It's not something you expect to happen when you and everyone else around you is using your cellphone on a crowded city street. But I've seen it happen twice in the past month, just walking around Dublin. The first time, I was walking down the street with a friend, and turned around as distant cries become clearer and a girl was shouting "He's got my phone!". The next second, a man pushed me out of the way and sprinted down a side alley, the girl sprinting after him as if her life depended on it, but a hopeless distance behind.

People didn't gather in a mass marathon after the thief - they just stopped and stared. The whole street stopped and stared. There's something almost frightening about someone sprinting as if their life (or at least jail sentence) depended on it - it's debilitating. Eventually, a lone man wearing runners & tracksuit (and not carrying shopping) also ran after him. They turned down another street and were out of sight, the girl's fading cries the only reminder.

A few weeks later (in fact yesterday), I was waiting for my girlfriend outside a shopping centre, and heard a man, talking into his phone more loudly than necessary: "I can't hear you... are you there?" Obviously Prominent Mobile Phone Sydrome was acting against him, because the next moment, a girl ran past me and sped down Grafton Street (which was literally choked with people shopping). Shouts of "Hey!" were heard from the victim, and a couple of seconds later the man also sprinted past me, after his phone. Just like the girl, the man seemed to have a single-phrase vocabulary, repeating his cry for help again and again. No one noticed.

The first time, I was confused. The second time, I would have ran after them had I not seen my girlfriend walking up just at that moment. The third time won't be me - I now hold my phone in a vice-like grip while walking around town. But there will be a third time. The ever-increasing phone ownership and the stupid ways in which people use them will ensure that.

But people will never run after the thief. Why bother when we can have a technological solution?

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