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November 19th, 2009 by Dr. Phil

Cell Phone Use is off the Hook

rude1So I’m sitting in a restaurant on Melrose and I hear someone’s cell phone start ringing at the next table, and a guy puts the phone to his ear and begins to shout — not talk, but shout.

I sigh.

The man, I realize, is one of millions upon millions of cell phone users who don’t seem to realize that cell phones electronically amplify your voice, which means that you can speak normally — or, in most cases, even more quietly — when talking into them.  But then, I realize that the call is probably meant to impress the person sitting around him, as much as to impress the poor guy on the other end, and for that, yelling is sadly required.

I turn around and give him the “stink eye.” I glower. I sigh … again. But engrossed in his conversation, he doesn’t look my way. I stare at the people at his table, hoping they might do something, but they are too busy being impressed (and/or are on his payroll) by this loudmouth, who’s going on and on about buying $100,000 of this and that stock. They obviously believe, or pretend to believe, he is that important that he needs to multi-talk right through dinner. Call me crazy, but it seems to me that if you get all dressed up, show up at a restaurant, presumably to have a meeting or socialize with friends, and then spend most of your time talking to somebody else, who isn’t even there, then maybe you should be with whomever you’re talking to on the phone. Either way, for the love of all that is sane, LEAVE ME OUT OF IT!

Friday’s show deals with rude behavior that seems to be everywhere these days, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s hard to find anyone ruder than this particular kind of cell phone user. I just read in the New York Times that 85 percent of Americans now own cell phones, which the Times’ reporter notes as pretty amazing considering that cell phones were invented only 20 years ago. All I can think about is how 15 percent don’t have one.  You’ve got to be kidding me! Where are these 15 percent, because I haven’t met any of them?

Even kids are carrying cell phones. And then there are the grown men and women who don’t think twice about having phone conversations while sitting on the toilet in public restrooms, their voices echoing off the tile walls. Or they whip out their phones in the middle of a movie theatre or at a concert. (I’m just waiting for the day when I’m at a movie and someone yells out to lower the volume so he or she can take their call.)

rude2I am one of the 85 percent with a cell phone. I’ve always got my BlackBerry with me to make calls and check e-mails. But, I’m determined to not let it take over my life. Actually, I hate the phone part so much that I refuse to set up my voice mail because I don’t want any messages, and almost no one has my number. I use it to call, but not to be called, and I don’t yell when I do.

In that same New York Times article, the reporter found a small subset of adults who proudly said they simply do not want cell phones. They resent the ring tones, the tiny keyboards and the phones’ screens that disrupt face-to-face conversation. They said they savor their moments alone and prize the fact that no one knows how to reach them.

I sigh again, but this time, it’s nostalgic. I know we’ve gone too far down the cell phone highway to give them up.

I’ve heard that Broadway actors are now openly breaking out of character when they hear a cell phone ring to take the culprit to task. Good for them. And I especially love the story of a guy in New York who placed a small recording device on a table next to a loud cell phone talker, which made the cell phone talker ask (loudly, of course) just what the heck was going on. “Well,” the man replied, “since you obviously want me to hear your conversation, I’d better keep a copy of it.”

I do have a fantasy that someday “cell phone cops” will walk the streets, dealing with all those who are being obnoxious with their phones — confiscating the phones or maybe zapping them with a Taser. (Now that’s an image!) But seriously, we’ve all got to band together and crack down on those who believe the rest of the world does not matter the minute their phone rings. If we all start telling people how rude they are, maybe they’ll all shut up. Or maybe, they’ll at least take their conversation elsewhere.

All right, got to go, my phone’s buzzing. But don’t laugh. At least it’s not playing some ridiculous ringtone that lasts for five minutes.

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114 Responses to “Cell Phone Use is off the Hook”

  1. davis says:

    I was at lunch and a young lady was using her phone on speaker. I could hear both sides of the conversation! In this case I gave her the stink-eye and it worked.

  2. Christina Behm says:

    I went to the movies the other day and the guy in front of me answered his phone in the middle of the movie. I was in utter shock, all I could say is (outloud) I know he idin’t answer his phone, my girlfriend was trying to get me to hush, but I refused, I said and he is still talking that is so very rude. I was bout to get up and get mgmt when he hung up. Wow what has happened to people?

  3. Penny J. McGraw says:

    These rude people are the same rule disobeyers that have been around for centuries. New technology…same behavior. I think it boils down to being self-centered. It is the parent who thinks they don’t have to stay in the car pick-up line at school because they are busier than the rest of us and need their kid quicker. It is the person who parks in the handicap spot. It is the person who leaves their shopping cart in the middle of the aisle and walks off. It is the person who is habitually late to meetings, etc. etc. etc. The problem is ‘they’ were once a minority and now ‘they’ have become the rule not the exception. Our society is raising a bunch of morons that think they are owed something. Therefore, if they break the rule (and trust me they know the rules), it is because they justify it in their mind that they are owed this exception because (fill in blank here).

