Rude travellers: Irritable scowl syndrome

EARLIER this week, Gulliver was musing about how smartphones and other mobile devices have made long-haul travel a more bearable experience. But their invention is by no means all a blessing. A survey by Expedia, an online travel firm, asked around 8,500 travellers what annoyed them most about others’ mobile habits. What people find most egregious of all, it suggests, is someone making a call on his speakerphone.Just the image of this had my temperature rising. It is, without doubt, one of the rudest things a fellow passenger can do. What level of self-unawareness must it take to make you believe that everyone around you is interested in your mundane conversation? Then I stopped and thought for a moment. I tried to remember if I had ever come across anybody who had actually done this. No instance came to mind.Maybe I have been lucky. Or maybe I am representative. If I am the latter, does this mean that we all now travel so pre-loaded with angst about our fellow passengers that we believe the speakerphone stunt is exactly the sort of thing that goes on all the time?There is a common predisposition among humans to believe the world is getting worse, regardless of whether or not it is. Ask people in Britain if the country has become a more dangerous place in the past decade and most people will tell you that it has, even though crime is at its lowest since 1981. Could …

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