17 minutes ago
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Of all of the incredibly multitudinous ways we are rude to each other as human beings, one of the most obnoxious and pervasive is the way we use our cell phones. And who can blame us?- technology moves and changes so fast that there is hardly time to agree on rules before the next thing arrives in all of our pockets. But, if you really think about it, cell phone etiquette should rely on the same basic idea that all etiquette does: You aren't the only person on Earth, so try to move through the world in a way that isn't extremely unpleasant to your fellow planet-dwellers (and, occasionally, do something nice for someone).
Here are the basic rules I (try to) follow to keep in good standing with my species.
1. Places, please. Just because now you CAN get calls and emails while you are at the grocery store, on a train, a your cousin's graduation, in a movie theater, getting a pedicure, dining at Le Cirque, or riding a roller coaster, doesn't mean you should. When you are in public, remember that you are treading on other people's time and space- so pick up your phone only if you have to. I, for one, can say that I have never enjoyed overhearing a cell phone conversation in my life (no matter how many juicy secrets I overheard).
2. Keep It Clean. If you MUST speak on the phone in front of other people, try to keep it to pertinent topics. In other words, when it public, don't get into private conversations. It's fine to talk about where you are meeting someone or what time the movie is, but no one on the bus wants to hear about your hemorrhoids or your sex life (and, frankly, I doubt the person on the other end of the phone does either). And, for Pete's sake, there's no need to yell- they can here you fine, and so can we.
3. Dining Doom. If you meet a friend for coffee or lunch, put your phone away and leave it there. It shouldn't be on the table, and you shouldn't be checking it in your lap. If someone goes all the way out of their way to come see you in person, you should give your undivided attention to them, not the new virus warning your dad just emailed you. If you have some emergency work thing that can't wait a half an hour 'til you're done, or you suspect your wife just went into labor, excuse yourself to the bathroom or outside and deal with it there, not at the table while your friend talks to him or herself (and makes a note in their blackberry calendar never to dine with you again).
4. Ring, Ring a Song. Your "Kiss Me Through the Phone" ringtone is really cute... the first time... if you're thirteen. Otherwise, just choose a normal ring! And, please, put your phone on silent or vibrate when you are at a performance of any kind, in a library, or at the office. If you leave your phone on your desk, and it rings "I Kissed a Girl" over and over again, it is totally permissible for your coworkers to set your cell phone in jello, or hide it behind the ceiling tiles.
5. Bluetooth Bozo. Psst: This has nothing to do with etiquette, and is just me trying to save you from yourself. Here it is: You look stupid with that Bluetooth earpiece on. I get that it's helpful for when you are forced to juggle flaming swords and negotiate a hostage situation at the same time, but you look like a lunatic when you use it in public (which, incidentally, has made it much harder to pick out and avoid the real self-conversant lunatics around town), so minimize your usage when out and about.
6. A-TEN-tion! Don't try to have phone conversations just because you are bored while shopping at the grocery store. If you are distracted picking out a melon and your mind is on something else, you aren't just annoying your fellow shoppers, but being rude to the person at the other end of the phone, as well.
This is the one I'm occasionally guilty of, but let's all work to get better together.
7. Timing is Everything. Don't use the fact that almost everyone has a cell phone now as an excuse to be late. If we are meeting for dinner at 7:30, try to be there at 7:25, like in the days before cell phones. Calling me from a cab at 7:35 to say you are going to be twenty minutes late only makes you feel better- I'm still stuck waiting for you by myself.
Follow these simple (and hopefully obvious) rules, and you'll have the best manners in town. This calls for a cellebration.