society like before any fuckwit with a portable phone started believing that he or she had an inalienable right to yatter on in public, at inordinate length and as loudly as a trombonist?”
Read the rest of the latest The Madness of Crowds column at the New Statesman.