I really like to think I’m the first guy to admit when I’m wrong. Not surprisingly, I have a certain amount of experience in this. In practice, I usually admit that I’m wrong, but it takes a little while, so I’m not really the “first” guy. This is the case once again. I’ve had a cell phone for about a year now, and I’m finally willing to admit that it’s as handy as a pocket on a shirt. Yep, the cell phone is not the absolute evil I had thought it was. I’m not saying it can’t be evil, I’m just saying it has cleaned up its act in my mind recently, and I’d like to keep it that way. Apparently, this requires a little more work than I previously thought.
When you first get a cell phone, they give you all sorts of tutorials on how to use the phone. I was primarily concerned with the vibrate feature because, well, let’s just be honest — it’s a strange and yet awesome sort of feeling. I was really wishing people would call me more often for a couple of months, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t much like talking on the phone. The problem is they don’t give you a tutorial on the social aspects of the cell phone. I’d pretty much ignored these so far, but I found out July is Cell Phone Courtesy Month, and there are only a couple of days left to make sure my shit is in compliance. Thus, this column.
The first rule on the cell phone courtesy list is “be all there.” This doesn’t mean don’t be crazy. It means pretend you don’t have a cell phone when you’re in a meeting or a performance or something like that. So far, I’ve been OK on that one for the most part, but I’ll admit it’s tough. No matter how great the thing happening to you at a particular moment is, there’s a chance someone is calling about a far greater thing that could be happening to you. I find it best to politely excuse yourself just to make sure you aren’t missing anything.
They also say it’s a good idea to keep your phone conversation private. This is also a fine idea. No one wants to hear any of your business, even if you are convinced they do. Go off by yourself and get your situation taken care of so the rest of us don’t have to stare at you. Those little headsets that attach to people’s ears still make me wish they would bring back the old tradition of drawing and quartering. These don’t make you cool or futuristic. The only people who go out in public with things sticking out of their ears are people who are hard of hearing or assholes.
It’s always a fine idea to keep your cool on a cell phone. I was at a stoplight the other day, and a rather big fella was on his phone accusing his girlfriend of sleeping around. I’ll admit it was an interesting sort of conversation to listen to — right up to the point where he realized I was listening and looked at me like he was about to kick my eavesdropping ass. I didn’t really want to be listening, but he was screaming and emotional, and it was far more captivating than waiting for a red light to change. Don’t put others in a position to get their ass kicked, even if your girlfriend is apparently sort of a slut.
Next, they say not to forget to use your phone’s vibrating feature. Oh, don’t worry about that one, not even for a second. After that, they say we should avoid the “cell yell.” This is, of course, talking too loud on the cell phone. I’ll admit, it is annoying. If this were actually a crime, my father would be serving life without parole. Many times, even though he’s more than 100 miles away, I swear I can hear his faint voice in the wind if I put the phone down.
You’re also supposed to follow the rules that have been set in a specific area. If they have a sign that says “no cell phones,” it’s not particularly hard to figure out what that means . . . at least it shouldn’t be. Excuse yourself from others if you have to take a call. This is a good rule because it allows to make fun of all the people you were with before the call came in. Lastly, if nothing else, just use text messaging to cut down on the needless audible conversation. This doesn’t work for me because it takes me several minutes just to make a capital “S.” If you aren’t a moron, though, you should totally try it.
After going through the whole list, it turned out I was a far better, and also a far worse, cell phone user than I had previously thought. My fear, though, is that it’s only going to get worse. When something is still new to a person, they think about every aspect of it, but once it becomes second nature, the rude-ass self-conscious begins to take over more and more. This will not be ideal. On the other hand, I don’t really have any sort of social graces in other areas, so I’m not sure why this one should concern me quite so much. It’s probably because I know I’m already a lost cause.

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