Cell Phone Protocol — For You

by Leah Peterson
© 2003 Leah Peterson
All Rights Reserved
Originally published on Writer’s Monthly

WORDS OVERHEARD in the hallway of a medical center: Tall, Dark and Handsome, about 8 feet away and striding purposefully towards me: ‘So, I know we don’t really know each other, but if you aren’t busy, would you like to go out to dinner this Friday?’

Well, I was speechless! Had I met him in the cafeteria? How could I have forgotten? I looked at the muscles rippling underneath his medium blue, form-hugging mock turtleneck sweater that accentuated his brown hair which was highlighted with patches of creamy taupe. I stared at his dreamy face and long eyelashes. I opened my mouth to say, ‘Sure! What the hay!’ But before I could get it out he said, ‘Great! I’m so glad I decided to call you!’, mumbled ‘scuze me’ as he pushed past me and kept on walking out the door. Then I realized he was talking via a tiny ear/mouth piece attached to his cell phone. He was talking to some OTHER girl he didn’t know, not me. And had I answered his question I would have looked like more of an idiot than I did already with my gaping mouth, reddened face and deer-in-the-headlights expression.

Shame on him.

I’ve overheard the most private of conversations in public places. I’ve heard about sex lives and sex lives of friends. I’ve heard about medical things that should really not be repeated to family, let alone strangers. And how about conversations between couples in a fight? Although, unless they get too loud and I’m watching a movie or something, those can actually be pretty entertaining so I’m not going to lump those into this category. Have you seen an exasperated individual shouting at the wall, kicking the ground and throwing wadded paper at the trash bin all the while saying things like, ‘but I CAN stay calm!’ It’s highly recommended for a good chortle.

My theory is that we’ve turned into a society of reality TV and it doesn’t faze anyone anymore to overhear someone talking about all the ways they’ve thought of to cheat on their spouse or when they plan to do it. I personally don’t want to hear that your dog has worms or fleas or about your baby’s bowel movement or puke consistency. I’d just as soon not know your bank account numbers. And could we please keep the fact that your son likes to urinate in the houseplants a secret? I enjoy the suspense.

It’s like when you see those men picking their noses in the car. They mistakenly believe that when they got in their auto, some invisibility cloak surrounded them and no one can now see what they do. Well, guess what? I can see you! And I can see that your finger is so far up your nose that only the last knuckle is showing. And guess what else? I DON"T WANT TO! The same goes for the cell phone abusers. If you are in a public place and decide to converse about your hemorrhoids, someone is going to hear. Doesn’t that bother you? I know it bothers me because knowing my luck, that someone will be me.

I’ve decided that cell phone behavior should somehow be monitored. People talking in a public place on their cell phones should have to wear a sign while having private conversations. You lock the door when you use the bathroom. It means ‘occupied’ and people know not to open that door. The elevator tells you if it’s going up or down. People waiting for food at the Mexican place hold a number until they get their food. Why can’t people on a cell phone wear a sign around their neck or on their head that says, ‘Don’t mind me. I’m saying things of a private nature in public. You may want to shut your ears." At the very least, let’s make a law that they have to wear a beacon on the upper arm: it can flash red when they are gabbing and off when it’s safe to listen; like the radio ‘On Air’ sign.

What’s really annoying is when I’m trying to walk and talk on my cell phone and someone near me is walking and talking as well. There I am, totally immersed in a conversation with my sister about our diet regimens, exercise patterns and if we are ‘regular’ or not now that we’re on the new high fiber, high protein and low carb system and some rude person interrupts my train of thought with a comment about the latest Matrix movie. I liked the movie for the most part but Cheese Whiz! I don’t care what you would have done if you had been Neo. He’s a fictional character! And while we’re on the subject that goes for Batman, Elektra, and anything Vin Diesel pretends to be. I’m trying to have a conversation here!

Equally annoying is when I’m driving in my car and some stupid person chatting on their cell phone while driving doesn’t pay attention and starts to ‘lane share’ with me. I mean come on! I’ve got a delicate balance going! If I’m not careful, they’ll make me spill my tea or poke myself in the eye with my mascara wand or even drop my own cell phone and that would be bad if it was a call from a client! I would be able to drive all the way to work practically with my knees if it weren’t for those thoughtless people! This morning, I filed a nail too far down thanks to just such a jerk. I had to then file the other nine nails down to match. It took me the whole last 15 minutes of my drive into work to do it.

Other people on cell phones shouldn’t be allowed out of the house with out a sign. And they should definitely not be allowed to lead unsuspecting women along when they have no intention of actually asking them out on a date. It’s very cruel.

I think this is a totally legitimate gripe.

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