“When anybody asks, 'What are you writing about now?' if I try to reply, the book-in-the-works sounds so idiotic to me that I think, 'Why am I trying to write that puerile junk?' So now I give up; if I could talk about it, I wouldn't have to write it."
- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet


Cell Phones - Convenience or Nuisance?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Warning: Rant ahead. If you don't want to hear my opinion about cell phone usage - and there's a good chance it may vary from yours - then don't read this post. It will do nothing but annoy you and I don't want to be responsible for ruining your day.

I've been thinking about this post for a while now, so the other day, when Michele's "Daily Advice" was about cell phones, I thought it was time to pull it out of the drafts, dust it off, and turn it into a real post.

What is it they say? "Different strokes for different folks?" The subject of cell phone use certainly seems to be a prime example of that observation. Some would ban cell phones altogether if they could. Some think they're the greatest thing since sliced bread. Others (and this is where I tend to settle) see them as a very convenient tool when they are used properly.

I have heard more than once the opinion that cell phones should not be used in public because they are a nuisance to those who have to hear your conversation - that no one wants to hear about your great aunt Lucy's birthday party. Being the pushover that I am, when I first heard this it caused me concern. I don't want to be the cause of offense to anyone if possible and I use my cell phone in public often.

However, after some amount of consideration, I came to the conclusion that this is ridiculous unless you are of the opinion that cell phones should be banned outright...which is another line of thought altogether and one that I don't care to get into right now.

It seems obvious to me. If you don't use your cell phone in public, where else would you use it? This is what cell phones are for, right? Most people still have land lines at home, so their cell phones are for the times when they need (or want) to make or receive a call - for whatever reason - when they are not at home.

I will not argue against the fact that there are examples of inappropriate cell phone usage happening all around us. The person carrying on a loud conversation in a quiet restaurant, the driver obliviously swerving all over the road because he's paying more attention to his phone conversation than the road, the shopper slowing up the line at the grocery store checkout because she refuses to hang up the phone - these are all examples of rude, inconsiderate, sometimes dangerous, and irresponsible cell phone behaviour. But these are not the kinds of conversations I am speaking of.

If I am carrying on a cell phone conversation with my husband at the grocery store about what kind of ice cream he'd like me to buy for him, what does it matter to you? We would be having the same conversation if he was there shopping with me and you would be forced to hear it just the same. If I was shopping with my best friend, we'd be having the same conversation about our husbands as we'd have over the cell phone, but you'd have to hear both sides rather than just mine.

Maybe that's it. Maybe the real issue getting people all riled up over public cell phone usage is that they can't hear the whole story - only half of it - and half a story isn't nearly as interesting.

So if anyone is reading this who is of the opinion that you don't want to hear me talking to my husband about how his day was, please help me on this one. I don't understand the logic behind it. Maybe you can enlighten me and maybe I'll change my mind and go find some dark private corner to use my cell phone where no one can see or hear me.

Maybe...but it doesn't seem very likely.


At 9/13/2005 8:55 AM, Blogger utenzi wrote:

Controversial subject. Your example of you in the grocery store is a best case scenario but I agree that cell phones aren't as bad as they used to be. In fact I dropped my land line because I didn't need it anymore largely due to how good cell phones work now.

Before it was common for people to have to raise their voices to be heard with a cell phone and that was VERY annoying. That's my main objection to them being used in public on a everyday basis. It's the worst on my bus ride each morning since the noise of the bus forces the person on the cell to talk louder--and most people want it quiet because they're still half asleep that early.

Anyway, I do love my cell phone but I seldom carry it with me. I use it as my main phone at home. I don't object to them being used in public as long as the person doesn't use a LOUD voice for the conversation--or talks about something nobody wants to hear about.

At 9/13/2005 10:28 AM, Anonymous MissMeliss wrote:

Excellent point about only hearing half a conversation :) Aren't we all eavesdroppers at heart?

I think there are times when cell phone usage is absolutely inappropriate, and I also think there's such a thing as being too accessable. If your office really needs to get a hold of you on Saturday at two pm, for example, they should be paying you for that time.

I also think that this habit of giving cell phones to children is bad. Yes, certainly, hand one to your teenager when she's at the mall, but TAKE IT BACK when she gets home. Using a phone as a babysitter is just as bad as using the television that way.

At 9/13/2005 5:14 PM, Blogger Blond Girl wrote:

I agree with you completely. Your comment about the half conversation made me laugh out loud!

Also, Mismellis is right; take it back from the kids. That's what my brother and his wife do. One cell phone for the family and it goes with the "appropriate" person for that day.

What annoys me are those awful Nextel two-ways with the beep and speakers! Auugh! Champs wanted Nextel since his sister has that. After listening to 5 people on the bus with Nextels I said "oh HELLL NO!" No way!

Other than that, I need my cell.... I may not need the obnoxious ring, but I do need the phone.

At 9/13/2005 8:02 PM, Blogger Geekwif wrote:

Utenzi - "...or talks about something nobody wants to hear about." This is where my problem lies. It seems to me that this is very subjective. One person's limit might be at hearing about Grandma's bunyons or cousin Tiffany's drinking spree last night (a reasonable limit in my opinion), while another person might be offended simply by having to hear you talk about your favorite flavor of ice cream.

Maybe I'm too worried about what people think. Whatever the case, I try to keep my voice at a normal to low level when using my cell phone so as to offend the least number of passersby possible.

Missmeliss - I absolutely agree that there are times when cell phone usage is inappropriate. For instance, if I'm in a movie theater or at church I always turn off the phone. The only situation I can think of where I would not adhere to this rule is if I were waiting for a call about a dying relative or something equally important. Then I'd put it on vibrate and leave the room before taking the call.

Blond Girl - I've never had that experience with Nextel phones. Are you sure they are all that way? I could never use a phone that did that. I may be attached to my cell phone at the hip, but I do have my limits. :)

Thanks everyone for your input!

At 9/17/2005 12:40 PM, Blogger Carmi wrote:

Hmm, thought-provoking and thoughtful post. What gets me about cell phones is what gets me about ANY new technology: after its use becomes widespread, it takes a long time, often forever, for us to understand its social implications. Because cell phones are so easy to use in virtually any circumstance, we've run up against a lot of etiquette-related controversies.

Still, I love knowing I can reach my wife - and she me - whenever I need to. With two careers, three kids, and countless things going on in the course of a day, our phones are a godsend.

BTW, I'm randomly dropping in from Michele's and saying hi to everyone. It's my way of making folks smile on a quiet weekend.

I hope you have a great Saturday!

At 12/12/2005 1:01 PM, Anonymous Fernando Spicher wrote:

Quite agreed.


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