Stephen Karlson’s On To Something

Lynne Kiesling

We are still early enough in the proliferation of cell phones that people have not learned and developed judgment and discipline in their public use. I occasionally find this irksome, but struggle to find a way to stop it. Stephen Karlson at Cold Spring Shops has some useful recommendations that he has gathered from around the Internet.

I particularly like the cards that he linked to from Annie at Going Underground for use on the London tube (although I have to say I’ve never had particular annoyance with cell phones on the Tube). But the one that hits the closest to home with me is the suggestion from Ideoblog:

Here’s my plan: do what you can to piece together the details of the conversation. Then ask the speaker some questions to fill in the blanks. If the speaker is annoyed, flustered and suddenly reticent, point out that you’re curious enough to turn to Google for help with the rest. It would be nice if you could figure out your seatmate’s name, from the conversation, briefcase, laptop screen, or whatever.

A while back (I’m being deliberately vague) I was in the O’Hare Admirals Club at about 5:45 AM, and it was dark and hushed, as you’d expect for that hour, except for one gentleman who was on the phone. He was working on a particular transaction about which I actually knew something because it was in the electric utility industry. I could tell who he worked for, who he was talking to, and all sorts of details that I’m sure the board of the company in question would not be happy to have potentially figured out in public.

I’m sure the guy looked at me and thought that the short blonde with the tall boots and the messenger bag who looks younger than she is doesn’t know squat about goings-on in the oh-so-boring electric utility industry. That’s a very dangerous assumption …

But this is the first time I’ve mentioned it, although I was sorely tempted to go over and tell him what I do for a living and how much I was able to infer from his side of the conversation.


10 thoughts on “Stephen Karlson’s On To Something

  1. Aside for overly loud conversations (which can also occur between two people talking face-to-face), I have no problem with people talking on their cell phone because I fail to see what the difference is between to people talking together. In one situation, both people are present in the same location and, in the other situation, they are not.

    If it is rude to talk to another who is not present in the same location, it should also be rude to talk to someone who is. Really, what difference does it make if we are using technology to overcome the distance barrior. It still is a conversation.

  2. I tend to agree with Scott on this one. My only trouble being that for some reason, people tend to talk more loudly on a cell phone than they would face to face. I assume this is because they don’t know how to adjust the volume settings on their phones, but perhaps they just like attention.

    I’ve noticed in resturants particularly that people using cell phones tend to stand out as loud where the other dozens of conversations tend to blend into the background noise. I usually don’t mind, but my biggest gripe is ringtones. Answer it right away or use vibrate mode! Thirty seconds of bad beepy music only shows the world that yes, you were dumb enough to pay $2.99 for your phone to belch out the opening strains of “Gin and Juice”.

  3. The volume bothers me more than anything, but my understanding of some recent sociology research indicates that hearing only one side of a conversation makes it more annoying to a third party. I also am struck, as Ben says,m by how normal conversations in public places tend to blend into the white noise, while single sides of cell phone conversations do not. I think that disjoint character of the one-sidedness makes them more jarring, as well as the volume effect.

  4. I think as we become more accustomed to one-sided conversations, they’ll blend into the background. I say this because it is already happening here at my work. I hear many one-sided conversations because my coworkers are frequently on the desk phone or mobile phone. For the most part, I hardly notice them because they are just background noise.
    Except for this one coworker who talks loudly, on and off the phone…

  5. Cellphones are here to stay so we don’t have a choice but to put up with them in public. It’s one thing to talk with someone on a cellphone on semi-meaningless personal matters (how’s your day, travel plans, etc.) but it’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish to publicly discuss confidential business. It would have been interesting if you wrote down on a card:

    You work for “X”, you are talking to “Y” about “Z” … YOU’VE BEEN PUNK’D!

    and then handed him the card. Maybe he would have treated you to a free breakfast in order to get more information from you.

  6. Cellphones are here to stay so we don’t have a choice but to put up with them in public. It’s one thing to talk with someone on a cellphone on semi-meaningless personal matters (how’s your day, travel plans, etc.) but it’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish to publicly discuss confidential business. It would have been interesting if you wrote down on a card:

    You work for “X”, you are talking to “Y” about “Z” … YOU’VE BEEN PUNK’D!

    and then handed him the card. Maybe he would have treated you to a free breakfast in order to get more information from you.

  7. MarcV: what a *brilliant* idea! Especially the “you’ve been punk’d part. I’ll keep that in mind in case such a situation arises again!

  8. Talking to a person on a cell phone (like the first commenter pointed out) is much better than two people talking at once if all you’re concerned with is noise levels. I lived with a cell phone in NYC, Boston, Ithaca (NY), and small town Ohio, and each place has totally different norms.

    In new york city, the cell phone is treated as if it’s another person, which in reality it is. It is someone on the other end of the line, not some half-human android who deserves to be relegated to plebian status. If someone is talking on a phone in the store, it is no different than talking to someone else in the store in-person.

    In boston, people give you funny looks for answering your phone anywhere outside of your home (even though that’s why cell phones exist!). Only the “lower class” people use phones outside of the house here. I was once in Ithaca at dinner in college when one of my best friends (who happened to be from Boston) called. I told my friend at dinner to hold on for a minute while I answered. I obviously couldn’t talk for long, but I thought I was being polite to put everything off to answer her call as opposed to making her leave a message since if it were an emergency, then i’d be there for her. Of course, she was offended that i answered while at dinner. *eyeroll*

    Ithaca, NY, was like an extension of nyc.

    Small town Ohio was hilarious. If i talked in a cell phone at a store, parents would actually tell their kids to be quiet so i could talk! what type of bizarro universe is THAT?! “Oh, he’s on a cell phone, it must be important.” hahahaha

  9. Talking to a person on a cell phone (like the first commenter pointed out) is much better than two people talking at once if all you’re concerned with is noise levels. I lived with a cell phone in NYC, Boston, Ithaca (NY), and small town Ohio, and each place has totally different norms.

    In new york city, the cell phone is treated as if it’s another person, which in reality it is. It is someone on the other end of the line, not some half-human android who deserves to be relegated to plebian status. If someone is talking on a phone in the store, it is no different than talking to someone else in the store in-person.

    In boston, people give you funny looks for answering your phone anywhere outside of your home (even though that’s why cell phones exist!). Only the “lower class” people use phones outside of the house here. I was once in Ithaca at dinner in college when one of my best friends (who happened to be from Boston) called. I told my friend at dinner to hold on for a minute while I answered. I obviously couldn’t talk for long, but I thought I was being polite to put everything off to answer her call as opposed to making her leave a message since if it were an emergency, then i’d be there for her. Of course, she was offended that i answered while at dinner. *eyeroll*

    Ithaca, NY, was like an extension of nyc.

    Small town Ohio was hilarious. If i talked in a cell phone at a store, parents would actually tell their kids to be quiet so i could talk! what type of bizarro universe is THAT?! “Oh, he’s on a cell phone, it must be important.” hahahaha

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