A lobbying group has formed to fight for the right to use cell phones on commercial flights, USA Today reports.
Most consumers “want the choice of being able to use this technology,” says leader Carl Biersack, head of the Inflight Passenger Communication Coalition that’s trying to rally passengers.
True enough. I certainly want the choice. I just don’t want anybody else to have the choice. I know from long experience that their cell phone conversations will annoy the living hell out of me.
In short, I want to use my cell phone whenever I want to use it. But I don’t want it enough to put up with you using your cell phone whenever you want to use it. That would bug me.
The coalition points out that people can talk on cell phones on planes in — or over — 72 countries. This is not by itself a convincing argument. Other countries allow all kinds of nutty things.
The coalition also has a very lovely website that depicts people on planes with reasonable needs to communicate: a guy telling his wife the plane is still circling, an unaccompanied minor who wants to be in touch with his parents, a woman checking on someone’s surgery, a business person who needs to stay in touch.
It doesn’t show the guy I overheard at an airport gate talking loudly about a woman with “melons as big as your head,” the profanity-laced diatribes of angry business people or the overly personal and intimate conversations that nobody wants to hear.
We all know that you can’t trust people — not American people, anyway — to keep their cell phone conversations quiet, short or appropriate.
This is symptomatic, in my view, of a general deterioration in the standards that people have for public behavior. I blame it in part on the fact that most Americans don’t spend much time in public, particularly on public transit. Many have come to believe that they can and should behave in a plane exactly as they would in their homes, offices or SUVs, regardless of the effect on others.
There’s an important distinction here between convenience and necessity. The guy telling his wife about a delay, the kid who misses his parents and the woman with the relative in surgery are sympathetic cases, but none has a truly urgent need to talk to someone on the ground.
Anyone who doesn’t want to read quietly or watch the movie on a plane can take advantage of modern technology that won’t annoy anyone else — iPods, computers, DVD players (with headphones) or video games (again, headphones).
So how about instead of worrying about the “right” to use a cell phone inches from the ears of a complete stranger in a confined space, we concentrate on learning to be civil, polite and quiet in public places? How about a lobbying group for that? I will call it the Inflight Passenger Cooperation Coalition — or STFU for short — dedicated to ensuring every air passenger’s right to a cell phone-free flight.
And when the plane lands, we can all fire up our cell phones and talk a blue streak. At that point, anyone we annoy will be free to get up and walk away.