Multiple choice

59. 7pm. Top deck, second row from the front, on the left.

The top deck was full and we were tired. The fog outside made the streets look a little dimmer than they usually do at this time of day. No one was talking.

A mobile phone several rows behind me started to ring. The tone was that gently rising one, going up an inverted major triad (you know the one, ‘-ning has bro-‘ in ‘Mor-ning has bro-ken’, or ‘Could it be…’ at the start of the bridge in ‘(I Get By) With a Little Help From My Friends’) and repeating over and over again. In the end it rang for a full uninterrupted minute, which felt longer against everyone else’s awkward silence.

1. Why did the man who owned the phone ignore it for so long? He wasn’t asleep. Choose from the following options:

a) The caller was someone he knew but really didn’t want to speak to, e.g. the sleazebag and former friend who’d just beaten him to a promotion; the whiny girlfriend he was about to break up with; the sweet but boring uncle he’d promised to meet tonight but was bailing on.

b) He had his music (let’s say Mylie Cyrus) turned up too high on his iPod and couldn’t hear his phone.

c) He’d had a terrible day at work (telesales, why not) and wanted to share the pain by annoying everyone on the top deck.

d) It wasn’t his phone – he’d stolen it an hour previously and the actual owner had been ringing it ever since. Naturally he couldn’t answer it.

2. If you were on a bus for a full minute with this ringtone, how would you feel?

a) Mildly disapproving.

b) Judgmental.

c) Righteously indignant.

d) Afraid.

3. What would you do about it?

a) Say something light-hearted like ‘You can’t put it off for ever you know!’

b) Inform him very loudly and coldly that his phone is ringing.

c) Turn around in your seat and huff at him, or huff without actually turning around.

d) Studiously ignore both the sound and the man.

Congratulations! If you answered mostly a)s… No, this is not that kind of blog. I can, however, tell you what was really happening if you’re interested.

A few minutes later the phone began to ring again. This time a young woman opposite the man leaned over and said, ‘Excuse me, I think your alarm is ringing.’

It was his alarm! And the reason the man hadn’t silenced it before was that this was the first time he had set the alarm on his phone and he hadn’t known what it sounded like. He muffled an apology.

Not a very thrilling explanation, but at least the man wasn’t as callous / zoned out / nasty / villainous as he might have been. Just a little dim…

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