Please put that cell phone down for a second

I’m taking in a weekend matinee at Park Lane with the offspring and, as is wont to happen these days, the woman a couple seats down has the audacity to leave her cell phone turned on. I know this because it went off in the middle of the movie—you could have heard it ring in Carson City. Now let’s face it, unless you’re the president of the United States or on a waiting list for an organ transplant, you can afford to be unreachable for 120 minutes. She could have simply switched it off, but, no, she felt the need to answer the thing.

Fortunately, she was kind enough to inform the caller she would call them back rather than engaging in a 15-minute phone call in the middle of a crowded theater. (Apparently she considered it rude to simply turn off the phone, instead of answering it.)

Anyway, when I came across this University of Michigan study on cell phones (, I felt it apropos to share.

The study found that “83 percent of people who have cell phones say the devices have made their lives easier. By comparison, 59 percent of e-mail users and 53 percent of those with personal digital assistants say the same.

“Forty-three percent said that cell phones were most important for staying in touch with friends, and 53 percent said cell phones were most useful for coordinating work activities, with slightly fewer—40 percent—saying the main use was for coordinating family activities.

“Only 30 percent agreed or strongly agreed that people should be reachable any time or any place.” (Apparently my friend in the theater belonged in this group; my own cell phone was in the car where it belonged.)

Then again, some 60 percent felt that the public use of cell phones by others “disturbed or irritated them.”

Your host, of course, falls into this latter group.

As a public service, let’s discuss Cell Phone Etiquette 101:

1. You don’t need to talk at three times your normal speaking volume. If so, you need a new phone, a new provider, to find a pay phone, or to continue the conversation elsewhere. The rest of us prefer to avoid your blathering about that deal you’re trying to close or what you want for dinner.

2. Turn off your cell phone prior to entering any public place that requires a modicum of decorum, like a funeral, a wedding—or a theater.

3. No one outside a 2-foot radius should be able to hear your phone ring. If you’re hard of hearing, use the vibrate function. If your phone doesn’t have a vibrate function, get one that does.

4. If you can talk to a passenger or listen to the radio in your car without being distracted, you should be able to talk safely on a cell phone. But you should be using a hand’s-free device because your hands belong on the wheel.

Democrats regularly excoriate the USA PATRIOT Act as an intrusion upon civil liberties but see nothing wrong with DUI checkpoints where I can be pulled over without probable cause or any cause at all. In their view, searching for drunk drivers or drivers without seatbelts is apparently not an intrusion upon my right to privacy.

I would take it as a personal favor if they don’t use your poor cell-phone manners as a reason to add cell-phone use to the list of reasons I can be stopped without cause.