Selfish Behaviour and Popularity

I want you to imagine a building brick that you might see in the middle of the wall of your house. Imagine it in your hand. Feel the weight of it and also the size. Imagine carrying it around with you everywhere you went. You may find it hard to believe nowadays but in 1992 the first mobile phones were that size and weight. All the “in” people had one but in those days they were far too expensive for me.
It was at this time that I travelled on a non-stop, inter-city express from Birmingham to London. I was looking forward to finishing a great book. Luckily I found a seat easily, although the train was rather crowded. Then, opposite me a young man sat down. I suppose he was about 27 years old. He had a business man’s black, pinstripe suit on with a matching shirt and tie, as well as a big black briefcase. I thought he looked very important.
Just as the train pulled out of the station he opened his case and took out one of those big black phones that seemed to weigh a ton. He started pressing the keys and they lit up and bleeped as he pressed each one. He then put it to his ear and a few seconds later started speaking very loudly. It went something like this:
“Hi Jim. We’ve left promptly so hopefully I’ll be there in time for the meeting. Whatever you do, don’t let them sell the wheat shares for less 40 million. Got It? 
He seemed to be listening and then, “OK and in my personal stocks buy that farming option. Spend 3 million but no more. I can see the value shooting up. I’ve just seen the long term weather forecast. It’ll be a tidy profit. Right, I’m off now but, as I’ve got time to think for the next hour, I may get back to you.”
Now, when I say he was speaking loudly, I mean he was virtually shouting. It quickly became evident that I couldn’t read with this going on in front of me and so I put my book down and waited for the conversation to finish. I then started again. I wasn’t sure if he’d noticed me putting my book down but I tried to make it fairly obvious by picking it up again the instant he stopped. Unfortunately, any doubts I had were swept away as, about 30 seconds later, he started pressing those buttons again. It went something like this:

Hi Martin, I’m on the Birmingham to London and finally got some time to think. Look, are you OK for the San Francisco meeting next week, I’d really like you to be there. Between us I think we could sell our options for about 500 million. What do you think?
More? Wow! I’ll go for that. So what about the Precious Metals? Canada is still looking good to me. Do you want to buy in with me?
OK, we’ll talk about it at the time. Which hotel are you at?
Oh yes, me too. It really is 6 star service there and the executive suites are very spacious. I look forward to it, see you then

Once again I had put my book down. I stood up yawned and glanced around. My suspicions were confirmed. People all down the carriage had put down whatever they were doing and looking in an irritated fashion in my direction. With my back to “the phone man” I exchanged some glances with them. We were all clearly thinking the same thing.
Once he had stopped, I rather pointedly sat down, picked up my book and tried to read, whilst giving him a wide-eyed look. I don’t think he noticed. He seemed to be lost in his own world and was taking out a rather large diary from his briefcase. He flicked through a few pages back and forth and grunted to himself. Once again it started. The buttons were bleeping and he put the phone to his ear. It went something like this:

Hi honey. Sorry, poor reception, I’ll talk louder. OK, I’m looking at my diary now and I can fit in those three weeks in the Seychelles in August just like you asked.” Pause. “Yes, three weeks, I’ve moved the Shanghai trip to September. They happily agreed. Said I’m a great customer and it would be worth the wait. What about your model shoot? Marie Claire wasn’t it? Can you move that?
Great, I’ll get my secretary to book it and before you ask, yes we’ll be staying where you want. It’ll be a cool 50 grand but hey, you’re worth it. Why don’t you go and buy some new clothes and swimwear on me? My Amex card is in the bedroom drawer.”
Yes, I love you too baby. See you tonight.”

Once again the whole carriage had stopped and one or two people had even left their seats and were walking to the rear of the train. I assumed they were on their way to the buffet car for coffee and a bit of peace. This time I didn’t even bother to pick up my book and as soon as he started pressing those buttons again I decided that I too would visit the buffet car. I stood up and gave him another look of frustration. Much to my annoyance, he gave me a little wave and friendly grin before starting, once again, to shout into his phone. I didn’t listen.
I walked down the train and eventually came to a very long queue for refreshments. To be honest that didn’t bother me at all. I found myself gradually calming down and realising just how upset I had become. this man seemed to have no idea he was being rude to other people. I had so much been looking forward to reading the last 50 pages of my book, it was a great story.
I suppose I stood in that queue for about 20 minutes before getting near to the counter.
Just then we all heard the call, “Tickets please” and started fumbling in our pockets. At that moment, with his left hand in the inside right pocket of his jacket, the man in front of me crumpled and fell to the floor. He seemed to be shaking and having trouble breathing. He had gone very red in the face. I knelt down and loosened his collar. The ticket collector, seeing the disturbance as everybody moved to one side, came over. By then I had put the poor man in the recovery position. The ticket collector looked at me and said, “Looks like a heart attack to me. He needs immediate medical attention.”

“Can’t we stop at the next station?” I asked.
“No way I can do that,” he said, “We’re locked onto the fast line, straight through to London. It would be best for him if I could phone ahead and have an ambulance waiting. It’s about 25 minutes.”
“These trains can do that can’t they?” I said.
“Should be able to,” he replied, “But all these new models are having teething problems. Something to do with establishing a frequency I think.
“Do you know the number you would ring if you had a phone that worked?” I’d had an idea.
“Yes, of course,” he replied.
“Well I know a passenger who has a mobile phone. Come on!”

We left two passengers to do the best they could for the patient and set off back up the train. Eventually, we walked into my carriage and there he was, just starting to press those bleeping buttons once again.

“STOP!” I shouted, “We need your phone now!”
“Well, you can’t have it,” he said. It was the quietest he had spoken all journey.
The ticket collector spoke up in a very firm voice, “Look sir!” he said, “I have an extremely ill man who could die in the buffet car. I need your phone to ring ahead for medical help to meet the train, Give me the phone now!”
“Oh! Oh! Oh No!” spluttered the shouting man and hugged his phone even tighter, “You can’t.”
“Give me the phone NOW,” commanded the ticket inspector and he held out his hand.
I’ll take it now,” I said very firmly, “I’m going to make that call”.
“You can’t he said, I mean you really can’t,” and very slowly he handed over the phone to me. I tensed my muscles to take the weight of the thing and was greatly surprised to find that it weighed hardly anything. “What’s this?” I shouted.
“It’s a toy” he said. “It has the buttons and the noises but that’s all. I don’t have a job. I just go back and forth on the train pretending to be important.”

I was stunned. So it was all an act and he seemed to enjoy upsetting the people around him. Why do some people have to do that? Can’t they just make the most of who they are?
I dropped his toy phone on his lap and started walking back to the buffet car with the ticket collector. The looks on the faces of the people around that carriage said it all.
On arrival an ambulance was called. The patient seemed to be the same so I waited until it arrived and then left.

About three weeks later on the same journey I asked the guard about the incident saying, “I expect you don’t know what I’m talking about.”

“I can assure you I do,” was the reply, “So does everyone on this line. We’ve never had so many complaints about one person. He turns up all over the place and upsets everyone around him. He’s the most unpopular person I know. We even have his photograph in every ticket office as he’s banned from all trains. If you’re interested, I can also tell you the ill passenger that day made a good recovery.”

I have never met another person who so enjoyed upsetting others. A lesson to us all to be more considerate.