Beat The Cellphone Blues II

By | July 20, 2004

In this week’s column I wrote about how to counter cellphone rudeness. For the full text I’m afraid you’ll have to subscribe to the publications I work for (here’s the Far Eastern Economic Review version; the WSJ version will appear later today), but here’s some idea of what seems to get people going:

While it’s pretty obvious that people talking loudly in a restaurant, movie, concert or funeral are going to upset those around them, both alive and deceased, who would have thought that what drives some folk berserk is people who carry more than one cellphone around? Or the vibrating noise a cellphone makes? Or people who hide their number, so the recipient of the call can’t tell who is calling? Or those horrible men who hang their phones on their belts? Or people who don’t turn their cellphones off on aircraft until they’re told to, and then turn them on the instant the flight lands, as if they’re the most important people in the world? Or couples in public places interacting more with their phones than with each other? Or the sounds that a cellphone’s keypad makes when folk are tapping in a number or a text message?

Sadly, there just wasn’t enough space to include all of the gripes I found in my very scientific survey, so here are one or two more findings:

  • The attitude that ‘because it’s a cellphone you must answer it all the time’. Example from UN friend: “A guy at the UN was chairing a meeting and answered his cellphone. He then proceeded to berate the person for calling him and then hung up. “My rule of thumb,” (my friend goes on): “Unless your wife is expecting in hospital why bother answering? What kind of message can’t wait for an hour after the meeting?”
  • This tends to fly in the face of some other pet peeves, such as from a friend I shall call ‘Burt’ (not his real name, really), who complains about ‘people’ (i.e. me) screening calls. So should you answer the phone if it rings? I don’t think so. If you’re in the middle of a conversation, a meeting, a meal, a bath or a sleep, I think those activities take precedence. Likewise, if you call someone’s cellphone, you should assume they might not be in a position to answer it.
  • Ring tones are rarely beautiful: Please choose a simple melody or sound for your cellphone, and always answer it on the first ring. Don’t gawp at the display while wondering who is calling, or whether to answer it. You’ll drive everyone mad. Nowadays phones allow you to stop the ringing without actually answering it (a great way to screen calls without people knowing you’re doing so, of course, but don’t tell ‘Burt’.)
  • Bad cellphone manners bug men more than they do women. Out of my thoroughly representative sample, only 10% of those who had responded to my text message request for input 15 minutes before deadline were women. (OK, there’s a slim chance this may also indicate men just don’t have anything better to do than frame long SMS messages at 9 o’clock in the morning, or, equally likely, that I don’t know many women.)
  • Sending text messages in the middle of the night: Some people have to leave their phones on for the office, so don’t send messages unless it’s urgent after hours.
  • The intentional “Missed Call”, so that you have to call back. Usually done by skint teenagers and parsimonious adults.
  • Cellphones ringing during Friday prayers (a submission from a Muslim friend): Phone starts ringing in the mosque; The cellphone owner does not act immediately to turn off the phone, reasoning that once we are all in praying mode we should ignore as much as possible everything around us.
  • Expensive text messages: Sending short text messages overseas — OK being a favourite — ends up almost as expensive as a phone call, letter for letter.
  • Cellphone spam.

More peeves as they come in. Please do send more. Especially solutions.

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