Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Friday 2/4/2004Seeking a break from the Glastonbury madness, a small group of us detach ourselves from the office for a five minute breath of fresh air. As we relax, a middle-aged gentleman from one of the other businesses in the building starts chatting away to us when his phone goes off.

Friday 2/4/2004
Seeking a break from the Glastonbury madness, a small group of us detach ourselves from the office for a five minute breath of fresh air. As we relax, a middle-aged gentleman from one of the other businesses in the building starts chatting away to us when his phone goes off. "Oh no!" he says. "Not that girl again!" Now, our co-habiting friend has a certain careworn dignity about him but there's more of the air of a deputy head of department at a fusty independent school about him than someone who still has problems with girls. "Here," he says, handing me the ringing Nokia. "You answer it."

Blimey. "Hello," I say, "British Museum."

"My friend fancies you rotten," says my new correspondent in pristine Esturine English, to a background of giggles. "She'd like to…" and then she describes certain acts which have no place in a wholesome outlet such as this. She finishes with a brief yet forceful epithet, and hangs up.

"They've been doing that for days," sighs our bemused buddy. "It's doing my head in. And me battery."

He has our sympathies. Another friend of mine had the same problem, only with a great deal more viciousness: she was a young woman living alone, and was informed on a regular basis by a group of blokes over the mobile that they knew where she lived and that they were coming to rob her -- and more besides. It was terrifying.

I expect a lot more people will be enjoying this sort of jape as the school holidays kick off. There are various things the networks could do to reduce the temptation -- if they stored caller ID and let it be known that it would be released if good cause was shown, if they implemented the 'choose to refuse' option whereby your phone wouldn't respond to calls without ID, or if they had a 'three strikes and you're out' where caller ID barring would not work after three calls to the same number. There may be valid objections to all of these approaches, but some innovative thinking that returns a degree of privacy to phone subscribers is badly needed.