We try our very best not to judge others but, let's face it, we all do. It's human nature, I suppose, part of the evolutionary tool kit man has developed to ensure his survival over thousands of years.
Sitting in a parked car in London with my brother when we were both in our late twenties, I remember seeing a man walk past with two humungous mobile phones, one clamped to each ear, braying something about buying or selling in one of those self-important voices that makes everyone within a five mile radius recoil in disgust. Such was his self-absorption, that he promptly, and rather gloriously, walked straight into a lamppost , dropping his telephones to the ground and staggering about like a Friday night drunk. I'm ashamed to say we laughed so hard we cried while some other, much kinder, people went to his aid.
The Man With Two Phones became a long-running joke in our family, the sort of person you'd never want to be - pompous, loud, unaware. This, of course, was extremely judgmental. We had no idea of his circumstances - maybe he was desperately trying to make money to look after his sick mother or he was a widower with three hungry mouths to feed. Those things never crossed our minds back then, though - it was far easier to jump to simplistic conclusions which, rest assured, we did with wild abandon.
It'd been a long time since I'd even thought of The Man With Two Phones but just the other day I was clearing up some paperwork and raising hell with one of the big mobile phone companies which has become a sort of permanent pastime these days.
“No, madam, I'm not interested in your new products - your company owes me five hundred euros. When are you going to pay? Er, just a minute - there's an important call on the other line..”
“Yes, Paco, I'll be there at six on the dot, don't be late..”
“Sorry, Madam, I had to..”
And, suddenly, there it was, right before my eyes: my own reflection in the window - The Man With Two Phones. I'd finally become what I'd so superciliously derided all those years ago, like an image from some distorted Greek tragedy, my own ugly mug staring back at me with a mobile phone held to each ear.
Luckily there were no lampposts nearby but, to tell the truth, a bloody nose would have served me right - a kind of long overdue divine justice, some might say.