Ask almost anyone, and they’ll tell you that cell phone etiquette — or lack thereof — is a problem. For that matter, telephone etiquette hasn’t been entirely sorted out yet, as encounters with sales clerks and receptionists constantly remind me. It’s just that it’s harder to escape cell phone users. I’m constantly irritated by some of the inane conversations I hear on the bus or train, or just walking down the street, and sometimes astonished at how some people broadcast some pretty personal details because they forget they’re in public.
The only thing that appalls me more than obnoxious cell phone callers are those who think they should determine if a call is a waste of time. “If anything characterizes the 21st century, it’s our inability to restrain ourselves for the benefit of other people,” says James Katz, director of the Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Rutgers University. “The cellphone talker thinks his rights go above that of people around him, and the jammer thinks his are the more important rights.” [The emphasis is mine.] That quote is from a New York Times article that ran yesterday on the use of cell phone jammers, which are illegal in the U.S. — but so small it’s near-impossible to enforce the prohibition against them.
Why do I emphasize the jammer, and not the obnoxious talker? Because many people who blab loudly on their cell phones don’t realize they’re doing it. The person using the jammer, on the other hand, makes a conscious decision that the other person’s conversation isn’t important when they press that button. Or they decide the other person isn’t important. Read the article through and you’ll notice an interesting bent to the quotes from people jamming: “She was using the word ‘like’ all the time. She sounded like a Valley Girl.” “Just watching those dumb teens at the mall get their calls dropped is worth it. Can you hear me now? NO! Good.” And perhaps the most telling: “At this point, just knowing I have the power to cut somebody off is satisfaction enough.”
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