Phone Lekking

Your Man used to save up for his XR3i, to sate his inner needs and display his fitness to females. More recently these displays have been found in simple externalities – clothes, shoes, teeth, watches. The ubiquity of portable devices has rendered the quality null from the perspective of mate discrimination – there’s no real exclusivity to be had. However, I think I’ve seen what you might call behavioural lekking, emerging during very specific circumstances on public transport (always the crucible of these things).

The phenomenon I have in mind is the Phone Call as Display. Owing to the parsimony of our Victorian tunnelers, these calls can only transpire above ground, so in my case that means from Leyton onwards, when travelling home. What you can achieve is to take advantage of the oppressive broadcasting of a phone conversation in a Tube carriage to highlight your dynamism, as well as your resources. The occasion that prompted this thought was a Sunday night. Three mid-teenage girls boarded and behaved as they might. On my left was a man with facial topiary and tattooed arms, highlighting polite rebellion. His call weaved around various transactions he was engaged in, perhaps involving the purchase of a car. It was going to be “About £1,800”. He may have been a DJ of some sort, because he referred to a “party in Brighton” that he had coming up next weekend. It seemed to me that the girls sitting opposite were the third, silent interlocutor for him, as he impressed on them his significance and prowess, while negotiating the hierarchy with his remote male conversational partner. It’s a Performance, quite different in kind than the blithe callousness of the Business dialogues that you hear, expressing incredulity that “they’ve already scheduled a meeting for next February” (one I heard on Eurostar last night). The latter cases express a desire to speak orthogonally to the neighbouring travellers, while the Brighton £1,800 man uses the hook of the quotidian transaction to entice and impress them.

It’s much more efficient than collecting twigs.


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