Smart Phones: Reach Out and Offend Someone
Smart phones have changed everything. And I’m as addicted as anybody else. But I realized it was out of hand last week when a bunch of my friends came over to my house to play with their cell phones.
Well that’s what it seemed like, with everyone intermittently peering at their devices.
When somebody remarked at dinner tonight that the six of us must be special to each other because nobody even brought their cell phones to the table, I knew trouble lurked.
Let’s face it, what we have here is the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Under the good category, smart phones are fabulous. How did people find each other in the quiet ages at Pride parades or Poodle Beach without iPhones? And they are great for communicating instantly without actually having to talk to anybody. Not to mention the joy of carrying an 18-volume Funk and Wagnall’s Encyclopedia in your pants. There’s no arguing that a device that can reroute you around a five mile traffic back-up or instantly settle a dispute about who recorded the doo-wop classic “In the Still of the Night” (The Five Satins), is very, very valuable.
More importantly, think of all the good cell phones could have done had they been invented earlier. I’ll bet passengers on the Titanic would like the captain to have gotten a text from a nearby boat saying, “Look starboard.”
In films alone, Maria could have warned Tony to stay at the drug store because Chino was gunning for him. And, as Cary Grant loitered atop the Empire State Building thinking he’d been stood up, somebody surely would have called to tell him Deborah Kerr had been hit by a bus on her way to him.
Imagine if Celeste Holm called the gas station for a couple of gallons of gas so that bitch Eve Harrington didn’t get to go on as Bette Davis’ understudy in All About Eve? Life altering.
But frankly, useful and fun as smart phones are, most of us, myself included, have become needlessly boorish and rude because of these amazing devices. In fact, I was severely chastised recently, and rightly so, because I unthinkingly answered a call while my companion was mid sentence. It was rude, I admit, but I hear the ring and turn into one of Pavlov’s dogs. I’ve always considered myself a pretty polite person and I am appalled at my behavior.
So…I checked online at the Emily Post Etipedia (seriously). It seems I’m not the only one who’s been led into loutishness by a smart phone. Legions of us have to learn to behave better.
Therefore when out in public I’m now going to try to keep a 10-foot distance between me and anyone else whenever I talk on the phone. Face it, nobody wants to hear me answering my phone and saying “Yes, I picked up the bio-degradable toilet paper for the RV.” Likewise, sitting at breakfast at Crystal I don’t want to hear the guy behind me discussing his date’s nipple jewelry.
And I know I was giddy when I discovered I could download a snippet of “There‘s No Business Like Show Business” for my ring tone, but I will now revert to a less intrusive sound—after all, while there may be no people like show people, everyone else at Browseabout would probably prefer not to hear Ethel Merman. Ever.
Also, as of today I will make it a new habit to identify myself when texting to people who might not have my number stored in their phones. Many times I’ve been pinged to read “meet me at Mixx at 6?” or “were you scandalized by Showtime’s Masters of Sex tonight?” and I have to type “um…who is this?” So embarrassing.
As for those pings themselves, I will try to turn the sound off and just glance at my screen occasionally. I’m telling myself that we don’t have to be available 24/7 even though it’s technically possible. I’ve been in a room when a cacophony of pings erupt and I’m always saying to the person next to me “Was that me or you?” Seriously, I have to learn that texts don’t always require an instantaneous answer. I may meet my Waterloo with this one.
A corollary to the pings is the swoosh of sent mail. If a person you are talking with turns their back and you have a second to send an email, the swoosh they hear may sound like you are passing gas. You’ll want to avoid this.
And finally when I am engaged face-to-face with others, at the bank or shopping, I promise to give them my full attention. I am not awfully guilty of texting or talking in the check-out line, but last week as I answered a text and smiled at the cashier, I inadvertently donated money to some charity which does not share my values. Oops.
So, as I obsessively check-in on Facebook, text my friends, consult Trip Advisor and answer any call that comes my way, I will try to be more polite about it and enjoy the good, try to avoid the bad, and be certain not to behave like the ugly.
I promise to practice better cell phone etiquette. Is there an app for that?
Fay Jacobs is the author of As I Lay Frying—a Rehoboth Beach Memoir; Fried & True—Tales from Rehoboth Beach, For Frying Out Loud—Rehoboth Beach Diaries, and her newest book Time Fries—Aging Gracelessly in Rehoboth Beach.