Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cellphone Sanity

I’m becoming more and more annoyed with people using cell/smartphones at the most inappropriate times. Recently, I was driving down a two-lane road and approached a railroad crossing at the top of a  hill when an oncoming vehicle was precariously riding over the center line. As soon as the driver saw me, she swerved back into her lane,  driving with one hand on the wheel and the other holding her cell phone to her ear. I can not tell you how often I’ve encountered similar driving experiences, where the driver was preoccupied with their cellphones.  Most recently, while attending a summer orchestra performance, sitting across the isle was a person using their iPad/tablet surfing for women’s dresses. After intermission I had the opportunity to change sections of the amphitheater and for the second half of the performance, a young lady was viewing what-ever on a smartphone for the remainder of the performance. Needless to say, the illumination from both devices was extremely annoying and distracting.
A couple of days after the concert, I happened to read an article entitled: “Cellphone Sanity” by Jeff Gelles, a Philadelphia Inquirer Business Columnist. Jeff talks about how most of us are torn by the communications revolution that offers a powerful, connected computer in any pocket or purse. Even more than ordinary cellphones, smartphones have imposed a dramatic change in the rhythms of everyday life. Or threaten to, unless we resist. That's what drew his eye to a public-relations pitch. It came courtesy of a Florida company,, with the title "10 Commandments of Cellphone Use."
This is a list of rules to live by in a world of ubiquitous connectivity. We're the bosses of these things, and we can agree - to the same extent that we accept any common sense of manners - on limits that preserve our peace, quiet, nonelectronic connections, and sanity.  Here is the list:
1. Respect those you're with. Don't check out from live conversation to shoot the breeze, they say. "If you make social plans with someone, they are the first priority and deserve your undivided time and attention." Memo to my family: Dinner at home counts, too.
2. Let voice mail handle nonurgent calls when appropriate. "Voice mail exists for a reason." Let it cover calls during parent-teacher conferences, family meals, and the rest. You get to decide what's urgent, of course. But if everything qualifies, you're not being sufficiently discriminating, or you need to de-stress your life.
3. Set a good example to the younger generation. It's like modeling any polite behavior or teaching "please" and "thank you," and I don't disagree - even if I'll have to aim to do better with my grandkids. The problem is, most adults are still struggling themselves with how to draw these lines.
4. Wait to text, and save a life (yours). This should be obvious - just like "Thou shalt not kill," which is exactly what you're risking, along with your own life.
5. Stash your cell when dining out. Your fellow restaurant patrons - including those sharing your table - don't want "to become a captive audience to a third party cellphone conversation. You can always excuse yourself for a truly urgent call, but remember Commandment 2.
6. Remember when "private time" is in order. There are talking places where running and flushing water are the ordinary background noise, and suggesting you not add your own soundtrack - especially since you have no idea who's on the other side of a stall wall.
7. Keep arguments under wraps. "It's easy to get wrapped up in an argument, but remember that others can't see or hear the hothead on the other end of the line." This goes for office cubicles, too.
8. Mind your manners. Language and stories that others might find offensive are their concern here, so here is a reasonable rule: "If you wouldn't walk through a busy public place with a particular word or comment printed on your T-shirt, don't use it in cellphone conversations when within earshot of strangers."
9. Don't ignore universal quiet zones. This broadens the "don't add your own soundtrack" rule of theaters to other places where quiet should reign, such as houses of worship. "It's imperative to heed the mandate to shut off cell phones completely." Not only so they don't make a notable sound, but also so that intrusive screen light does not distract, both of which are highly disrespectful to those around you.
10. Don't make service personnel wait. This isn't just disrespectful, though that's reason enough to pay heed. Restaurateurs have said that the cumulative effect of cellphone delays is also harming their business. While the waitress waits for you to finish your call, she can't be waiting on anyone else.