Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 7/10/2003Ah, the Nokia N-Gage. Could any product have a less auspicious start?

Tuesday 7/10/2003
Ah, the Nokia N-Gage. Could any product have a less auspicious start? Seemingly named after a model railway track size, this peculiar silver lump has been attracting some very unwelcome press: phone reviewers say it's not a very good phone, games guys shake their head over the entertainment software, and everyone else wonders if trousers will ever become fashionably baggy enough to contain its shiny vastness.

I'm standing late at night on the northbound Piccadilly Line platform at King's Cross, minding my own business and watching the peculiar automated laser theodolite that hangs from the ceiling and constantly checks the tunnel walls with robotic whirrs and clicks. That's there to check for subsidence due to the Channel Tunnel extension works: this should be reassuring, but somehow has the opposite effect.

My musings on great underground tunnel tragedies are broken by the appearance of two gentlemen in day-glo waistcoats clutching bundles under their arms. They walk nervously down the platform looking at the mesh metal seats. But why? They see an unattended row of four, and spring into action. A piece of paper -- no, it's a self-adhesive sticker the size of a magazine -- is produced from the bundle, the backing peeled off and the sticker stuck down on an empty seat. They quickly move on, knowing full well the price one pays for acting in a risible manner among the heckle-prone denizens of the Underground after closing time.

I  saunter over to inspect the strange planting. It says "This is where I left them standing -- Nokia N-Gage". I'm not the only one with an aroused curiosity: one of the Underground's more hirsuite and randomly dressed gentlemen staggers over and sits on the next-door seat. He peers down at the advert, frowns and moves over to sit on it. He shuffles his bottom a bit, much in the style of a hen taking a dustbath, shakes his head and returns to his first choice. He then proceeds to peel off the advert, roll it up -- sticky side in, no fool he -- and carefully stashes it in some inside pocket of his copiously layered coats.

It's a shame. Those seats are rather uncomfortable, and I too would have appreciated that little bit extra padding in the advert which would have led to a more pleasant posterior experience. At least he got something out of Nokia's advertising spend, although I doubt he's the target demographic: as for the popularity of the object itself, we'll just have to wait and see.