March 29, 2008

It might surprise some people to learn that while I enjoy talking on the phone, I do not enjoy listening in to other people's phone conversations. Especially when they are on a mobile phone and especially when they are seated next to me on a plane waiting to take off.

The only thing worse than being seated next to a crying infant for a transatlantic flight is being seated next to a crying infant whose mum is talking into her mobile exploring the possible explanations for the tears.

"She started four hours ago. She's been crying the whole time. No, her nappy is dry. Yes, I burped her. Wind? You think it might be wind?...OK, I'll tell her it's you."

(Pause) 'Sweetie, daddy's on the phone. Here. On the phone. Talk to him. It's Da-da. DA-DA. You don't want to talk to him? You don't want to talk to dada?"

(Pause) "She doesn't want to talk to you. I'll call you when we land."

Recently, I was horrified to discover that airlines will soon allow mid-air mobile phone use. I read a report that said, "At last, certain flights on Emirates Airways are allowing passengers to officially get their calls and texts."

Are people that busy that they can't go a few hours without talking on the phone? And, if they are really that important, shouldn't they be able to afford a private jet?

The first flight that authorised calls was between Dubai and Casablanca.

There was one main topic of conversation: How weird it was to be talking mid-flight. "We've taken off and I'm calling you from the plane! Isn't that weird?"

But soon, the novelty will wear off and there will be a series of other topics. For instance:

Topic 1. Reception. "I only have two bars. I can't hear you. I SAID: I CAN"T HEAR YOU. CAN YOU HEAR ME? I SAID: CAN YOU HEAR ME?"

Topic 2. Location. "We're somewhere over the Pacific. I don't know where exactly. I'll call you back when the clouds break."

Topic 3: Confidentiality. "Yes, No. Yes. Uh-huh. Can't talk. (Whispering) There's someone sitting right next to me."

Topic 4: Torpitude. "Where are you? You're in Boots? What shampoo are you buying? Don't get the dandruff shampoo it made my scalp itchy."

Topic 5: Grievance. "They took away my jar of Crème de la Mer. It was 4.2oz. Oh, and they took away my nail clippers. And something else. Oh yeah, my tweezers. Make sure there's a tweezers at the hotel when I land."

Topic 6. Drama. "I didn't catch last nights episode of Desperate Houewives. What did I miss? Go on - I have loads of time - start from the beginning."

Topic 7: Tragedy. "You think it's malignant? Has it metastasised?"

Topic 8: Therapy. "Let's make it a double session. I've been having panic attacks again and I need to get into my abandonment issues."

Topic 9: Help. "Are you ready? First take the printer out of he box. I'll walk you through it. Now plug it in."

Topic 10: Rejection. "You're dumping me? Now? While I'm stuck on a plane? What do you mean you don't love me? When did this happen? But I'm pregnant!"

And what about the potential for phone sex? I'll be wearing a biohazard protection suit on all flights .

What ever happened to having turn off all equipment because it's dangerous? An eight-hour transatlantic telephone conversation from one airborne bore to another is a recipe for air rage.

And will there be a disintiction between calls made in Economy and those in Business? Because I'd sooner downgrade than sit next to someone strategising about marketing manouevres.

Also, the list of my questions at check-in is going to get a lot longer. I'll want to know if the person seated next to me has a whiny voice. I'll want to know if they are chatty and if their mobile is fully charged.

And what about the pilot? Will he be chatting on his mobile too? That's a little unnerving. When they find the black-box recorder after the crash we'll find out his last words were, "Hang on - I'm losing you"