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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2006, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Manners on the move
Woman on mobile
"I stopped to fix a broken hydrant"
A survey has suggested two-thirds of us are regularly late when meeting people, with the mobile phone the main suspect.

And as well as punctuality, the mobile phone is corroding the whole manners of meeting up. Here's a few markers of the mobile-inspired decline of man.


The advent of the mobile phone harks back to a different age of etiquette, the time before watches. In the Canterbury Tales era, if you had arranged to meet the other pilgrims at the crossroads with the big tree on the 29 June, you were allowed a bit of leeway. Maybe noon was suggested, but it could hardly be enforced.

Thanks to mass produced watches and clocks we have had years of enforced punctuality, but now mobile phones allow us to call to apologise. Or rather, they allow sheepish text messages. And there is a code.

Man on mobile
"Giant hailstones destroyed my car"

"I'll be a couple of minutes late" translates as anything up to 15 minutes after the agreed time. "I'll be 15 minutes late" translates as anything up to half an hour. "I'm running very late" means it might be time to look for more punctual friends.

You might choose to use an excuse. "Because I left the house late" doesn't really wash, however often it might turn out to be the truth. Sounding better: "I witnessed a murder and had to stop to give a statement." Even better: "I saw an little old lady collapsed at the bus stop and had to stop to revive her."


So your friend/date has arrived late and you're in a pub drinking. There's only two of you, but the other person seems to think it's acceptable to take a call. Now two seconds of "I'm sorry, I'm out, I'll call you later" is irritating but the right side of acceptable. Fielding a five minute call, though increasingly common, is not.

What are you supposed to do during this time. You have to resort to fiddling with your own phone. Perhaps delete some old messages in my inbox.

The same activities as when the other person goes to the toilet. What did people do before the mobile. Did they make origami animals? Whittle sticks? Compose haiku? It's difficult to remember.

There is something severely incongruous about a mobile phone on a pressed white linen tablecloth. It's just plain wrong. Switch it off or face the wrath of the righteous. You wouldn't pull out a cryptic crossword during dinner, so why a mobile.


The flexibility of having so many ways of contacting people is creating a slew of text messages and mobile calls only leading to further text messages and mobile calls and an eventual "I'll text you on the day". The golden age of asking to meet people occurred in the novels of Jane Austen.

Notes on cards in copperplate handwriting in scented envelopes delivered by discreet footmen are how it should be. Not vague indications of a meeting with no particular time discussed.

The modern mobile-wielding meeter often leaves the house with only a rough idea of location/timing, awaiting final confirmation. It will not do.

Here are a selection of your responses.

A propr m8 wood b ok bout it ;>)
JH, on mobile

Mobiles have changed the whole world of dating too.... I have been on dates all arranged by text.... not surprising they never went any further than the first meeting then....
Jess Ratty, St Austell

Bad manners have nothing to do with the mobile. People are just plain rude too often. We aren't taught manners and if we don't know them how are they to be passed onto the next generation. I think we need more public figures to set the standard and that should begine with MPs improving their general level of behaviour in the House.
David, Shrewsbury

My mobile rang as I entered a local shop to buy a new kitchen. I turned it off and started speaking to the shop owner when his mobile rang. He answered it and was still speaking on it when I walked out five minutes later. His rudeness lost him a signifcant sale.
Richard, Congleton

The tyranny of the mobile phone has only recently come into my life, and I hate it! I keep mine switched off more than it's on, which annoys people trying to reach me, but at least I know I can have a proper conversation or meeting with someone without being hailed through the ether, as if every single thing that happens is the direst emergency demanding my attention right now. I have yet to get to grips with texting - another imposition I'll get used to eventually I suppose.
Sarah Allen, Somerset, UK

The mobile can be a blessing and a curse. I got my first one to keep in touch with my (then) teenage children. They no longer had an excuse for not keeping me informed when they were going to be late home. Texting can also be a useful way of passing information discretely without disturbing someone with a full-blown phone call. However the number of drivers careering around the roads with a mobile in one hand and the other hand on the wheel seems to indicate that people still use them irresponsibly. Common sense and manners are the key. ┐Notes on cards in copperplate handwriting in scented envelopes delivered by discreet footmen ...┐ A lovely idea from a ┐golden age┐ but in reality most of us would not have had a footman, even then. Love it or hate it, the mobile it is a great social leveller.
Linda Dix, Blackpool

What I most dislike about mobiles is that you are never allowed time off. Work colleagues call you about problems when you're on holiday, your husband calls you when you're walking round a supermarket, you receive a text when doing the school pick up. There is immense pressure to be always contactable. Is it only me that thinks that's why I have a home phone with an answerphone? That way I can return calls when I am able, rather than trying to juggle the phone, child and pack the shopping at the same time!
Jeanette, Buntingford, UK

Couldn't agree more. Most mobiles now even have a text message "template" saying "I will be late" to save you the trouble of typing the words yourself!
Helen, London

Listening to conversations on bluetooth headsets without seeing the earpiece brings back memories of those we were warned about talking to themselves.
Candace, New Jersey, US

It's wrong to spend 5 minutes on the phone when you're on a date? What about seeing your boyfriend for the first time in a month and during sex, answering a call and then spending an hour on the phone?! At around that time I realised that it probably wasn't going to work out with my ex.
Joe, Cardiff, UK

When on a mobile most people seem to be transported to a different world as I have had countless people walk into me on the street when they were on their phone. One guy while waiting for the bus turned round and smacked me in the chest with his rucksack, he did definitely get an earful, yet I think the only thing he said besides a half mumbled sorry was a "I'll have to call you back" into his phone
Sam, Oxford

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