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Louise Elerding: ‘Cell yell’ and other phone irritations

You’ve got manners

Posted: January 13, 2011 10:31 p.m.
Updated: January 14, 2011 4:55 a.m.

How often do you feel your irritation level rising when near cell phone users?

Likely you have one, but isn’t it interesting how someone else’s cell phone manners can annoy you to the point of wanting to shout?

Some experts say the only thing advancing quicker than wireless innovation may be the rudeness of the people using the technology.

Being captive in any plane, train or bus where you’re essentially subjected against your will to someone else’s conversation makes you privy to listening to the most intimate details of their aunt’s illness, relationship problems with their lovers, their breakups and what they’re having for lunch that day. 

What was initially a public common space is now noticeably a smaller private holding tank.

A while ago, if cell phone users were politely asked to talk quietly, they would comply with respect. That is not always the case today.

Being the most widely used tool of technology, cell phones are here to stay and expand.

For some reason, most citizens will agree that cell phone etiquette is just about nonexistent.

Using the cell phone while at the same time being considerate of others seems to be a lost art with some people who otherwise may have good manners.

Professional surveys have been taken about the status of cell phone etiquette today. Based on how often readers plead with me to address cell phone manners, I doubt we need public surveys to tell us what is missing in this arena.

It’s a unanimous observation: Cell phone etiquette is in need of a huge makeover.

Here are some examples to remind us of how to increase our level of polite cell phone behavior:

* Be kind to people being of service to you.

Yesterday, I was waiting in line to order take-out behind a lady chatting on her phone. When she got to the counter, she handed the cafe employee a piece of paper with her order and said, “I’m on an important call.” This ranks high in rude behavior. Doesn’t the person behind the counter deserve some respect?

Put the phone away once you face another person eye-to-eye.

* Waltz yourself away: When you are in a restaurant and using your cell phone, take the call outside or at least away from the table. No one in your immediate surrounding, much less those dining with you, care to hear a personal conversation. If it is a matter of great importance, you could text, but even that has a definite limit, as well.

* Volume button down: It’s almost comical how people’s voices automatically go up a few decibels when they talk on a cell phone. This won’t make the message any clearer or more understandable.

Use as low a voice as possible and still be heard.

* Please and thank-you: Just because you are talking on a phone, it does not mean the world around you has stopped existing.

Have you noticed some people may do nice things for you such as hold a door open while you are on your phone? And some people are not capable of acknowledging another person’s presence and kind gesture?

Remember, the world is still in orbit.

* Drive directly to danger: Never, ever drive holding a cell phone. The traffic fines are not stiff enough because people are still breaking the law and doing this. If you text while driving, you are truly being reckless and a menace on the road. Be a responsible driver and save your life and that of someone else.

* Quiet places, quiet you: No one wants to pay for a movie ticket to hear your cell phone ring during a movie. The theater will remind you to turn it off, so please do. If for an important reason you must keep your phone on, turn it to vibrate.

Please don’t start talking until after you’ve left the theater. The same goes for special occasions, such as weddings, funerals and other milestone events.

Turn off your phone before entering the ceremony.

* Work out your body, not your mouth: Focus on your workout and building up your own good sweat. The gym is no place for a cell phone.

Don’t talk when you’re doing cardio, and don’t take up space on equipment so you can sit and catch up on the latest gossip.

If you need excitement while you spin, read a newspaper. Some people work out to relieve stress and clear their minds. Chatty voices are not conducive to this environment.

* People around you are important: If you’re out with a group of relatives or friends, it’s OK to answer the phone for a few minutes. Don’t make that conversation more important than the one you’re already having with them.

In business, this rule is imperative. Your social demeanor and attention to people speaks volumes.

Change the statistics and social energy regarding cell phones. Be mindful of those around you at all times when using a cell phone. Keep these tips in mind the next time you pick up that phone, and you will create a very positive environment for everyone around you. May this new year be Cell-Well for us all.

Now it’s time for “Cell-Tell.” Tell us your biggest pet peeve about unmannerly cell-phone usage, and we’ll print it in the next column. You can go nameless or add your name — your choice. Send it to this week.

Louise Elerding, is a manners, etiquette and personal appearance coach and the author of “You’ve Got Manners!” an illustrated series of children’s books. For information on table manners classes held at Valencia’s Salt Creek Grille or to submit questions for the “Ask Louise”’ column, call 1-818-259-3961 or visit


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