Mine is a little scuffed and battered, testimony to its frequent use over the years. If I wanted a new one, I could buy one. They still make telephone tables, after all. But they’re just ordinary tables. Not like this one.
This table dates from the days when having a telephone line installed in your house was such a major event that the telephone merited its own piece of furniture. You might, after all, have been on the waiting list for a landline for months.
Usually installed in the hall, these tables came with an altar on which to place the hallowed instrument, and a small shelf below, cunningly designed in approximately the same dimensions as a telephone directory. These tables also had a seat, so you could sit and talk on your telephone.
You had to concentrate, after all. Talking to someone on the telephone was an act that required such focus and determination, you might not have the strength to stand. And you certainly weren’t going to be doing anything else while you were talking on the telephone.
Such as talking into it while crossing the road.
We’ve long known that drivers distracted by their phones cost lives. In the US in 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates (PDF), 3,154 people were killed and around 424,000 injured in road-traffic accidents involving distracted drivers.
But distracted walking is an increasing problem, too.
The Automobile Association has warned of a zombie-apocalypse “pedestrian smartphone distraction” problem but reliable data is hard to come by. Not everyone who is hit by a car will admit to checking Facebook, say, rather than implementing the Green Cross Code.
Perhaps the solution is to make using a mobile phone if you’re actually mobile under any circumstances — driving, cycling, running or walking — illegal.
If we all restricted ourselves to conversing only when ensconced upon bespoke pieces of furniture, the world would be a safer place.