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By Joel Klebanoff

Curse the Boors

Hey, I'm talking to you! Yeah, you. I know you think that other people are causing the problem, and they probably are, but you're likely part of the incivility too. So stop it. Stop it now.

On April 4, 2006, the Report on Business section of The Globe and Mail (and, because it was an AP newswire story, undoubtedly a number of other papers as well) reported on a few of the results of an Associated Press-AOL-Pew Research Center poll. According to the survey, almost 90% of cell phone users say they have been annoyed by the way other people use their mobile phones. However, only about 8% of them think they're ever rude in the way they use their own phones.

Uh, excuse me? Let's take a brief survey of our own. Please raise your hand if you think that only 8% of cell phone users are causing 100% of the problems that 90% of them say they've experienced. I don't see any hands up. Here's the reality, dear readers: If you've ever used your cell phone in a public place, there's a pretty good chance that somebody thought you were being rude when you did so.

Let me go on record as saying that I'm not one of those people who thinks that using a cell phone in a restaurant, bar, or café automatically brands you as being rude. I don't object in the least to someone who is sitting alone at a table speaking into a phone using the same tone and volume of voice as a normal person would usually use to speak with someone across the table. I find that scenario no more annoying than people having quiet conversations in person in public places. Because I definitely don't want to put an end to those sorts of convivial gatherings, it would be hypocritical of me to suggest that people should stop using their cell phones in those sorts of places if they are doing so in a considerate manner.

Nonetheless, please note that there were two caveats in the previous paragraph. First, the person is sitting alone at the table. I don't want to force people to be lonely just because, for whatever reason, they can't be in close proximity to their friends. Nonetheless, it's incredibly rude to talk on your cell phone when there are one, two, or more close friends, relatives, business associates, or even just casual acquaintances in attendance with you at your table. I find it very offensive on their behalf even if I'm not one of those other people whom you're totally ignoring. I'm just that sort of a caring, compassionate guy. So cut it out, you boorish, inconsiderate jerk before I toss a cup of scalding coffee in your lap.

The second caveat is that the conversation has to be carried out in the same tone and volume of voice as a normal person would use for an in-person conversation in a public place. I stress a normal person because some people talk in very loud, screeching voices whether they're on their cell phones or not. Personally, I think we should find out where these people live and, when they're sitting comfortably in their homes, seal their doors and windows with Krazy Glue because they're the cause of far too many serious migraines whenever they're allowed out in public. I'm not sadistic. We should slip food and medicine under their doors as necessary, but they shouldn't be permitted to annoy the rest of us.

Once we safely lock away all of those people, those of the rest you who consistently scream when conversing on your cell phone in a public place, be warned. We're coming after you next.

Don't worry. I'm not talking about people who usually speak in a quiet, pleasant voice, but occasionally burst out in an uncontrollable shriek or earsplitting laugh in response to rare stimuli during an in-person or cell-phone conversation. We all do that from time to time. It's human nature. It's not appreciated, but it's forgiven. At least, it's forgiven by me, although I can't speak for the rest of society. You'll have to take your chances with them. No, I'm talking about the people who can be heard in a four-block radius either every time they open their mouths or just during the all-too-frequent and lengthy times when they are talking on their cell phones. These people need to be stopped.

There is also a third caveat that I left unsaid. I only wrote about people talking on their cell phones. I said nothing about phones ringing in otherwise quiet public places. I also didn't say anything about cell phones playing idiotic, annoying ring tones. The reason I didn't mention those things is that I thought their rudeness would have been obvious; however, observed human behavior suggests otherwise. Suffice it to say that if you allow your cell phone to annoy me this way in a restaurant, I might ask the waiter to flambé your phone for dessert. I'm sure I could convince all of the other patrons, except, of course, you, to chip in for this delicacy. There's a reason manufacturers put a vibrate mode on cell phones, and it's not just to tickle your fancy. Use it or lose it to the flambé flame.

All of this cell phone rudeness has got to stop, if not for the good of society then certainly for your own well-being because if you keep it up, the piercing stares that people you've offended are throwing your way might start turning into piercing projectiles. I'm not threatening you myself, you understand. But, as I said, I can't speak for the others.

Another statistic from the survey indicates that 28% of the people surveyed said that, because of their cell phone use, they sometimes don't drive as carefully as they should. Excuse me? What the hell is the matter with you people? If you didn't realize that you were driving unsafely, that would be one thing. You'd almost certainly be wrong about that, but in that circumstance, I'd understand why you didn't see any reason to curtail your cell phone use while driving. But if you know that your actions are turning you into a hazard to yourself and others, then there's a small suggestion I'd like to make that might not have occurred to you as it is, I recognize, such a complex solution to the problem: Stop it. Stop it now. Enough said.

This article originally appeared as part of a weekly series of "Tech Tirades" in MC TNT from MC Press Online. The first year's worth of Tech Tirades does not appear here. Instead, you can find them in BYTE-ing Satire.

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