Friday, April 07, 2006

Are You a Cell Phone Boor?

You're just trying to enjoy your spaghetti and have a nice quite conversation when it starts up again.

"Jerry, you better get over here. I don't have all day. Oh, and don't forget to bring some extra cash. I'm out."

"Right, dad. I'm on the way."

What was that loud interruption? Something over the public address system? No, it's the guy two booths away on his speakerphone. Yeah, you can hear both sides of the conversation because this jerk has the phone sitting on the table as if he's the boss in his office commanding his minions. Sadly, he probably doesn't even realize that everybody in the restaurant gets to hear the conversation because he's talking louder than usual and has the volume of the phone speaker up. Even more sadly, he probably doesn't even care.

Obnoxious cell phone use is the new obscene public behavior. No, you're not just the unlucky victim of a random act of cell phone obnoxiousness. It's now epidemic. A recent news poll found that 9 out of 10 people say they encounter others using their cellular phones in an annoying way. A full 90% are pointing their fingers at the other 90% to complain. It seems likely that all 90% believe themselves to be part of the other 10% who are kind and courteous.

What gets on people's nerves the most? One problem is that people tend to talk louder on their cell phones than they otherwise do. That might be fixed technically by adding some side tone or voice feedback from the microphone to the earpiece so you can hear your own voice at a higher volume. That could prove to be a gentler solution than encouraging everybody else in the room to join in a chorus of "SHUT UP."

I'm finding it curious that about half the shoppers in the grocery store are on the phone while they pick through the shelves. Trying to get a consensus on dinner? Forget which subtle flavor of mustard to buy? There must only be a hundred. This really isn't too annoying unless they park their cart on one side of the aisle and then stand in the other side yacking for ten minutes while totally blocking the aisle. With Bluetooth headsets proliferating, you often don't know that someone's on the phone unless you look closely. They just seem to be standing there mumbling to the voices in their heads. Do you really want to risk interrupting them?

About 28 percent of cell phone users readily admit that don't drive as safely as they should because they are using their cell phone. Just observing cars while I'm sitting at stoplights, I'd say there is another 28 percent who think they are fully capable of steering a car while holding a cell phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Should you be concerned? Take a good look at that teenager in daddy's Yukon barreling toward you while they argue with their mother on the cell phone. Be VERY afraid.

Ringing phones in movie theaters have become such a problem that theater owners are trying to find a way to legally jam them. The FCC is taking a dim view of electronic jamming, but don't be surprised if the next theater in your town just happens to be built with lead-lined walls.

So, how about yourself? Are you a considerate cell phone user? Like bad breath and hostile driving habits, just being aware of how you are affecting other people goes a long way to solving the problem. If you are doing your part, enjoy a quiet thank you from the rest of us. Then go ahead and treat yourself to a new cell phone.

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