Tuesday, 17 January 2012
I'm not one to complain about commuting. Most of the time I positively enjoy my train journeys to and from work, which I spend reading, listening to music and looking out of the window at the passing scene - surprisingly 'wild', as my route passes through a string of commons and well-colonised edgelands. But on the way in this morning, I was sitting quietly reading when a young man of more-or-less respectable appearance took over the seat opposite me, connected himself to his iPod - and commenced sniffing. Sniffing loudly and lingeringly every ten seconds or so. I gave him one of my withering looks, but of course he was intent on his little screen and quite unaware of anything or anyone around him. Taking out my DiscMan (note for younger readers: This is a near-obsolete portable device for listening to old-style 'CDs'), I thought I would drown out this unwelcome sound by playing music. But it's astonishing how penetrating the sound of sniffing can be. Every few seconds it would come - sniff... sniff... And believe me, Poulenc's choral music is not improved by a sniff continuo. Yes I know - I should have done the smart thing and handed him a tissue. I didn't - but another passenger, getting off at Clapham Junction, did. The young man thanked him in a devil-may-care manner, made perfunctory use of the tissue - and continued to sniff determinedly all the way to Victoria. Just another example of how 'personal' technology allows us each to live in his/her own little bubble, as if the world around us didn't exist. But then I can't be censorious, as that's precisely what I too was trying to achieve with my music, if only in self defence.