You and Your Annoying Cellphone

I’m delighted that the FAA is changing the rules on in-flight electronics so that I’ll be allowed to read my Kindle during takeoff and landing. I’m equally delighted that the change doesn’t extend to cellphones.

You see, I hate my cellphone. And I hate yours even more.

Not your cellphone specifically, gentle reader, but all cellphones, especially those not belonging to me.

I have two cellphones, one for work and one for personal use. They’re both annoying. I tend not to answer them because I tend not to hear them ring because I tend to turn the ringers off because they tend to annoy me. I’m not all that keen about the phone on my desk, either.

So we’ve established that I have a poor relationship with my cellphones. My relationship with your (collectively speaking) cellphones is much worse, mainly because I can’t turn them off. You may have reciprocal antipathy toward my cellphones, and it would certainly be justified. It’s quite annoying when they ring and much worse when I answer.

I once spent hours on a train listening to somebody’s cellphone ringing persistently. I couldn’t understand why the owner didn’t answer the damned thing. Of course, I eventually realized it was my phone, which I had put in my carry-on but had neglected to turn off. By then I was too embarrassed to be seen answering it, so I pretended to look through the bag for something and surreptitiously turned the phone off.

As if to pay me back, karma-like, for that episode, I was subjected at the gate at Bradley International (sic) Airport to someone at least as heedless.  I was sitting back-to-back with a guy who was interspersing his business cellphone conversation with crude, disrespectful and inappropriate observations about a woman’s anatomy and remarks about what actions he would like to take vis a vis said anatomy. All very loud, a few inches from my ear and in close proximity to families with small children.

Although he claimed to be looking at the woman in question, I could see nobody in the room matching his description. (Assuming his references were to full-sized watermelons.) Maybe there was nobody on the other end of the phone, either.

I wanted to tell the guy he was being a jerk and remind him that he wasn’t in whatever locker room passed for his office. But I’ve found that confrontations with strangers over their behavior in public places rarely end well. (Although they can be fun to watch from a safe distance.) Anyway, I just got up and moved. Which would be a lot more difficult to do on a plane.

Another Amtrak experience, one in which I was not the offender, involved a woman having a loud, long and trivial conversation. With the speakerphone on. In the quiet car.

I could go on. Did I mention the first time I heard someone talking on a cellphone in a stall in a public restroom? It had not yet occurred to me that someone might talk on the phone while sitting on a toilet, at least not in a public restroom where she might have to face a stranger on emerging from the stall. So when the woman started talking, I was sure she was talking to me, the only other person around. I responded, puzzled but trying to be polite, and engaged in an awkward and confused one-way conversation for half a minute or so until I figured out what was going on.

Now I’m not going so far as to say that people should never use cellphones in public. I can’t even go so far as to say I never do it myself. But, really, do we need them on planes? The American public says no.

And I for one am certain beyond the faintest shadow of a doubt that I don’t want to be locked inside a pressurized tube with 100 or 200 strangers talking on their cellphones. And I’m equally sure they don’t want to hear me talking on mine. Which I probably would do — although, you know, only if it was really urgent. To me.

I know this about myself because I often ride a commuter bus to work and I think it’s rude to talk on the phone on the bus so I do it very rarely. Like when it’s really urgent. To me.

Positing that the bus is basically an airplane without wings on a very long runway, I think we can predict my behavior on the plane. Also, probably your behavior unless you are a better person than I am. Which may be. But who really wants to find out?

So let us look forward to reading our Kindles, Nooks, iPhones (in airplane mode), tablets and BlackBerries* instead of talking on our phones on takeoff and landing.

I’m especially looking forward to keeping my Kindle on so that my husband can’t gloat, which he loves to do when the flight attendant tells me to shut it off. (“I guess I’ll just keep reading my old-fashioned book made of paper and ink,” he says.) This change will not only shut him up, it will, as an unimpeachable authority has observed, remove one of the last advantages that print publications have over electronic ones. (Although, to be fair, I’m not sure I could start a campfire with my Kindle.)

*Kidding about the BlackBerries. Nobody has those


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