Cell Phone Etiquette Tips for the Modern Age
Cell Phone Etiquette
The invention of the cell phone was a tremendous advancement. Now, everyone everywhere can have access to communication if they need it, especially in emergencies.
Except, the idea of “emergency” has changed. An emergency used to mean a call to the police or to 911. Now, just about every cell phone call is an emergency.
The rise of cell phones came on so quickly and spread so pervasively, that society hasn’t had time to really make up rules for use.
I have. I have made some rules to save our manners. Should anyone ever question the civility of humanity, you’ll have no doubt about our elevated status in the animal kingdom.
Rule #1: Talking on your cell phone in public must be short and G-rated.
The scenario: a guy walks into the grocery store and forgets his shopping list. Realizing this, he calls his girlfriend. It’s an emergency.
“Hey, Baby. Do we need milk?”
“Yes, and eggs,” comes the reply.
The conversation could end there.
It doesn’t end there, though. The emergency continues. “I miss you,” he says back.
“Oh, I love you and I miss you, too,” she replies.
“Do you know what I want to do when I get home?”
Meanwhile, all the shoppers in aisle 7 raise their eyebrows. This conversation could go in hundreds of directions. But, grandma with her two grandchildren thinks it’s getting to be a “rated R” conversation. She quickly grabs her box of grits and rolls off with her cart, quickly dragging the kids.
Biker-dude pretends to stare at a box of cereal. He might be able to learn a thing or two from the guy on the phone.
Teenage Nellie pretends not to listen, though she finds Cell Phone Guy quite attractive and wishes this conversation was with her, except not in public.
Cell Phone Guy must think that he’s having a private conversation. He’s not. Everyone can hear every word he’s saying. He obviously doesn’t believe it, though. He doesn’t even notice his mother standing around the corner pretending he’s not her son.
- When talking in public, please keep the conversation short and G-rated. You never know who is listening, because everyone is.
Rule #2: When You Need to Interact With a Human, End the Call
Back at the grocery store, Cell Phone Guy has carried on his conversation. All the shoppers in aisle 7 know the intimate details of his life. Sadly, this is way too much information for everyone to bear. Their skin crawls with details of some stranger’s personal life.
Cell Phone Guy is oblivious. He’s still talking when he gets to the express checkout lane.
“So, did you ask them about Friday night? Are Brenda and Shawn coming to the party?”
He waits for the response. So do the people who are also in line at the checkout.
“Great, so we’re going to the bowling alley? Which one? Is it B.Y.O.B.?”
He listens again.
“Really? That dump over on 21st Street? I hate that bowling alley. Oh well, I did get some extra beverages for the occasion.”
Cell Phone Guy steps up to the checkout counter – it’s his turn. He puts his items next to the scanner and the patient grocery clerk begins to ring him up. He grabbed some tomatoes that don’t have a SKU number on them.
“Excuse me, sir,” the employee asks, “but are these organic or regular tomatoes?”
Cell Phone Guy is so busy in la-la land with his girlfriend, he doesn’t hear the grocery clerk. She rings him up for organic tomatoes, even if they were the conventional variety. Why? He was talking on his phone and wouldn’t answer the question, leaving her no choice.
Cell Phone Guy hands the employee $40. She gives him $10 in change. It actually should have been $12, but she was in a hurry to get this sappy conversationalist and his drippy sentiments out of there. He wasn’t paying attention either, so Sir Talks-A-Lot doesn’t notice he was shortchanged.
After Cell Phone Guy leaves, the woman in line behind him said to the cashier, “I own that bowling alley. Now, when I see that guy, I’ll know that he has a girlfriend, he drinks a lot, and that he hates my bowling alley. Would I be justified in not being very friendly to him when he arrives on Friday night?”
The other guy in line took notes, too. Now he knows he can go to the bowling alley over on 21st Street on Friday night and possibly score some free beer. He knows what the kid looks like, and Cell Phone Guy obviously doesn’t care about getting correct change. This could work in his favor!
- When you need to interact with other humans, end the conversation, lest people all around you find out about everything you’re doing that weekend . You never know who might be in the checkout lane with you. Not only that, you might save a buck or two. Lastly, it’s incredibly impolite to talk to someone else when you’re supposed to be interacting with the person in front of you.
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Rule #3: When Riding On a Bus Or In a Car, Utilize the Text Feature On Your Phone (But Not If You’re Driving).
Little Sally was riding in the van with her grandfather, uncle, aunt, and a couple of cousins. She was in college and had recently started dating the guy of her dreams. Sadly, they are on summer break and she returned home for the summer – three hours away.
They weren’t talking to each other on that van ride, thankfully. They started texting each other. Normally, this would be just the thing to do. No one has to hear pieces of conversation that would make anyone’s hair stand on end.
But, Sally didn’t turn the chime off that alerts her when she has a text. The chime was a tiny portion of her favorite Dixie Chicks song. Every time her new beau sent a text, the same five words played over and over: “I’m not gonna play nice.”
She didn’t notice the smoke coming out of her grandfather’s ears. Her uncle and aunt squirmed uncomfortably while the rest of the cousins were too young to really care – they were blissfully ignorant. Everyone had heard these words 40+ times. Furthermore, they were trying to concentrate on the beautiful drive, not the “birds and the bees.”
Finally, her grandfather had it. He ended up yelling at her, telling her that she had better silence her phone or he was going to throw it out the window.
If only we could say that to all people who bother us with their cell phone transgressions.
- For everyone’s sanity, though, if you’re going to be texting with people around you, silence your phone. It will still light up when you receive a text. Besides, if you’re that in love and that anxious to get a text, chances are you’ll be staring at the thing before the text even comes in.
Rule #4: Talking On the Phone While Driving May Be Dangerous To Your Health
How many times have you been driving and someone callously cuts you off, doesn’t signal and realizes the light has changed and slams on the brakes? Chances are it’s because that person is gabbing on the phone.
That just makes my day. If this were a Western-style movie, I’d get off my horse (car), and challenge my opponent to a duel. Alas, these are more civilized times.
Think about something. How many of us have operated heavy machinery? Think about driving around a backhoe and trying to maneuver it. Certainly you need both hands and lots of concentration. Now, try to talk on a phone while doing that. I don’t think your contractor will like it. You might end up scraping off the side of a mountain and pilling the dirt on yourself!
Think of your car as heavy machinery, because it really is. They often weigh several thousand pounds. You’re telling me that driving while talking on the phone is a good idea?
Before you think I’m preaching here, let me be the first to admit that I’m not a perfect paradigm of cell-phone correctness. I do my share of gabbing and often travel long distances. The temptation to call people is often too much.
Ahead of condemning me to the lowest depths of cell phone bigotry, I will tell you this: I keep it short and I go hands-free. Beyond that I pull over.
Yes, statistics show that even hands-free isn’t ideal. I do have to argue that if you’re one to cut people off while talking on the phone, you’ve probably driven down the road at 70 mph while applying mascara, eating a greasy burger and jamming to the Top 40 at 120 decibels. No amount of etiquette training and scare tactics will affect your attitude about multitasking while driving – that is until you crash. So sorry.
- The bottom line is this: ideally, don’t talk on the phone while driving. If you simply must, try to go hands-free and keep it short. The best thing to do is pull over. Heaven forbid you try to text and drive, too. You would like to live to see another day, right?
That’s it. Four simple rules. Heed them wisely. You’ll be more civilized and go on living out your life, gabbing to the fullest.
© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun