You with the cell phone — Quiet!
BY ALYSSA McMILLAN
OU News Bureau
About 90 percent of all adults in the U.S. own a cell phone. That means a lot of phone calls in public where everyone can hear — and get annoyed.
International etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore went so far as to establish July as National Cell Phone Courtesy Month. On her blog, she posted a video of “American Idol” runner-up Adam Lambert halting a song and asking someone in the audience to get off her phone.
“I think what has happen is people have forgotten basic politeness,” said Dr. Howard Belkin, a psychiatrist at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
Ileene LaBell of Huntington Woods knows from experience. A Thai restaurant denied her service when she was talking on the phone. She agreed she was in the wrong.
“There is a time and place for everything,” she said. “If the conversation can wait and it is not urgent, then I don’t see the need to do it in a public place.”
Belkin said that society has changed dramatically — for better and worse.
“Communication has improved significantly, but privacy is down and so is accountability,” Belkin said. “With the use of cell phones in public, people forget that they are out in public, and they think they are in the privacy of their own home.”
Movie theatres that once just had a “shh” sign before the movie, now ask patrons to please turn off their cell phones.
Micky Blumenfeld of Oak Park said that while she was trying to enjoy a movie, a man’s cell phone went off in the theatre. His ringer announced who was calling, and he answered the call. When Blumenfeld asked the man to be quiet, the man continued the phone call.
“It wasn’t until I got the usher, that he stopped,” Blumenfeld said. “Silence is golden. He needs to know that.”
Barb Zanetti, senior director of Uptown Entertainment, which runs theaters in Birmingham and downtown Detroit, said cell phones in movie theaters have become a common problem and challenge.
“I think it does impact the movie experience for the people,” she said. “It comes down to public etiquette, and it’s a society problem.”
Zanetti said although patrons may get disruptive, staff can’t go in and talk to everyone because that would be even more disruptive, but they do make routine movie checks. She said she’s observed patrons asking others to quit talking on cell phones.
Even when it’s not a phone call, the bright light from texting or just checking a phone is a distraction.
“It’s an industrywide problem,” Zanetti said.
The movie theater industry looked into jamming signals so that cell phones could not work, but it did not go through with the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC said jamming cell phones signals is in violation of federal law because it can block emergency communication.
Zanetti said it doesn’t take many people to ruin it for the whole crowd.
CTIA, the international association for the wireless telecommunications industry, reports there are 322 million cell phones in America. With the proliferation of such phones, Cellphones.org put together a list of tips to remind cell phone users of public etiquette.
Brad Betkett, employee of the Hunter House in Birmingham said it slows down service when customers talk on the phone while ordering.
“It’s always during the rush, too,” he said. “It’s probably ignorance, they don’t care, or they probably just don’t see the sign.”
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