music in the park san jose

Comedian Bob Newhart’s signature bit was the one-sided phone
conversation
– its genius the deadpan suggestion of inanity from the other
end of the line.
Newhart started his gag in the days long before cell phones.
Today we deal with one-sided cell calls all the time. But they
aren’t funny; they’re intrusive.
Comedian Bob Newhart’s signature bit was the one-sided phone conversation – its genius the deadpan suggestion of inanity from the other end of the line.

Newhart started his gag in the days long before cell phones. Today we deal with one-sided cell calls all the time. But they aren’t funny; they’re intrusive.

Samsung America recently conducted a survey of cell phone use in public and found that two-thirds of Americans think it is rude to make or take a cell phone call in a restaurant. The figure rises to three-quarters among adults only.

The survey did not ask how many people actually engage in such behavior.

I’ve been wanting to get this off my chest for months, but politics sucked – perhaps I should end the sentence right there – all the oxygen out of the column business. Finally, we can get back to writing about the important things.

Like cell phone use, in public places – especially enclosed public places.

It’s rude.

Cell phone users have gotten used to conducting business in cafes, bars, restaurants and elsewhere. A sense of entitlement is beginning to set in. A stop has to be put to it.

And judging from the Samsung survey, I’m not alone in thinking so. Most people are tired of public places being expropriated by the inconsiderate for what should be private conversations.

It’s not simply a matter of courtesy. It’s not hard to imagine an instance when everyone in some small cafe decides to talk on the phone at once. Cacophony is surely a sign of the End of Days.

Sometimes an emergency call must be made or taken. And there’s no dispute that it’s rude to talk on a cell phone in, say, a theater, or business meeting, or at a dinner party.

But the fuzzy front line in the etiquette battle over cell phone use runs through cafes and restaurants. Hence the significance of the Samsung survey.

The worst example is when some swaggering egomaniac comes into a cafe, takes over a table, opens his laptop, spreads paperwork around, takes out his cell phone (usually attached to a Bluetooth device) and turns the cafe into his private office. Having staked out his space, he’ll talk at length and repeatedly as if he were the only person in the room – and take umbrage when someone objects to the invasion.

We have a right to object. Why? Because talking on a cell phone is not the same as casual conversation. We don’t listen that way, our ears are attuned to follow or ignore public conversation, in which we might even be tempted to join. We love to eavesdrop.

Cell phone conversations exclude us, instead of piquing our curiosity. Social banter doesn’t assault our ears like half a cell phone call.

On any reasonable list of cell phone etiquette guidelines, Rule No. 1 would be not to annoy your neighbors in public places. Rule No. 2 would be to assume you are annoying them unless you ask permission, or they tell you otherwise. That leads to Rule No. 3: Take it outside.

Examples of loutish calling behavior can be found everywhere, in the least likely places.

Every summer I hike to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite. In recent years it has become inevitable that someone will pull out his phone, find a signal, and just have to call his girlfriend, mother, or parole officer, and say – banally, predictably – “You’ll never guess where I’m calling from!”

I’ve come pretty close a couple of times to throwing the phone, and the hand attached to it, over the edge.

It’s the wilderness, stupid.

A serviceable analogy is smoking. While it won’t endanger your health, a cell phone conversation next to you is to the ears what lighting a cigarette is to the nose.

In a recent episode of ER, a character apologized for talking on her cell phone in a bar. When was the last time you heard someone apologize for that?

Cafes and other spaces bear some responsibility. Policies could be established, signs posted, patrons politely asked not to annoy others with their personal phone calls.

The principle is easy: Public space, like the cafe I’m writing in right now, is just that. Be considerate.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to take this call.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.

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