I know I've been accosted on more than one occasion by someone's rude cell phone manners and I have plenty of family, friends, and acquaintances that have also suffered from this ever growing malady. While not solely an American affliction, it appears that we Yanks are some of the worse when it comes to poor cell phone manners.
Overseas, where cell phones are far more numerous, cell users aren't nearly as obnoxious or rude when it comes to using their phones. They actually have manners and do not wish to offend anyone while they use their cell phones.
Sitting in a London theatre last week waiting for the curtain to rise, we were startled to hear the loudest cell phone ringtone we'd ever heard broadcast over the theatre's loudspeaker--quickly followed by another, then another, then another until there was a virtual cacophony of conflicting bells, whistles, snippets of Europop and Beethoven echoing through the hall.
No official words were spoken. But laughter reverberated throughout the audience as people reached into their pockets and purses to verify that their mobile phones were indeed off. During the performance, not an electronic peep was heard.
Likewise, in the streets and in the London Underground, although virtually everyone you saw had a cell phone glued to his or her ear, there was virtually none of the shouted broadcasting of personal or business conversations that have unfortunately become difficult--if not impossible--to avoid in the United States. Instead, cell phone users seemed determined to be only seen, not heard. And in museums and restaurants, discreet signs stating firmly that cell phone use was off-limits were scrupulously obeyed.
When I asked our hostess why the British seemed to have a more highly developed sense of social appropriateness regarding cell phone use, she replied simply, "It's a matter of survival. We'd all kill each other otherwise."
We have to do some serious work here on this side of the Atlantic when it comes to cell phone etiquette.
It's a rare occasion when I don't hear a cell phone ring in the middle of a movie. (I don't carry one, but I do have a pager which is always set on vibrate mode when I'm at the movies or in a restaurant or in a meeting.) On more than one occasion I have also seen the screen of a cell phone appear a few rows down from where I'm sitting because someone cannot resist the urge to text someone else until after the movie is over.
I have no idea how many meals I've had ruined because someone else in the restaurant either can't not answer their phone or insist on holding long drawn out conversations with whoever is on the other end while ignoring the others dining with them, or worse, making sure that everyone else knows their business because they find it impossible to talk in hushed tones. All they manage to do is prove that they are rude and selfish.
Maybe we need some self-help books on cell phone etiquette. As the post quoted above mentions, in Japan a reporter for the International Herald Tribune found four such books.
It's time for we Americans to get a clue.