Eddie Mair: Why are we all glued to our mobiles?

"It’s provocative action, to wilfully put your own desperate need to walk ‘n’ text ahead of everyone else. Are they really so busy they can’t stop for a second?"


I was called a paedo recently. Not unusual for a broadcaster in this day and age, I suppose, but the woman who made the accusation had literally just bumped into me.


I saw her from a distance. She was walking towards me, mesmerised by her mobile phone.

Perhaps she’d just tweeted something delightful, or was checking a Nigella recipe. It may be that she was looking at a map. One thing for sure is that she wasn’t looking where she was going. She was fairly barrelling down the street but at no stage did she look up.

As she got closer, I surmised that she may have been a little drunk. Certainly she was unkempt. Had we been on a bus she would undoubtedly have chosen to sit next to me.

I resolved to do my best to steer clear of her. This proved tricky as no matter how much I tried to avoid her uncertain gait, she continued to weave in my direction. She got closer and closer, her eyes still locked on her mobile. I made one final attempt to get out of her way but the inevitable happened. Unlike two ships passing in the night, we collided.

Any hopes I’d harboured that the silly ninny would apologise for not looking where she was going were cruelly shattered by her cry of “Oi! What the eff do you think you’re doing?”

I resolved to keep walking rather than get involved in an ugly confrontation. Did I mention she was ugly? As I strode away, she continued yelling at my back. Perhaps she’d been checking sweary websites on her mobile because she had a choice collection of four-letter words, which she hurled at me in order to get me to turn around. I kept walking until it must have been clear even to the yelling dimwit that I wasn’t for turning. It’s at this point that she began to yell “paedo” at me.

Part of me wanted to go and physically remonstrate with the woman but I knew that morally it was almost certainly the wrong thing to do. Plus she would probably thrash me in a fight.

I considered going back and taking a photograph of the wild-haired loon and tweeting it but again that was almost certainly the wrong thing to do.

In the end I resolved to do what all decent people should do when faced with a situation like that: get back at the festering old troll by writing about her in Radio Times.

I doubt very much that she will read this, but on the off-chance she does, let me say this directly to her: “You are a rude, boorish, hideous woman, and I hope you lose even more of your teeth.”

I feel a lot better for that, thank you.

She is an extreme example of a growing trend: people striding down the street tansfixed by their mobiles. I think the rest of us are just supposed to throw ourselves out of their way. It’s provocative action, to wilfully put your own desperate need to walk ‘n’ text ahead of everyone else. Are they really so busy they can’t stop for a second?

It’s not just texting. I’ve seen people reading e-books while walking down busy streets. And you know what’s even worse? I’ve been known to walk ’n’ text, too, making me a hypocrite as well as a pavement lout. It makes me want to physically remonstrate with myself.

Eddie Mair presents PM, Mon-Fri 5pm, and iPM, Sat 5.45am, 5.30pm, both Radio 4