Published: December 5, 2011

By Jim Lichtman
Read More

Voltaire once said, “Common sense is not so common.”

I’m sure the 18th century French writer had people who gab endlessly on cell phones in mind when he made that observation.

Back in the Stone Age, when people needed to speak to someone outside the home or office, they would go to a special place away from everyone else called… a phone booth.  Inside, they’d close the accordion door which not only allowed for privacy but kept the conversation away from others.

With the advent of cell phones, some care not as to who listens as they chatter away while walking down the street, or worse still, crossing the street, usually when the light is in the process of changing, oblivious to waiting traffic.

According to a recent New York Times article we now have Siri, your “digital assistant” that – according to the good folks at Apple – is not only the easiest way to ask for information but dictate and send messages by voice, as well.

Except for one tiny detail…

“ ‘How is he doing question mark how are you doing question mark,’ Jeremy Littau of Bethlehem, Pa., found himself telling his new iPhone recently as he walked down the street, dictating a text message to his wife…”

That’s right. With Siri, you have to announce the punctuation marks along with your message. It’s the twenty-first century version of the telegram: How is he doing STOP? How are you doing STOP?

After attracting the unwanted stares of passers-by, Littau concluded, “ ‘It’s not normal human behavior to have people having a conversation with a phone on the street.’ ”

As an assistant professor of journalism and communication at Lehigh University, I was surprised that Littau a) found this surprising and, b) seems to easily embrace this technology as just another effective communications tool.

My question: Isn’t it easier to place a direct call to your intended rather than go through the intermediary step of dictating a text or e-mail – not to mention yet another distraction to those within earshot of your voice?

While etiquette remains alive and well at the Four Seasons and many restaurants, whatever happened to discreet conversations while you’re at those and many other locations?

The other day, I was shopping at the grocery store when I encountered a woman standing in the middle of the isle having a phone conversation about the kind of canned asparagus she was supposed to pick up. I mean really, people, what happened to that handy-dandy, convenience-saver called… the shopping list? Here’s how it works: while at home, you write down a list of those things you need and then, (here’s the tricky part) you take it with you to the market.

Don’t get me wrong. I like my iPhone, consider it a useful resource, but not at the expense of common sense.

Unless you are a doctor, nurse, on-call emergency person or the lawyer for Dr. Conrad Murray waiting for the jury to return, you don’t need to have your cell phone ring during those occasions when you’re out and about causing more than a little frustration to those with whom you are presumably spending your precious time with.

I get more than a little annoyed when I’m out to dinner with a group of friends and someone’s phone rings and the first thing they say is, “I’m so sorry.”

While cell phones are of great use to keep track of kids, spouses, and the next Occupy meeting, repeated use of them by “friends” for incoming calls or texting is a lack of consideration for to those you call friends.

A few simple rules of common sense:

1/ Unless you announce in advance that you’re expecting an important call or are on-call, turn your phone off.

2/ If you need to take a call, quietly get up, excuse yourself and speak in a location away from others.

3/ Lower your voice while talking in a public place. I’m not the least bit interested in the Macy’s One Day Sale.

4/ Don’t check your phone inside a darkened theater. Yes, I can see the screen.

5/ Never, never, never talk on the phone while driving. Even if it’s “hands free” you are driving with a distraction that may cause harm to others. The person you may run into might be me!

Microsoft Business, not as cranky as me, offers further tips.


Leave a Comment

Read More Articles
The Latest... And Sometimes Greatest
Conscience of the Senate
Continued from Tuesday’s commentary, I offer two Senate leaders from the past. Tuesday, I spoke of the integrity of Republican John Williams. Today, I offer...
April 12, 2024
A Long Time Ago in a Washington Far, Far Away. . .
. . . two U.S. Senators, one Republican, one Democrat, showed us the meaning of duty and character. Republican John Williams, a chicken farmer and...
April 9, 2024
This is The America I Know
We Americans have many grave problems to solve, many threatening evils to fight, and many deeds to do, if, as we hope and believe, we...
April 5, 2024
We Need Moments Like This
Embed from Getty Images Let’s face it, we’re a mess. We’re living moment to moment, crisis to crisis at home and abroad. Every time you...
April 2, 2024
We’ve Become Morally Complacent
My 90-year-old father was a Reagan Republican. When I told him that I was going to call to say hello to my uncle Don (his...
March 26, 2024
My Declaration of Conscience
If I were a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, this would be my address to members. Mr. Speaker, Members of the House: We...
March 21, 2024