Oxy . . . Moron
Cell Phone Etiquette is an oxymoron, much like “Plastic Glass”, “Military Intelligence” or “Compassionate Conservative”. Most behavior having to do with cell phones has an appalling lack of etiquette. In fact, by design cell phones and their use is often downright rude. Poor cell phone behavior is among my favorite gripes…it’s right up there with Reality TV and perhaps a step below my all time favorite vitriolic target; the NYC Subway system and it’s governing body the MTA. Interestingly enough it was a recent ride on the subway that inspired me for this piece.
EPR (Excessive Public Repetition)
I was riding the train seated next to a young man was committing this gross and willful cell phone crime. We’ve all been within earshot of these people. This is when a person on their cell says variations of the same statement over and over again, until it takes every fiber of your being to keep from ripping the cell phone from their hand and screaming the information that everyone within ear shot has tired of, yet for some reason the person on the other end of that call hasn’t quite digested yet.
“Yeah, I called her and axed her to come.”
“No, I called her.”
“….and axed her to come..”
“No, I axed her.”
“She said no, but I axed her.”
“Yeah, axed her to come…”
“No, no, no…I called her, huh? No I called her…”
“I called her.”
“I called her and…..”
“RIGHT, I called her and axed her to come.”
“No… I axed her to come…yeah, when I called her.”
Annoyed yet? Yes, I was too, but he wasn’t finished.
“I axed her when I called…”
“No, when I called…yeah, I axed her then.”
“Well, I did axe her”
After 20 more minutes of this I found myself wishing that someone would axe him… in his forehead or kneecap. Judging by this man’s behavior, he would have just kept talking, and repeating himself.
“I just got axed…in the forehead.”
“No, some dude on the subway…axed me.”
“Yeah…in the forehead…No he axed me…”
“No…in the forehead…with an axe..”
“Listen, I’m-a have to call you back, we goin’ underground.”
The train descends into a tunnel to thunderous applause from the other passengers in the Rain Man’s subway car.
“Oh, enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?”
The second variety of cell phone criminals are the “Me-Monkeys.” We’re all familiar with this type too. The banality of their conversation supersedes everyone and everything else. They either flat out refuse to put their cell phone down long enough to interact like a human being and especially with a human being. I usually encounter Me-Monkeys while waiting in line for things.
It’s interesting that I chose to use an exchange at Starbucks as an example, as I kind of loathe Starbucks and the many nuances involved with them (Starbucks across the street from another Starbucks, their manipulation of the simple sizes of small medium and large, but that’s fodder for another rant. Starby’s is good as it seems to be a homing beacon and natural habitat for the Lesser North American Me-Monkey…come to think of it, it’s kind of their mating ground as well.)
Nice Starbucks Employee: “Hello, what can I get for you today?”
Me-Monkey: “So, I told Dylan that I might be late picking him up from his play date this afternoon….”
Nice Starbucks Employee: “Miss…?”
Me-Monkey: “I have an appointment for a manicure at 3….”
Customer Behind Me-Monkey: (Clears throat loudly)
Nice Starbucks Employee: “Miss?”
Me-Monkey: “….No, just a manicure, I don’t have time for a pedicure…”
In the same sentence she barks at the nice barista “Grande-latte.”, turns her back on the peon in the green apron and resumes without skipping a beat. “Sorry, I’m at Starbucks…Yeah I know, but I’m stressed and it always calms me down…”
Notice, she didn’t apologize to the nice lady taking her coffee order.
We all know how this proceeds. She is blabbing away about the world’s least significant minutia until her latte is made. She will continue to ramble on, slipping in a “How Much?” mid-sentence, because looking at the total lit up on the register or the price on the wall, or even (gasp) having a $5 bill at the ready would cut into her precious cellphone time. She prattles on in the cab ride to the nail salon, never deigning to interact with the driver, she spews on and on throughout her manicure, and in all likelihood the cell phone doesn’t leave the side of her pretty little head after picking up her son from his play date. It wouldn’t surprise me if she was on the phone while Dylan was being conceived…and delivered.
It’s a pity that those who provide services to the Me-Monkeys have to adhere to strict rules of etiquette and service decorum or there are consequences…while the Me-Monkey gets served, placated and even thanked. I say if someone is droning on when it’s their turn to be waited on, then they should be skipped and the person in line behind them should be waited on first. The service provider’s only comfort is perhaps a conspiratorial eye roll from the customer behind the Me-Monkey. I always try to make eye contact and share an eye roll. I’m considerate and thoughtful like that. As manners fall more and more by the wayside it has frankly amazed me that it hasn’t become socially acceptable to give the Me-Monkey a taste of their own medicine.
Me-Monkey ( Finally ready to order ): ” I’ll have the half caff latte and…”
Starbucks Employee’s phone begins to ring.
For the sake of irony her ring tone is “She Works Hard For The Money” by Donna Summer.
She raises a finger to the Me-Monkey and turns her back on them.
“Hey…oh nothing I’m at work… the usual rude and clueless idiots…yeah it sucks….”
