Cell Phone Hell

If you’ve wondered how much more annoying the passenger in the seat next to you can get, ask yourself another question. What if he were talking on a cell phone for the entire flight?

Don’t worry. USA Today reports that the FCC is quietly backing away from a plan to allow cell phone use during commercial air flights.

I have to like that, although I wonder whether we can keep it that way forever. Technology has a way of overwhelming social conventions, like the one that frowns on talking loudly about your personal problems and business concerns a few feet from a stranger’s ear.

Now, I have a cell phone and I use it in airports and sometimes even on planes that are still in the gate. It would certainly be a convenience to be able to use it during flight. But, the fact is, I don’t trust the rest of you people to be reasonable about your cell phone use in that enclosed space. And I’m not sure you should trust me, either.

None of us believes that our five-minute conversation about the transmission repair or our brother’s foot surgery is the problem. It’s everybody else who’s annoying.

Maybe that’s why a USA Today survey in 2005 found that 68 percent of respondents wanted to continue the ban on in-flight cell-phone calls. That sentiment, and some technical issues, seem to be what’s keeping the ban in place.

Much more interesting to me is the notion, also raised by USA Today, that the focus will change to opening broadband connections that would allow people to surf the Web and use e-mail during flights.

More blogging, less gabbing. I can live with that.


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