Last month, two members of the audience at a concert hall in Sarasota had an altercation. A female patron checked her phone for a missed call by leaning toward the floor during the performance. The gentleman sitting next to her hissed at her to stop. After the concert was over, he became belligerent by choking and then pushing her back into the seat. Now, she has filed a battery charge against him. The man in question is making no response.

Do you feel sympathy or frustration toward the woman? Maybe there was a legitimate reason for checking her phone. But why not use the intermission for that purpose? It was unclear from the article if she actually texted during the performance. The man’s reaction being so over the top, to be sure, leads me to think that the cell phone may have been used more than she is admitting to. After all, he certainly didn’t appreciate her blatant disregard for his desire to have a pleasant evening. What was so urgent anyway that couldn’t have waited until the house lights came on?

Cell phones have significantly reduced the situational awareness of many people. The phone becomes the object of attention instead of those people in the near vicinity. Now, we are subjected to people…

  • carrying on loud conversations while waiting in line-ups,
  • talking into their phones while shopping,
  • loading their groceries at the checkout still talking (of course),
  • moms check email while their toddlers play unsupervised at playgrounds,
  • not to mention distracted drivers and pedestrians.

Do we have no self-control? Can we not turn the cell phones off? Are we becoming addicted to our gadgets??

Believe it or not, use of the cell phone also has manners.

  1. Obey the 10 foot Rule – if someone is within 10 feet of you, remove yourself to a more private area to have your conversation. This means that buses & C-trains aren’t appropriate places to hold long conversations. Don’t subject your fellow riders who might prefer silence.
  2. The person directly in front of me is more important than my phone – if you’re speaking to someone and your phone rings, kindly turn it off or tell the caller that you’ll speak to them later. If ordering a coffee or something, don’t attempt to have two conversations. Be respectful of the person behind the counter.
  3. Cell phones should be turned OFF at all places of worship, library, movies, concerts, restaurants and friends’ homes – when you are with a large group of people, show good behavior by keeping the phone off or on vibrate. Restaurants and friends’ homes are included in this list as you’re meeting with real live human beings who are so much more interesting than that smart gadget.
  4. Texting and driving – is a dangerous combination. Whole families have been wiped out in accidents as a result of this. Even texting & walking are dangerous. Some time ago in Calgary, a pedestrian was distracted and then hit and killed by a C-train.

Cell phones are amazing tools for keeping in touch at a moment’s notice. However, like anything else, if we don’t strike a balance then we run the risk of offending others by not being respectful or worse, killing or maiming someone. On a final note, I definitely don’t recommend correcting someone else’s bad manners unless the person is your child or a dear friend. In most cases, the result won’t be a “teaching” moment.

Maria Doll

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