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Cell Phone Manners

You’re sitting at dinner with friends. Somewhere between the fried zucchini appetizer and your medium well steak, your cell phone starts playing Who Are You by The Who, alerting everyone that you have a call coming in.

What to do? Ignore it and talk a little louder until the song winds down, which always seem to take forever? Take a quick peek to see who’s calling and then decide whether you need to answer or not? Or pick it up and start conversing with your Great Aunt Tillie about the upcoming family reunion?

The cell phone explosion in our society has challenged our common sense on what is the proper thing to do in a lot of situations. With these little gadgets so close at hand, it’s even difficult to tell whose phone is actually ringing. At the first sign of a beep, everyone within 50 yards starts patting down their clothes and pulling out their accessories to see if it’s them being paged.

We may have to adopt a whole new set of manners � and soon -- to handle all those pesky situations Emily Post never dreamed about when she came out with her first guide to etiquette in 1922.

So when is the right time to answer your cell phone? I haven’t run this by the Emily Post Institute which is still going strong 80 years later (We do need some serious help, don’t we?), but it would seem that if you are anticipating an “important” call, you should alert your friends that you may receive one. Now what constitutes an important call is up for grabs. Is it one that lets you know the newest driver in you home has just gotten home OK? Or is it one from your youngest telling you that his big brother is not allowing him to watch Scary Movie?

Only the recipient can tell for sure. And remember: We do have control. We can turn the little gadgets off and enjoy some blissful silence once in awhile. I know it’s not what we are used to, but there’s no law that says a ringing phone has to be answered. Ever.

The whens and whys of answering cell phones are only the tip of the good manners iceberg. What about those people who walk up, talking, close enough behind you to make you jump only to learn that they are conversing through an earpiece?  Or those who answer calls at the opera or in public restrooms or church or during surgical procedures? Or -- and this may be a relatively new abuse -- those who flip open their cell phone to check for messages during a play or production and blind everyone sitting around them?

And maybe what’s even worse, but it’s so hard to judge, are those who conduct very personal conversations out in public where anyone is privy to their arguments or emotional problems. That slang phrase telling others to “go find a room” for some privacy applies here as well.

I don’t know that anyone has the answers to these dilemmas which will only continue to grow until someone tells us the right way to do things. As for the Post Institute, etiquette means “showing respect and consideration for others while placing a premium on honesty, graciousness and deference.” Ain’t it the truth.

For some help with your manners (or as a suggestion for those without), visit http://emilypost.com/.

By Teresa K. Flatley


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