Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mind Your Mobile Phone Manners

Have you ever experienced a cell phone user whom you wanted to pack up and ship to Miss Manners? Or have you ever witnessed a person on a cell phone do something so completely rude that you stop in your tracks? I have, and it continues to intrigue me just how polarizing cell phones can be. Sure, almost everyone has one, but they can drive even their most loyal users crazy.
Though I write about cell phones every day, even I think it makes perfect sense that cell phones are continually cited in studies that say good manners have gone out of the window. You don't need a sociology degree to see just how handsets have changed how we relate to each other; and I'm not talking about their positive effects (though indeed there are some). Rather, I'm talking about how you can put a cell phone in an otherwise courteous person's hand and then watch how that person loses all awareness of the people around him.
Let me emphasize that I'm no luddite. I think mobile phones are great and serve a very useful purpose. But just as people hide behind e-mail to avoid face-to-face communication, it's amazing how some mobile phone users think a handset makes them so much more important than everyone else. Here's some extreme behavior I've seen and be sure to share your own experiences and advice, as well.
Be nice to the person behind the counter
Last week I was waiting in line to order lunch behind a man blabbing away on his phone. When he got to the counter, he handed the cafe employee a piece of paper with his order and said, "I'm on an important call." So is it just me or is that completely rude? Doesn't the person behind the lunch counter deserve just an ounce of respect? I think so. Next time Mr. Important, hang up or at least put your caller on hold.
Take it outside
I'm also in favor of taking your phone outside, or at least away from the table, when you get a call in a restaurant. No one around you, much less your tablemates, care to hear what you have to say. That is, unless your guiding someone to your table in a cavernous eatery. And if it's really important, you could always text. But even that has a limit, as well.
Use your inside voice
I'm always fascinated how people's voices (me included) automatically go up a few decibels when they get on a cell phone. I can understand when you're using your phone in a crowd, near a construction site, or next to your local airport runway, but it happens even in quiet rooms. I just don't get it.
You're welcome
Have you ever held the door for someone who's been on the phone without them acknowledging your presence? It happened to me last week. Remember folks: Even though you're on the phone you still exist in this world to other people.
Drive to distraction
I know I'll open a whole can of worms here but please, when you're driving with a phone use a headset. And whatever you do, don't text while driving. Yikes.
Yes, they're talking to you
I don't pay $10 to hear your cell phone ring during a movie so turn it off. But if you absolutely have to keep your phone on, please turn it on vibrate. And please don't start talking until after you've left the theater. It's just being polite. The same goes for weddings, funerals, and other milestone events. Every time I went to my college's graduation, they'd ask people to turn off their phones before the ceremony. And every time, someone's phone would ring and they'd slink out of the building. Remember that when they ask you to turn off your phone, they're talking to you.
Work out your body, not your mouth
I don't care how important you think you are, the gym is no place for a cell phone. Don't talk when you're doing cardio and don't take up space on equipment so you can sit and catch up the latest dish. If you're bored while you spin, read a magazine.
Not in the bathroom
Don't use your phone in a public restroom. That's just gross.
Remember the people around you
If you're out with a group of friends, it's fine to answer the phone for a few minutes. Just don't make that conversation more important than the one you're already having. Granted, I know I'm throwing stone from a glass house, but be courteous and keep it to a limit.

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