Friday, July 23, 2010

Using Cell Phones in Public: Or Why a Jury of My Peers Would Never Convict Me

By: Debbie Kaufman

Lake Cabin Writing Retreat. Isolation and the freedom to work like a fiend possessed.

Wow, just writing those words puts the scene back in my head. Myself at a table on a screened-in porch, ceiling fans augmenting the breeze off the lake. The calm of the water’s surface broken by the occasional ripples of fish eating the insects that landed. The lovely white egret standing on the end of the dock. The lack of response from my computer when I try to access the internet…

Wait, that’s a good thing, right? No internet to play on when I should be writing like a madwoman. It’s actually great unless you are email addicted like me, and you don’t own a Crackberry. Although, in all fairness, I am the guest blog coordinator for I manage almost all the blog guests, and authors, editors, and agents wonder when you don’t get back to them for several days.

But, in all truthfulness, I am an email junky. And there was a little research I wanted to do for my current WIP.

So, off I went to civilization with my hostess, Susan May, and my laptop in hand. We no sooner ensconced ourselves in a back booth and fired up our laptops, than the table behind us – one of MANY free tables – was suddenly occupied by a frantic gentleman who decides to deal with one of life’s little crisis moments via his cell phone.

Out loud. Very loud.

Using the free Wi-Fi at McDonald’s suddenly cost more than my small diet drink. A lot more.

Forget everything you ever heard about identity theft. Really. There’s no need for hackers to go to lots of trouble. In this case, all the potential thief needed to do was to sit anywhere within a fifty mile radius of this guy (okay, slight exaggeration) and they would know everything they needed to steal his identity.

Not only did I get to hear him repeat the saga of how his truck door had been hit by “someone who just run off” as he got bounced from extension to extension at his insurance company, but I was also treated to all of his personal information.

No, I take that back. I don’t think I actually heard his momma’s maiden name.

It used to be that you couldn’t tell Bluetooth from crazy as people walked around having quiet conversations with themselves in public places. Now, it seems, all restraint is gone.

Susan and I struggled valiantly not to react to this public display of the man’s life. Of course, Susan had her back to him, so she had it a little easier.

No one but me could see her face.

If you knew Susan, you’d applaud her self-control. She managed not to go smack the poor guy upside the head. Me? I wanted to use his cell phone to do it.

I'm convinced that a jury of my peers would never have convicted me. Especially if those peers had been the other folks sitting in McDonalds that day.

Later, we commiserated on how cell phones have instituted a whole new definition of bad manners, where people talk on them when they shouldn’t, and how we often get to hear more of people’s lives than we’d ever wanted. My conclusion: Forget obsessing about your Facebook privacy settings, people. Stop telling the whole world your business when you’re on a personal call. In Public.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the worst case of public display of someone’s life on a cell phone; formerly know as TMI, but now PLDD (Public Life Display Disorder) I’ve ever heard.

The absolute worst was the guy in a Hallmark store selecting a greeting card while he loudly announced to his caller that he “Didn’t touch that little girl, no matter what her lying momma says.” I’ll spare you the rest of the conversation. Suffice to say that the clerk would have left WITH the rest of her customers if she could have.

What about you? Do you have a PLDD story to tell about someone’s inappropriate cell phone conversation? Or maybe it was just their timing of talking on the phone? Come on, vent. You know you want to!

So, fire away. And remember your manners next time you’re on the phone in a public location.


Christine said...

I have a huge issue with cell phone use in public places, particularly in the theaters. One year, during the second Harry Potter movie, a couple with two girls sat two rows behind us. Her cell phone rang, she got up and left to talk. Then she left altogether. During the climax of the movie, the husband got a call and proceeded to talk very loudly. Every one in our section was upset, then I turned and asked him to leave. He said he had an emergency and OTHER daughter had been in a car accident. Hence his wife leaving 1 hour earlier. I was floored that he'd stayed for the rest of the movie!

I also loathe the texting in public. They say turn off the cell phone and inevitably I'll be stuck behind someone or next to someone who is texting in the theater. The light is distracting and I just don't get it. Why bother going out at all?

I have a friend who is addicted to texting, blogging, facebook the whole nine yards. I had no idea how addicted till she came to visit me in Alabama. I drove her to Chattanooga and she was checking her blog comments and facebook comments while I drove--telling me what people said -- people I had no idea about while she was WITH ME! Now I make her drive me everywhere whenever we're together. She is still tempted to check her phone for messages when we are at stoplights.

What did people do before these insidious things were invented? Whatever happened to civility and living life in the moment?

Gwen Hernandez said...

The cell phone use in public has gotten out of hand. I was trying to write in the clubhouse the other day--thought it would be quiet--and a woman came in and proceeded to set up her Internet service.

I could have had her name, address, DOB, and social. People just don't think once they're on the phone.

Jeanie said...

I totally agree. At a time when we are more connected than ever in the history of mankind we are actually DISCONNECTED because we shut everyone and everything out to fall into the world of our IPhones and IPODS. My fourteen-year-old was texting a new friend from camp and he decided they should just talk to one another instead of texting, because he wanted to hear her voice. I was in the car with her and they had a nice, little convo and hung up. Afterwards, she said, "Man, that was weird actually TALKING to someone on the phone. I need to brush up on my conversation skills."

Wha? See what I mean. Disconnected.

Christine said...

Excellent point, Jeanie. That's what I think, too. People are more disconnected now due to all of the devices. But the thing that worries me the most is that people who are super addicted to these devices are also very disconnected from themselves, from living in the moment and from breathing. Too much technology is like being in a room full of vampires--instead of blood loss, we lose our ability to think in clear, rational ways.

Don't get me wrong, I'd miss my blogger world and my FB world if it were gone because it makes it easier to stay in touch with my overseas friends, but what drives me batty is when my neighbors and people who live in the same town as I do DON'T CALL--they do everything by FB sound bites. Sound bites don't nurture true relationships.

Carla Swafford said...

Just wait. At the conference in Orlando, cell phones will be going off all around you during some of the most important parts of the workshops/spotlights/speeches. That really bothers me. TURN THE THING OFF! Even vibrate doesn't work because, dang it! you'll answer it and talk loud.

Christine said...

I say we should all practice our evil eyes *g*

Cari Hislop said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who hates the whole phone addiction insanity. I really don't know why some people bother having any see so many people together but one or all of them are talking to someone else on the phone. Why? Why get together if you only want to talk to someone you're not with? It's so stupid and rude.

If I'm spending my time with a friend and they're spending my time talking on their phone or texting (invariably its not life or death) that makes me mad and is a very good way to ensure I don't choose to waste my time meeting up with them in future.

And I really hate having to listen to strangers talk in public on their phones. If I have to call in public I make it short and hang up.

Christine said...

These gadgets were supposed to be tools to liberate us, but they have become traps for so many people. I do answer my phone in public if it is my darling teen or my darling hubby--and I keep it short and sweet. What gets me is the volumes of people who think they are oh-so-important all the time. Remember when the only people with pagers and cell phones in the audiences of theaters and so on were doctors on call?