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Writer's Block: Miss Manners [Mar. 6th, 2009|10:31 pm]
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What recently developed technology—cell phones, wi-fi, laptops, handheld gaming devices, etc.—do you think has had the worst influence on how people behave in public?
Cellphones.   It's not just the noise, or the way they talk loudly (and thus make total strangers privy to the conversation--no, we did not need to hear the details of your colonoscopy or that you're sure your spouse doesn't suspect a thing) but both as pedestrians and drivers they lose awareness of their surroundings when they take a call.   They slow down, speed up, change direction, all while focused on the call, not the traffic.   They're a menace.


[User Picture]From: eir_de_scania
2009-03-07 04:51 am (UTC)
I agree whole-heartedly.

And why, oh why is it more important to talk to whoever is on the phone than the person you're with in RL?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-03-07 02:21 pm (UTC)
I think part of it is neurological (we're wired to respond to novel interrupting sounds--if you don't, the lion gets you) and part the social conditioning that insists on the importance of answering phones *and* being constantly available to people far away. I have a cellphone, but it's off 99% of the time (to the annoyance of some people who want me to be there whenever they want to call.) I turn it on to make calls (the few I make), or when I'm expecting a call and I'm away from the house...but never while driving (they can call back; they can leave voicemail) or at an event. I wish cellphone use while driving were outlawed everywhere--I've been behind someone who, on a busy freeway moving fast, put on the brakes and shifted two lanes rightward when getting a cellphone call.
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From: isbrealiomcaife
2009-03-07 05:21 am (UTC)
I love what you said about what we all don't need to hear. I agree with that, and it made me laugh and cheered me up a bit.

Fortunately, in a lot of places, cell phone use is banned or restricted while driving.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-03-07 02:14 pm (UTC)
The stupidest conversation I heard half of over a cellphone was a guy in an airport talking to a fellow conspirator about bribing people in a particular county. If I could've overheard enough details of location (I didn't) I'd have set someone on their trail. The guy on my end was discussing how much bribe would do--could they ensure the deal for $X-thousand/person, or would they need to budget $X+ thousand...quite openly talking about "Well, the judge wants this much, and so-and-so wants this much but the swing vote in the commissioners' court is holding out, and if we pay him another $Y thousand then we have to pay the judge at least that much..." The guy's walking around in one of those alcove "departure lounges" in an airport, talking loud enough to be heard 10 yards away, laughing now and then in that har-har way of guys who are putting one over on someone.

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From: isbrealiomcaife
2009-03-07 06:13 pm (UTC)
In Great Britain, they have a book of all overheard conversations. Some that didn't make print are online:

The conversations are all under "Extras."

"Peace&Love" under "Controversial Content" (for some language and embarrassment of police) is my favorite.
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[User Picture]From: katyakoshka
2009-03-07 06:07 am (UTC)
I just have to tell you (as a reader of your blog here on LJ) that the post above yours on my "friends list" provided a wonderful example of what you just said (specifically, idiot using a cellphone in some capacity in the opening night showing of a movie). There's apparently an endless number of ways you can use a cellphone in public to be a jerk. :/
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[User Picture]From: mirtlemist
2009-03-07 03:03 pm (UTC)
A fair number of people seem to think they're in their own little cone of silence or something - some kind of invisibility factor - that makes them forget or become oblivious to the fact that other people are right there.

I sat next to a lady once in a doctor's office who told someone all about the big fight she'd just had with her boyfriend in a really, high whiny voice, like the drone of a mosquito. It went on and on. Then she called someone else in went through it all again. I wanted to stand up and yell, "Just shoot me now! Please!"
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[User Picture]From: damedini
2009-03-07 03:16 pm (UTC)
I'm with you! I'll be on public transit and there'll be teenagers yelling the most intimate details of their friends' love lives, with names, into their phones. In front of several dozen total strangers. Ick!
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[User Picture]From: stephen_dedman
2009-03-08 01:58 am (UTC)
This is true, but I can remember teenagers gossiping like that, on public transport, at full volume, back in the days when cellphones were still science fiction.

Adults used to be more circumspect. The first indication I had of how much cellphones would change things was when a young woman on a bus received a call enquiring about the personal ad she'd placed offering her services. She was elaborating these, and her rates, for the next several stops, by which time everyone on the bus was listening intently while merely pretending to read whatever they had in front of them. She did, however, get off the bus as soon as the conversation was over.

For me, the disturbing thing about drivers speaking on cellphones is that the frequency seems directly proportional to the mass of the car. I sometimes think that if our state government needed more money, all it would have to do is impose a heavy fine on anyone caught using a cellphone while driving, and stop every SUV going around the corner of Hay and Milligan streets. You could probably raise enough in less than a year to build a new emergency ward, if not a whole hospital wing.
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[User Picture]From: lianneb
2009-03-18 12:46 am (UTC)

Actually, a recent episode of Wait Wait (probably my favorite NPR show) mentioned a recent incident in which a law firm had their plans for layoffs get out early because...

One of the lawyers was talking loudly on his cell phone. In public.

According to

Seems that a fella—a law firm partner!—riding a crowded train from DC was talking on his cell phone so loud that a nearby law student overheard him, took down the details, and leaked it all to legal blog Above the Law. And he was talking about layoffs. That were secret. Shucks
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