I’ll get to the dreaded finger raise later.
TMI & TDL (Too Much Information & Too Damn Loud)
As a writer, I try to study and examine human behavior, human nature, the human condition, nuance, reactions etc…but I assure you, I do this strictly for purposes of ridicule. For example, I have often felt there is a very real market for a computer that responds to being hit or cursed at. Wouldn’t that be great? A nice solid overhand right to your computer screen and a low growl of “Stupid Fucking Thing!!” instead of restarting when things freeze up? Similarly, I think for the benefit of the general public, cell phones should automatically shut off when a person is speaking to loudly into them.
“PUT YOUR BROTHER ON THE PHONE!!!”
“I SAID PUT YOUR BROTHER ON THE PHONE, NOW!!!!”
“PUT YOUR…Put your brother on the phone please.”
Nobody likes things inflicted upon them…ugly sights, smells and especially sounds. I’m a big fan of “You wanna step outside?” preceding a bar room brawl, it’s a courtesy to those around you and shows real courage. When you ask someone to step outside, what you’re really saying is; “Oh I’m going to stomp the ever-loving shit out of you…but there is no reason to spill an innocent bystander’s beer or break the furniture in this establishment…besides, if we step outside, there is much less a chance of your beating being broken up prematurely by bouncers or good Samaritans.” It’s a simple courtesy and it shows good manners and a basic concern for those around you…except for that person you’re dying to hit the second they step outside, of course.
Sure, sometimes we are angry and we need a little volume to get our point across, just remember you aren’t at home. You’re in public and that space belongs to all of us (Except for us smokers who have become social pariahs and criminals.) Which leads me to an interesting point. If a person lights up a cigarette pretty much anywhere these days everyone will fall all over themselves to tell them to extinguish it immediately. Yet, if a person is in public talking on their cell in an inappropriately loud voice, or even screaming…it becomes an awkward social situation. Sure, maybe people turn and scowl at the offending party, and if it goes on too long or gets too loud, the staff or management might have a discreet word. Those whose cellphone conversation volume rivals that of having the seats in front of the speakers at a Metalica concert really need to be spoken to about propriety. Propriety is something that has simply flown out the window in regards to cellphone use.
That brings us to the TMI portion. While speaking to my best friend earlier this evening I mentioned this and she told me she has overheard STD diagnosis’ via cellphones. Really? Jesus, I’d have trouble talking to my doctor about this in his office, never mind everyone at Arby’s or on the A Train. Sadly, I have never overheard “Herpes”, “Chlamydia” or “Burning Sensation” in a cell phone convo. I’d probably wink at them. On a side note “Chlamydia” has always sounded like a name for a perfume or cologne. I can just see the commercial. Giselle Bundchen sniffing Tom Brady’s bare chest on a Costa Rican beach at sunset…saxophone music plays in the background. She looks up at Tom and asks “Chlamydia?” Tom winks and nods. The ad closes with a deep voiced announcer…”Chlamydia from the Calvin Klein Intimate Collection”
Just because I haven’t overheard STD references..actually let me pause there, I keep using the word “Overheard”. Yet in the case of TMI/TDL cellphone convos, perhaps it is inaccurate…I’ll have to come up with a brand new term for these specific circumstances…a cell-infliction, or an ear-shove, ear-cram. cell-slam. I have come across break ups, drug deals, infidelity, and more. A little discretion, huh people? As much as it can amuse bastards like me, does the 8 year old at the next table in the restaurant really need to listen to; “Well, why don’t you just move in with that fat-ass bitch and let her suck your tiny, funky smelling dick?” It’s nice that we have a means of communication while we’re out and about…it doesn’t mean every little thing needs to be communicated immediately and publicly. Take 30 seconds, walk outside and around a corner to discuss your genital warts or tell your dad about your impending sexual reassignment surgery.
Ring Tone Douchebaggery
Yes it’s nice to personalize things. My best friend personalized her ring tone when I call to the Yip Yip Martians from Sesame Street and their encounter with a telephone. The Martians would routinely encounter inanimate objects and assume that they were unfriendly citizens of Earth. In one vignette they encountered a telephone and tried to open a dialogue with it. The phone remained silent for a bit and the Martians seemed to be discouraged and slighted when suddenly the phone rings. Initially the Martians were afraid and pulled their mouths over their heads in an attempt to hide, something that has always just killed me. After a couple rings the Martians get over their initial fright and start talking back to the ringing phone. “Br-r-r-r-r-r-r–r-r-r-r–ING. Phooooone…Phoooone Br-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-rING” That “Br-r-r-r-r-r-r-rING” is her ringtone for me, and she delights when I call while she is having lunch with co-workers.
So, I get it. Ring tones are cute and all, but like in so many areas in life, people take things too far. For months I was bombarded on a daily basis by the least talented man in music Jay Z and his annoying “Empire State of Mind” chorus as everyone and their mother used it as their ring tone. I literally couldn’t go 30 seconds without hearing an outburst of “In Newwwwww Yoooooork..” If you hate a song to begin with, having it become a popular ring tone turns into a special kind of hell that should be reserved for the Hitlers and Jeffrey Dahmers of the world.
