We’d just developed an ettiqute for the direct connected phone (as opposed to operator connected) when along came a very useful little device most of us carry around called the Mobile Phone, or Cell(ular) phone. These devices are evolving as quick as computer technology – in many ways they are computer technology – but I’m still waiting for a set of gentleman’s (gentlepeople’s) rules to be established regarding their use.
Now, we all recognise how useful these things are. If you’re lost, you don’t even have to look for a payphone: you just pull the mobile out of your pocket, call someone with directions and find your way. You can take care of a hundred things while on the move, spending time far more efficiently – get a handsfree and see how much of a difference it makes. But people, what we seriously have to address is the primacy of the mobile phone these days. They’re everywhere. And their ringing demands instant attention. That’s what’s bugging me.
The only rule we have regarding mobile use is that it’s off, or at the very least silent, at the movies. A common courtesy. But on outings, dinners, parties, anything, it’s fair game. The caller doesn’t know what position the callee is in, usually, but he does know that he’s got an instant line to the callee, wherever he may be. In the case of a doctor or other emergency related personel, fair enough. That’s where it started really – pagers and the old brick-sized phones for those people and business people on the road e.g. plumbers. But I confront you with a potentially very common situation these days: you are at a restaurant or cafe, and you are chatting with a friend. Suddenly a call comes through, and because the mobile is ringing with this incessant tone that just demands attention, the callee will pick up. He starts talking – however brief – to the person on the other end of the line, at some distance away. Meanwhile, you, at first remove, right across the table, are now sitting there with nothing to do but look around and try not to look too awkward. (I like to think in computer terms, and in this case it’s like the caller has a higher priority and thus interrupts the current process. geeky, I know. won’t happen again.) If this hasn’t happened to you before, it’s only a matter of time, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Basically, what I’m grasping to say is that the mobile somehow has become an override for whatever is going on around you, and that is just in-your-face rude. It’s an emergency line to you – but how often do you really need it? I’ve really started reconsidering when I take my phone along and when I don’t, and when I should put it on silent and ignore all its rumblings, because I acknowledge it’s rude. There’s a parallel to people who talk on phones all day – e.g. my mum on occasion, who is easier to talk to some days by calling her up than trying to find her and talking to her while she’s on the phone with someone else.
Really do love ya, Mum.
In the end, I think the silence of the cinema needs to be extended to the approrpiate social arenas, such as parties (don’t plan another party at someone else’s. height of rudeness) or restaurants when out with friends. Hang up as soon as practicable if the call simply must be taken, but please, for the love of the person/people you are out and about with, don’t be sittin’ on the mobile and chattering away for minutes. It’s just not cricket.