Remember the British noble-woman who said, re: sex, “I don’t care what two consenting adults do as long as they don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses”? She may have said “embarrass,” I can’t find the quote. Either will do, as I proceed to apply this to cell phones.

I agree they’re INDISPENSABLE. I’m uniquely qualified to say so because I was a doctor’s wife in the 60’s. When he was on-call, he was chained to the phone, and we couldn’t use it. Think I don’t appreciate call-waiting and cell phones? Think again.

They’re invaluable for SAFETY. I routinely drive from San Antonio to Dallas and at night, to avoid the traffic. I consider the traffic far more life-threatening than being stranded on the side of IH-35 at midnight, THANKS TO the cell phone.

They’re PRICELESS when you’re lost, running late, or have a teenager.

They allow doctors and therapists to have a life.

But there are some things we needn’t subject others to:

· If I wanted to hear why your brother is an asshole, I’d ask you. But that’s actually the kind of toxic environment I try to avoid—other people’s hostility.
· If I wanted to be sexually aroused by explicit phone conversation, I’d be on DIAL-A-PORN.
· If I wanted to hear your personal angst, I’d be your therapist and charging you for the phone call.
· If I wanted to be in the bathroom with you…apparently 47% of Americans think it’s fine to talk on their cells “while in the rest room,” and I assume this doesn’t mean while they’re shaving. I find this simply incomprehensible

These conversations are simply TMI.

Talking on the cell phone can also ENDANGER THE LIVES OF OTHERS. A 2002 study suggests that drivers talking on their cells cause 6% of auto accidents each year, killing an estimated 2,600 people and injuring 330,000.

And you should listen up to this: companies are now being held LIABLE for employees who have accidents while driving and talking on the cell phone. Maybe this will knock some sense into people.

There are currently 120,000,000 cell phone users in the US, and 40 state governments are considering proposals to restrict or ban their use while driving.

We are quickly moving into the realm of “frankly bizarre.” I had lunch yesterday next to a table of teenagers. The entire time two of them were on cell phones, and this made it too noisy for the other two to talk to each other – real people right in front of them.

Joanna Krotz says in “Cell Phone Etiquette ”: “Every executive has their can you beat this cell story? But Mary Westheimer of offers one totally over the top: At a recent Publishers Marketing Association conference, a panel member was presenting his part of the event. ‘His cell phone rang and he stopped his presentation and answered his phone!’”

We don’t need an anthropologist (Robbie Blinkoff, principal anthropologist for Context-Based Research group) to tell us “people are defining new rules and new behavior for what’s personal and what’s private.”

Apparently not much is personal any more. I don’t know about you, but I resent hearing that tinny William Tell Overture while I’m watching a movie. Last year a New York City Councilman introduced legislation to penalize anyone making or taking a call during an indoor performance. Pending … they couldn’t figure out how to enforce it.

How about working through the pocketbook? The last concert I attended, the people behind me were drunk and disorderly. The manager said she couldn’t do anything about it. I demanded a refund. She then seated us elsewhere, but our pleasant evening had become a major stressor. I told her I wouldn’t be back until they figured out “something to do”.

Apparently people are taking and making calls during funerals. Is nothing sacred any more?

I’m torn because I enjoy being connected with loved ones via cell phone, and I’m on-call to my coaching clients. I’m all for using it to make the cold cruel world less so, but why not find a quiet, private place?

Are we doing this to look important and get attention? If you are, that’s not how you appear. We perceive you in one of three ways --

· Either you can’t function alone and need a constant umbilical cord
· Your self-esteem is so low you’re desperate for attention.
· You are rude, egotistical, and have no social consciousness.

If you do have to take a phone call in public, you should be apologetic about it, not proud.

Here are some common-decency suggestions for use of the cell phone:

1. By all means use the phone for essential business – this means to the point and brief.
2. Maintain a distance of at least 10’ from others, lower your voice, turn away, act like you’re doing something private BECAUSE YOU ARE.
3. Value the real people in your presence over the cell phone. It is RUDE to take a phone call when you’re with someone else, with few exceptions.
4. Doctors and expectant-fathers have emergencies; you, rarely.
5. Get some balance in your life. If you can’t take time off to enjoy a play or visit an art museum without taking phone calls, what are you doing to yourself?
6. Understand that we think you’re rude and egotistical when you violate common decency.
7. Get a quiet ringer or vibrating cell.
8. Don’t give your cell number to everyone.
9. Let other people know you expect to use the phone with etiquette.

You know how it goes – when a few people don’t behave right, rules and laws follow, and then everyone gets penalized. Work for quiet, no-phone zones, but most of all, enforce your own and maybe we can avoid massive legislation.

It would be a shame not to be able to use your cell phone in a public place in case of a real emergency, and this is where we’re headed, folks.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, offers individual and executive coaching, Internet courses and business programs in emotional intelligence. Visit her on the web at and for FREE ezine.