Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Thoughts on Cell Phone Etiquette

Yesterday, I was in a brand new library and as I entered, signs warned me to help keep everyone's visit to the library pleasant, and one of the ways was "no cell phones." This annoyed me because my son was home alone and I always want him to be able to reach me if he has an emergency. To him, an emergency is usually, "Can you stop and buy me some soda?" but still, that's the main reason I have a cell phone and I'm not going to turn it off just to allow library patrons to have a pleasant visit to the library.

I put my ringer on its lowest setting (I have an older pre-pay phone and it only vibrates when you set it on high volume, which kind of defeats the purpose). I also had it right on the table so I could grab it and silence it as soon as it rang. And I took care to talk quietly when it did ring, which was only my husband saying he was on his way to get me. We didn't talk long.

So I was thinking about cell phoneetiquette. What did they think would be annoying to other library patrons? Loud ringing? Loud talking? Many of the patrons seemed to be moms, I bet they would be annoyed at not being able to be reached if their children had an emergency.

I was thinking about this when I went into Panera Bread with my husband. The sign on the door offered free WiFi and said nothing about cell phone use. But we were bothered and offended and our time at Panera wasn't pleasant -- but it had nothing to do with cell phones. It was just normal conversation among those at tables near us that disturbed us.

First, a group of 3 women were exchanging news. Apparently they had a common acquaintance who was very sick an in need of an organ transplant. And, it seemed one of them knew someone whose family member had died and donated organs. So the talk turned to donating organs and leaving one's body to science and I thought my husband was going to have to throw out his lunch half-uneaten. But fortunately for us, these ladies were finished eating, and left.

Almost immediately, two men sat down at a nearby table. Their fist talk was work-related and it sounded like we were safe from more unwanted topics. (I need to make a note here -- I was no trying to evesdrop, these people were all talking loud enough for people at other tables to hear them quite clearly.) But I was wrong, one of the men asked about "Mom" and the other began to reply about the details of caring for his aged mother, details I didn't feel we needed to hear.

People make such a big deal about cell phone etiquette. They are so concerned that people not be loud an obnoxious on a cell phone. But they don't think about the fact that people can be loud an obnoxious when they aren't using a cell phone. Maybe we should have rules for how to speak in public rather than rules for where we can and can't use our cell phones.

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