Posts Tagged manners

A discourse on cellular etiquette

It’s time that we have a discussion about cellular phones and proper usage of said devices. There are many people using them and most of them have no idea how to use them politely.

I was recently at a small café that had a sum total of nine tables, in an intimate setting, eating breakfast. It was an enjoyable affair, except for the fact that somebody at one of the other tables was busy chatting away with a friend on a cell phone at the top of his lungs. The whole experience was a disaster. What could have been an enjoyable experience in a pleasant morning setting was wrecked.

There are other times that I see cell phone users acting in a reckless manner: while driving. It was a sobering experience a few years back when my car was hit by a drunk driver: while at the body shop, the elderly gentleman who been in the business for 30 or 40 years said when he started out in the business he used to walk around the shop and point at cars saying “drunk driver, drunk driver.” Today he walks around the same shop, pointing at cars and saying “cell phone, cell phone.” His casual observation in the body shop was backed up by a New England Journal of Medicine study in 1997 that found people using cell phones were four times more likely to be involved in an accident than people not using their phones.

As such I would like to make two proposals: First, that a group be formed to combat accidents caused by cellular phones. Modeled after MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, it could be called MACE: Mothers Against the Cellular Epidemic. Secondly, a conversation about cellular etiquette needs to be held, both in our community of learners and in our society at large.

I suggest the conversation within our academic community because as the number of cell phone users expands, I anticipate trying to listen to a lecture (whether a class or public lecture) while an audience member (student or otherwise) talks on their cell phone.

As such specific etiquette is needed, and there seem to be some easy suggestions:

  • Phones should be turned off unless you are expecting an important phone call. Finite math is not the time to be speaking with your pal Muffy about your date last night.
  • Should you expect an important call, audible phone rings should be turned off, vibrating rings are acceptable if your phone has that feature.
  • If you do have your cellular phone turned on, sit by the aisle and near the door to leave should the phone ring.
  • When the phone rings, you should leave the room before answering the call.
  • Apologize to the professor after class and explain the nature of the emergency. Most professors are more sympathetic when they have an explanation of why you left the room abruptly.

Finally, in society at large, we need to recognize that cellular phones are a vital part of the world but it is important to be polite when using the phone. Clearly driving while talking on the phone can have just as deadly results as driving while drunk, but there are other times and places that cell phone etiquette needs to be followed. Here is an outline of some basic premises I would suggest:

  • As noted before, do not drive and talk on the phone. There ought to be a law enforcing this objective, and there is: in Brooklyn, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, it is illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving.
  • Do not talk on your cell phones in restaurants, unless you have gone outside. Recently one New York City restaurant installed a cell phone lounge for people who are more interested in talking than eating.
  • Finally, do not shout into your cell phone. Shouting defeats the purpose of having a cell phone, since most people who shout into their cell phones shout loudly enough for the person they are calling to hear without use of the phone.

Cellular phones are here to stay, and the convenience and safety they offer is amazing, but along with technological progression comes the responsibility to use them carefully and politely.

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Traffic courtesy lacking

Now I am not quite sure who are the rudest people on campus. Drivers, bicyclists or pedestrians take first prize in that dubious category. It really doesn’t matter, although it would be nice if all three would improve their acts. Fortunately, it is fairly simple.

Take drivers, for instance. Late one night a couple of weeks ago, I was driving home along 10th Street. I was immediately behind somebody on a moped — I think. The only clue I initially had that somebody was ahead of me was a very small red taillight. This person (I know not the gender) was wearing a black jacket on a dark night. The combination hardly eased my ability to see this person, although I noted when he or she passed under a light that no helmet was visible. Stupid on two counts, I guess.

Next on the stupidity list are the bicyclists who hurl their way across campus at high rates of speed on paths both narrow and marked as “Walkway Only.” Take, for instance, the Arboretum. I trek across the Arboretum several times a week dodging the bicyclists who have decided to ignore the walkway-only signs. It’s hard to get a read on their minds, but I get the impression that they’re cursing me for blocking the sidewalk as they detour on to the grass.

As a final entry in the extremely inconsiderate category, pedestrians crossing the street at 10th and Fee Lane take the cake. I cannot count the number of times that I have been waiting to make a left turn from southbound Fee onto eastbound 10th when the following occurs: The light turns green and I edge my way out into the intersection, only to be stopped by hordes of people crossing the street when the red hand is clearly telling those on foot to stay put.

I understand that people are eager to cross the street on their way to class, but by crossing when they choose to cross, all they manage to do is force cars on Fee to sit and idle for yet another light cycle. For all the people on foot at 10th and Fee Lane, do note that drivers are not completely innocent at that intersection. As a pedestrian, I have been annoyed by those in cars that heed not the big black and white signs right in front of them that clearly states, “No turn on red.”

Finally, I want to make one last case for people stuck behind a bus that is stopped to drop off or pick up people: Do not pass the bus unless it is pulled completely off the road. When you do pass a stopped bus, please make sure that at least 90 percent o f your car is to the right of the yellow line. When driving the opposite direction, it has unnerved me to see people passing the bus when there clearly is little space available.

But as a frequent passenger on the bus, I suppose I would prefer you pass the bus on really narrow two-lane stretches of road when traffic is heading the other direction — the resulting accident might be interesting to watch. The increase in your insurance rates and resulting fatalities will be on your head.

Folks, whether you’re driving, riding or walking, there is one really simple way to make everybody’s life easier: Pay attention out there. Signs are there with a purpose. If the sign says, “No turn on red,” it really does mean just that. If the sign says, “Walkway Only,” it really does mean that bicyclists have to find an alternative route. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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