Written on the London to Ipswich InterCity train and sent to silicon.com a couple of days later via my home optical local loop connection
It's been a long hard day in London with a lot of one-on-one meetings and a major customer presentation. I was up at 5:00(GMT) and I am now on the 18:00(GMT) InterCity train heading home, feeling pleased with the day but a bit jaded. All I need right now is my coffee, biscuit, newspaper, and some peace and quiet. But not tonight it seems!
About four seats away is a gentleman (on this occasion pronounced 'fool') with a BlackBerry mobile device and a very loud voice. He is obviously intent on selling a customer something and is briefing his team. It seems he is the leader as he defines the strategy and assigns each of his unseen team with specific tasks and roles.
Customer products, names, preferences, relationships and monies are being broadcast to everyone within earshot. The strategy for the conference call is discussed, and the specific customer now identified by name and company, and openly described as a BlackBerry nut!
This is all very interesting stuff but I'm tired, he is breaking my concentration as I try to read, and frankly this is getting to be really annoying. In true Brit fashion the other passengers just stare at him in the vein hope he will switch off and stop. No chance, this guy is going at it as if this was human kind's last sales pitch. Eventually, he starts to close down the conversation. Relief might be here at last! Oh no, he goes on to announce the conference number and the pass code - and say he will see them all on the conference call in a minute.
Well, I tried to resist the temptation but I have to confess, I snapped! I dialled the conference number, was asked for the conference pass code, and entered it in. When asked for my name I made a grunting noise. Someone said: "Who is that?" I kept quiet.
Someone else logged on, and in the confusion of starting the conference I became a silent partner. How very easy, and how very profitable it could be, here I am on a sales call concerning... well I can't forget what I heard but I cannot divulge it either.
The conference started and I had the benefit of stereo sound - I was getting a direct audio feed from the boss a few seats away, and the phone version too. And so the customer dialled in as did the conference leader. The meeting got underway and I was privy to everything. My fellow passengers did not escape totally, however, as our disruptive passenger insisted on chipping in every few minutes - as loud as ever.
Gradually, the good side of my brain took over, and I was getting bored anyway, so I logged out. From behind me came the words: "Did we just lose someone?" And I went back to my newspaper, coffee and biscuit!
At this point I looked around the carriage and there seemed to be an abnormal number of mobile phones in use, and everyone seemed to be listening and not saying anything. Strange but then again, perhaps not...
Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.