Can You Hang Up The Phone For Three F&!#ing Minutes?!

Dare to cast the cell phone user a censuring glance for violating the law, common courtesy, posted signs or privacy, and they'll look at you as though you proposed exhuming their grandmothers and urinating on them.

Jun 28, 2012 at 1:32pm | Leave a comment

In an era where everyone appears surgically attached to their cellphones, it's apparently really difficult for people to stop flapping their yaps for 30 seconds to engage in basic human interactions with at least a veneer of politeness. If there's a place, someone's used a cellphone in it, whether it's a bathroom (EWWWWWW) or an airplane

Despite the pleas of etiquette mavens like Miss Manners, people just can't seem to process the idea that there are some settings where it's just plain rude to use a phone; and we're not even talking about the places where it might be dangerous and ill-advised. So, one deli decided to strike back. Talk on your phone at the counter, incur a $3 surcharge. 

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Sha-BAM (Image via Consumerist)

I saw that story and gave a great fistbump of satisfaction, because I'm really tired of watching people yammer on their cellphones in line ahead of me while the clerk is patiently waiting for the conversation to conclude. The line grows and grows, people start grumbling, the clerk looks more and more stressed, and the oh-so-important conversation about so-and-so's dress or whatever waxes on. It's the height of both obliviousness and rudeness. 

And of course for some reason, people feel the need to be extremely LOUD on the phone, which results in all of us overhearing the gory details whether we like it or not. Trust me, honey, I didn't need that much information about your divorce, toddler's bathroom habits, or food poisoning. You could have spared us all those critical breaking news updates...and I suspect the person on the other end of the phone didn't need to hear them right that very minute either.

There are a few stores around here with signs on the counter asking people to conclude their cell phone conversations before stepping up to the counter, but I find this approach much more proactive. Since apparently it's not enough to tell people to observe some basic rules of politeness -- namely, not talking on the damn phone while someone is trying to interact with you to conduct a business transaction -- I think it's entirely reasonable to start fining people for inconveniencing other customers and the store.

But seriously, why stop with delis? Or food service in general? And I'm including sit-down eateries here, restaurant-and-cafe-talkers. Because I think we can all come up with some settings where people use cellphones and we really fervently wish they did not.

Like bathrooms. Okay, seriously? People? Don't use your phone in the bathroom. It's gross. THE POOP. It's EVERYWHERE. 

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NO

And I get the desire to retreat to a private place for a call that might be sensitive in nature, but a public restroom is not actually a private place. It's a place other people might use, and listening to you blithering on the phone is not exactly my idea of a fun time while taking a whizz. And I can't be the only one sitting there wondering if the recipient of your urgent call is aware you're in a bathroom.

Take it outside. If you live somewhere that gets butt-ass cold in the winter, take it to a quiet corner somewhere in your building. That is not a bathroom. Please. For the love of Pete.  

Or the doctor's office. Now, OK, there's a key difference between making important calls to update people on things that are going on -- hey honey, this is taking longer than I thought, I'll be late; I'm about to be rushed to emergency surgery for this mammoth tumour they just discovered, etc. -- but really, just pulling out the phone to yak is annoying.

No one else in the waiting room wants to hear the inane conversation you're using to while away the time. Read a magazine. That's what they're there for. Or use that smartphone of yours to catch up on some email or whatever, which is an entirely reasonable and nonintrusive thing to do. Lord knows, waiting rooms are boring, I get that, but please don't turn them into a purgatory for the rest of us. 

And your car. Yes, I'm one of those. California recently passed a law specifically banning the use of cellphones in the car without hands-free devices. What do I see? People with their goddamn phones glued to their ears all the time, endangering other traffic, innocent pedestrians, mailboxes and fences. The other day I was almost T-boned at an intersection where it was clearly my right of way because some lady couldn't hang up and drive. 

If you don't have hands-free devices, don't use your phone in the car. If traffic is busy or confusing or you're in a new place, please consider not using your phone in the car. For that matter, don't text in the fucking car and yes I am looking at you. You'd be amazed how much you can miss when looking down for "just 10 seconds." Small children and other cars move fast. You know what really, really sucks? Killing someone because you just had to send that text about the cute person you met at the bar last night. 

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I'm sorry, did you need something?

We live in an era of constant connectivity, one where everyone is assumed to be available at all times and where many people feel the impulse and urge to be on the phone all the time, relaying the minute details of their lives. But there's a time and a place, and it's really OK to hang up your phone to focus on people around you, or to set it aside in the interest of politeness. When you're in shared public spaces, you have an obligation to the people who want to share those spaces with you, and that obligation includes not being an entitled douchebag. 

Because really, the commonality I notice with cellphone users in inappropriate places is that almost all of them have expressions of haughty (and defensive) entitlement at all times. Dare to cast them a censuring glance for clearly violating the law, common courtesy, posted signs or privacy, and they'll look at you as though you proposed exhuming their grandmothers and urinating on them. 

Exception to the rule? People with professions that really do require them to be available by phone at all times. You're a doctor on call? Take that call anytime, please. Someday it could be me en route to the ER and fervently hoping you'll be there, updated on the case and ready to help me. 

So, where else do you want to see people hanging it up and putting it away?