  4. Sheryl Tompkins says:

    I have a strict policy for myself….If going to the movies I put my phone on vibrate and only accept a text. Usually they can wait til after. On a date or out with friends I turn it off completely unless I know a friend is badly sick and may need my help…..it goes on vibrate. I worked for a gentleman once as a manager and was going away to do some sales and see my kids. He convinced me to take my business phone with me so I could call orders as I get the sales to be ahead. Oh my gosh…….I swear he called me every hour on the hour…on the first day after the 6th call while i was visiting a friend for a few hours……I got really pissed for callling me about a piece of machinery that broke down and asking me what to do about it. He had a full staff of mechanics on hand for that. I turned the phone off for 24hrs and rold him it died and i couldn’t find the charger. It was a wonderful quiet and pleasant 24hrs. I got so after my work day was done i was in the habit of turning it off as well as on my days off. He didn’t like it and i didn’t care and he knew it……lol….wink.

  5. Rebecca says:

    I have a friend who I see infrequently. But when she does visit my home, she always brings along her laptop and is online with it the entire time of her visit, talking to me but also interacting with facebook, etc.

    Now this friend is the X generation, and I’m a boomer, and I don’t know about gen-Xers, but we boomers were taught to give a person talking to us our ENTIRE attention, including eye contact as a matter of curtesy.

    Is her behavior unacceptable and rude or am I just old fashioned and behind the times?

  6. Nanda says:

    Americans are some of the rudest people on Planet Earth. Their obnoxious behaviour has been going on for a long time and only now it has started to become noticable to their fellow Americans. In 1984, I was in London doing the rounds of the museums. Everyone would speak in hushed tones if they ever needed to communicate, however, whenever you hear a commotion–you’d see a family –kids running amock and adults yelling at them.Everyone would smile knowingly and mouth–Americans. This was decades ago and has it changed?

  7. sudabeh says:

    I use my cell phone only in unexpected and accidental situations like flat tire at night in the middel on nowhere, and ask for help. Normally i have a rotary phone on the kitchen wall that works fine for me when I am at home and alone. I have noticed some people specially young females hide behind their cell-phone to ignore
    their difficult encounters with their sorroundings, some use it to chat rediculously to make them feel important. Being intruppted, is not a pleasant feeling no matter where we are, it better be very important or I call it rude and ignorance.

  8. BMS says:

    I am one of the 15%. I have never owned a cell phone, and have no plans to. My husband inherited one from a deceased relative, but it goes unused unless we are going on a long car trip. Even then, I think it has been used a grand total of 5 times in a year. My kids are 9 and 8 – no plans to get phones for them either. They just aren’t as necessary as people think they are. There have been maybe 10 occasions over the last 8 years in which I thought, hmm, this would be a trifle easier if I had a cell. But on all those occasions, I was able to do what needed to be done with just a little extra effort. Yep, even dealing with car problems. A lot of the situations in which people feel they NEED a cell phone are situations that could be dealt with just fine with a little preplanning. I’m not saying no one should have one – if you want one, knock your socks off. But truly, they are not akin to oxygen, and you don’t instantly cease to exist without one.

  9. Rachèl says:

    dear Dr. Phil
    i’m 15 years old and i live in Holland, but i watch your show everyday because i think it’s very interesting!
    you told in your show that you read every comment so i hope you will read this one too.
    and yes i think it’s also irritating when someone shouts in his cellphone, i think that when you get a phonecall you walk out of the restaurant and call outside

  10. Tinie says:

    Dr. Phil,
    I’m one of the those 15 % that do not have a cell phone… I still only have a land line…I don’t like cell phones and never really saw a reason to get one. And I’m only 23… If anyone calls me when I’m not home they can leave a voice mail or call me at work in emergency… Or email me. I don’t plan to get a cell phone, everyone in my family “needed” one. But land lines works just fine for me…

  11. Janet Albanese says:

    I agree with Dr. Phil on this one. Yes, I have a cell phone but it remains on OFF unless I’m calling someone on it. No one has my number and I only use it if I’m in trouble. I never, EVER, use it when I’m driving. If I have to make a call I’ll pull off the road. I hate talking on it and when I’m home that’s when I like to get phone calls. Not when I’m running around town doing errands. But it is nice to be able to ask a question to someone while I’m shopping or something like that.

  12. a g says:

    i have heard the “deal closers”, pompous fools who think that talking about business dealings in publiic on a cell is cool. there are the “pillow talkers” .the first category btw.is mostly guys. the second mostly gals. the pillow talkers give us info with details,that might make hugh heffner blush. or gushy relational stuff that has no business being a part of the sonic landscape of a bus interior. we lack discretion and consideration. i have only had a cell for a short time and got rid of it. i don’t want to be part of a grid hook up 24/7. give me some modicum of privacy[whatver little is left to have in this digital age]. it is sadly/comical,how people often talk louder than necessary on a cell phone. you’d think they’d just invented the darn things yesterday!

  13. Nancy says:

    Maybe because I am 60, am on disability so am home all the time, and have no friends around town to chat with thiat I do not own a cellular telephone (which I never refer to as a cell phone). I find my cordless landline telehone with no answering machine or voice mall is all I need. I cannot afford to go out to eat and so have not experienced the “joys” you and commenters have described, but if these situations were to happen to me, I wonder if I would have the guts to call a server over to tell the jerk they are disrupting others’ meals and to end their call until they have left the restaurant. It is a peeve of mine, BTW, to see The New York Times referred to as the New York Times. The word “The” is a part of the paper’s name and should be capitalized just as New York Times is. I do love your show, and look forward to Friday’s. I wish my dispersed family would wach as maybe some of the discord some show toward others would disipate a little.

  14. Armando says:

    only 85 percent of Americans own cell phones? no way :) i guess those 15% just lost their phones and waiting for replacement.

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