May 2, 2014 6:26 pm

My stand against name cards, Instagrams and economy travel

‘Budget airlines assume passengers should have no right to demand any services’

A correspondent has challenged my chagrin over the handing out of name cards at receptions, accusing me of “dripping in the old world of snobbery”, a world I “desperately want to be identified and associated with”. Apparently, networkers have the right and should positively be encouraged to get to know people whom they do not know.

What an idiotic charge. First, as someone born and brought up under British colonial rule and bunged into an English boarding school at 13 not speaking any English, I was more at the receiving end of snobbery rather than a practitioner of it.

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David Tang

Second, has the commentator no consideration for those at a reception who find it tiresome to be waylaid by strangers trying to tell them business and other ideas? Maybe at tedious conferences or academic forums, but hardly on social occasions when everyone should have the right to enjoy themselves without being accosted by pushy networkers desperate to tell you what they are doing and how they could be helped. It is also sheer naïveté to expect any result with the unilateral offer of cards, or even the exchange of cards. Relationships are not ignited that way. If you really want the proper attention of someone else, you can only get it by making yourself interesting enough for that person to take an interest in you. Merely palming off your name card is almost an insult to the concept of being interesting.

There are networkers who are desperate to be seen with someone important, with the selfie an irksome ambush. FE Smith, aka Lord Birkenhead, was once accosted by an enthusiastic social pole-vaulter who wanted to be seen talking to his lordship. “Lord Birkenhead,” he whispered to feign intimacy, “can you please tell me where the loo is?”. The peer put his arm round the upstart who regarded the gesture as a bonus spectacle and said: “My good man,” pointing at a direction, “If you went down that corridor, you will see at the end on your right a door with the word ‘Gentlemen’ written on it. Don’t let that deter you.”

And here I will, as one reader has implored me to, desist from writing further about the lavatory, despite being inundated with questions. I shall flush the subject down for hibernation.

. . .

Instagram – what is it if not a vehicle for the insanely thin, over-waxed and self-obsessed? I want to join a social media site but am not sure why I want to. Are you on Instagram?

It is unfathomable why anyone would want to spend an inordinate amount of time on Instagrams. First, it is frivolous: although nothing wrong with that per se, its daily volume trivialises everything and becomes tedious very soon.

Second, why post photographs that always stand impoverished against words? Third, Instagrams have become an antisocial disease. In restaurants, people don’t talk any more but bury their heads into the screens of their electronic devices trawling through tiny coloured prints. Couples sit at their table not looking at each other but into their own laps of illumination.

Worst, is when one pretends to be engaged in conversation, but keeps throwing furtive glances over an electronic device held in a palm. That’s why I love my clever jammer, concealed in an innocuous looking hardback, which I casually leave and activate on the table. Instagrammers instantly go berserk, as if they are running amok in a padded cell. It is a spectacle more entertaining than watching Ben Hur in a chariot as his wheels are spiked by the hidden spurs of his nefarious competitors.

. . .

Is air travel getting better for passengers who want to go places more easily because of low costs? Or is there a price to pay for this opening of global destinations?

Economy travel has not improved with the mean amount of space airlines allow passengers to occupy. Their business model is to cram as many bodies as possible into a minimum space so as to generate the maximum amount of revenue.

It is worse with budget airlines, which arrogantly assume that passengers should have no right to demand any services to speak of.

On one budget flight, my father-in-law who had Parkinson’s disease was treated appallingly and barked at to go to the back of the plane because he was not “fit” to sit on the front row, which I had run and jostled hard to bag for him. How I wished to have been an “air marshal” on that particular flight and had a gun to threaten those callous stewardesses with abundant make-up and stewards with nimble pointing fingers.

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