The Person Whose Phone Rings

Yesterday, for only the second time in my life, I was that pariah, the person who didn't turn his phone off.
A crowded university seminar, a friend reading her paper, and suddenly my phone starts chirping merrily. Of course, it takes at least 20 seconds to actually register that it is YOUR phone that is ringing. Then I had to grab my bag and go hunting for it, hidden away as it was in an obscure corner. And all the while it was ringing, louder and louder.
To make matters worse, I have my phone set to the loudest possible ring setting, because I can never hear the damn thing normally. AND, more embarrassing still, my ring-tone is a segment of that great 80s Italo-house hit Numero Uno.
People turned in their seats, some tutted, the ghastly woman running the seminar glared at me for a full minute, and made a pointed - and entirely redundant - mention of "Please turn all phones off," after the seminar was over. May something socially awkward happen to her in the near future so that she might have the opportunity to encounter someone as ungracious as she.
As I said, this is only the second time this has happened in my life - I am normally scrupulous about setting my phone to silent. The first time it ever happened was about 10 years ago when my sister and I were at a launch for one of Donna Hay's many cookbooks. We were merrily standing in the very front row as Ms. Hay was getting into her long list of people she wanted to thank when my phone started trilling chirpily. Ms. Hay paused ostentatiously, people murmured.
After it was all over my sister, who had kept a brave face throughout, said, "I can't believe you were that person - the one whose phone goes off!"
I was sufficiently shamed to avoid it happening again for a full 10 years. Let's hope it's at least another 10 before it happens again.
But really, the whole thing taught me a valuable lesson in manners - don't glare or tsk when some poor person makes a technological error. There but for the grace of God goes you.


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