David Mehegan wrote in “Behind Closed Doors,” his June 15th Boston Globe article about the dwindling respect for personal privacy demonstrated via cell phones usage. His particular example was a woman who sat near him on a bus, conducting a conversation with her doctor’s office pertaining to a missing urine sample. Eew. Although cell phone etiquette as a topic is unfortunately old news, he garnered my sympathies. I even thought about devoting some Middle Passages space to the topic, except that he said it all; in my mind there was nothing to add.
We’ve all had experiences with rude cell phone users who for some reason believe that they exist in a sound-proof bubble, say, surrounded by one inch thick Plexiglas walls the size of a phone booth. It’s as if, once they pull out their cell phone, a stockade seals around them allowing them to conduct their conversation in a vacuum.
My worst experience occurred on a deck outside my old company which is set up in the good weather months with mesh umbrellas and white plastic lunch tables. Late to eat that day, I enjoyed the relative peace of the empty area until a woman sat down two tables away from me, dialed her cell, and proceeded to engage in a high volume argument with what I assume was a significant other. By the time she started crying; I threw the remaining half of my sandwich down and retreated inside to the cafeteria with little sympathy. It amazed me that in addition to her “phone booth,” I had become invisible too.
I recalled that scene today as a gentleman, though I use that term as loosely as I know how, seated two tables behind me at the library decided to conduct business on his cell. Each time it rang (yes, I said rang, not vibrated), he answered in normal cell phone tone (that is to say, loudly) and finally my passive aggressive tendencies took over. Twisting in my chair, I glared at him directly, and sighed a few times, to no avail. He also failed to notice when I rolled my eyes as he announced to his caller: “It’s too hard to hear you with all that noise in the background, could you please call me back?” This is when living in a small town is a challenge. Direct confrontation seemed out of the question. I want to come back to the library next Thursday too.
Credit where credit is due. As he discussed the intricate landscaping design scheduled for his house, I heard the woman sitting behind me whisper into her phone, “Hold on, I’m in the library, let me step outside.”
To some degree, I admit defeat. Cell phones are ever-present, mine is in my pocket as we speak. All I can say is thank goodness that while I sat seething amid the landscape discussion, the communication from my daughter pertaining to a friend-crisis during school lunch arrived via a soundless text.
Next we'll discuss the topic of cell phone usage in school.