There also seems to be a direct correlation between how annoying a ring tone is and how long it takes the person to answer their phones. I fly into unbelievable rages when people do this. “Hey, P. Diddy, answer the phone huh? The rest of us don’t need to hear the 16 minute extended remix of NYC’s most over played song.” Whether it’s a cellphone or a land line, there is something maddening about a phone ringing and not being answered.
Textus Obliviatus (The Oblivious Texter)
If Darwin was right, it should be interesting to see how we will evolve physically after a few generations of text messaging. I have a theory of my own based on eye witness accounts and drawings of aliens who regularly come down to Earth for some redneck speed-dating, that these were once human beings. After a few generations of rampant and excessive cell phone use they developed long thin fingers for quick texting, large eyes located on the sides of their large heads so they can walk and text and avoid colliding with others on their planet. This is sadly a skill that we homo sapiens haven’t quite adapted to…yet
I find myself frequently playing an involuntary game or Blind Man’s Bluff or Marco Polo on the sidewalks of NYC. I pay attention to where I am going as I plod along, scowling and mumbling to myself. I can’t make it one full city block without having to side step to avoid some dink texting “Where U @” or “B Rite thr” to another moron causing head-on collisions elsewhere. Once while at school a girl plowed directly into me while texting despite my attempts to step out of her way. She bashed right into me, didn’t look up, didn’t say “excuse me” and kept right on texting and walking. I stopped and stared after her with my mouth agape in disbelief for a couple minutes. It was one of those moments of such incredibly bad behavior that I was literally stunned and speechless. (and speechless has never come easily to me) I wanted to yell something after her, but I had a sneaking suspicion that she was equally oblivious in the auditory sense. I found myself wishing she had been a guy so I could physically confront her/him (Unless of course they were over 6”4 with a gang tattoo on their neck, in which case live and let live, I always say.)
These people need to be confronted as their behavior is not only annoying and rude as hell, but is also potentially dangerous. These confrontations need to be of a physical nature too, because they are far too enthralled typing “NM U?” to hear someone yell “Hey watch it!!” They require a heavy tap on their shoulder and to be spoken to like a very stupid and poorly behaved young child. “Hey…I know seeing the picture of the kitten in the Yankees hat your friend posted on Facebook is a dire emergency, but maybe you could look up every 20 minutes or so?” Then punctuate this with a smack or slapping their Nokia or Samsung life support system to the ground and stepping on it with a satisfying crunch. (Unless of course they are 6”4 with a gang tattoo on their neck)
This leads us to our final cellphone asshat
So glad we decided to meet for lunch. No, really.
Love The One You’re With & Giving People The Finger
I have worked for years as a bartender, waiter and bar manager. These positions have allowed me to observe many facets of human behavior, which is priceless for an aspiring writer. One thing I have noticed is that many people seem to need to be in constant communication with everyone at every second, with the possible exception of the people who they are physically with at present. It fascinates me to see 2 or 3 sets of couples getting together for dinner or drinks. I overhear them saying things like “I haven’t seen you in ages!” and things along those lines. Yet, almost immediately after the greetings and initial pleasantries they all whip out their phones and begin checking messages, sending texts and making calls. These friends, co-workers, and family members you haven’t seen in ages..they are right there…in front of you, you made an effort to be in their company…and yet, they seem to be the last person you’re interested in communicating with.
When asked about their evening, these folks would probably talk about where they ate, what they drank, who they were with…but really these things have become incidental. What they really did on Friday night was to answer messages, send texts, check their Facebook status and their friend’s Facebook status. Wouldn’t it be hilarious for people having dinner together to be communicating on Facebook via their cells rather than actually speaking to each other? It may sound silly, but it’s really not so far fetched.
I have promised myself that the next date I go on where the woman feels a need to spend more time on her cell phone then asking me where I went to high school and if I prefer the Beatles or Stones…I will quietly rise from the table, excuse myself, take our server aside and ask to have two lobsters, two filet mignons and two creme brules prepared to go, and that my date will get the check…oh and by they way, she’d like a bottle of your finest champagne delivered to our table in 20 minutes…Then I will pick up my food and go home to enjoy it in the much more attentive company of my cats.
Finally, I want to close with giving people the finger. No, not my favorite finger, that long one in the middle. Although the finger I am writing of and it’s use have slightly similar meanings. I am speaking of the finger people put up when they are in the middle of a face to face conversation with you and their life support system starts to ring, quack or sing “New York State of Mind…” They give precedence to the person calling rather than the one who is front and center. I think the next time someone I am engaged in a conversation with answers their phone, I will respond with a finger gesture of my own.
The human race survived and even flourished without cell phones for a very long time. People got messages, no one died, guys hooked up with girls, ambulances made it on time to save the patient. Cell phones are very convenient, but so are cars, televisions and scores of other inventions, and in closing I just wanted to state emphatically…oh sorry, I need to take this call.