10 Commandments of Cell Phones

I wrote this a long time ago, but I thought it bears repeating.

The 10 Commandments of Cell Phones:

Ok, I know that we in America really value our independance, our sense of automatic rights, and our fast consumer lifestyle.  Cell phones have in one sense made all of that, and our lives in genral, a whole lot easier.  In other ways they have actually made life more difficult.  Of course, there is the fact that now with a cell phone everyone thinks that they have automatic access to you.  Also, there is the constant ringing and chatting and texting that surrounds us constantly.  There is also no peace that normally comes with going “incommunicato” and having alone time.

But little is less annoying than the fact that as a society we have such an entitlement attitude about our cell phones.  We really believe that if we choose to talk on the phone while we are driving no one can tell us not to, even if it endangers everyone else on the road.  We talk loudly in coffee shops about personal things while everyone else is trying to shut us out.  And all of it has to stop.  The problem with freedom is that it is only suited for an upright and moral society.  Thomas Jefferson said that.  He also said,
When virtue is banished, ambition invades the minds of those who are disposed to receive it, and avarice possesses the whole community.”

We need to make proper cell phone use a thing of virtue that is held up, and not tolerate selfish and obnoxious use thereof.  Cell phones are a privelege both legally and socially.  One does not have the right to use it irresponsibly, obnoxiously, or in any way detrimental to others.  I thereby propose this 10 Commandments of cell phones.

All cell phone rules apply to both text messaging or talking on the phone, unless otherwise stated.

1. Talk at a reasonable volume.
The phone company actually electrically amplifies your voice for you.  You do not need to make your voice loud enough for it to naturally carry to the otherside of the town.  If that is your plan, then it is not talking on the cell phone.  It is called “yelling.”  If you can’t control your volume you should try turning up your volume on your phone or maybe get some devices to aid you in hearing better.
2. Do not talk about personal matters in public.
For some reason the advent of the cell phone has been tied to a mass hysterical belief that the cell phone itself creates a Maxwell Smart-esque “Dome of Silence” around anyone using it.  I think this has a connection to the “loud talkers” that were just mentioned in rule 1 because it is often the same people talking loudly who are also talking about very personal matters.  A good rule here is, if you wouldn’t want it printed in the newspaper then you shouldn’t be talking about on your cell phone (at least not in public).  We can see you when you are picking your nose while driving.  We can also hear you talking on your cell phone.  Other people do actually exist, and they don’t want to hear about who might be pregnant, what your doctor said about your test results, or even what you want your business to do in the next calendar year.  Save those personal conversations for your own personal time.
3. Do not take/make calls while talking to or doing business with someone else.
I’ve worked in retail for some time, and frankly the rudeness of people on their cell phones whom you are trying to help has just gotten out of hand.  I have actually had customers walk up to me asking for help, and then proceed to completely ignore me as they continue talking loudly about overly-personal matters on their cell phone.  If I owned my own business I would actually tell them that I will wait to help them until they have the courtesty to get off their phone.  The same goes for the people who in mid conversation with you then proceed to take/make a call and act like you simply disappear.  It is rude.  Stop it.
4. Turn your phone completely off when you are in a meeting
OK, this is one that needs to be heeded especially by those at the top of the business/social order.  We typically (subconsciously) equate cell phones with importance  (Why do you think every 12 year old thinks he needs one?)  So obviously, the most important people are those who always have to be reachable in case there is some really important decision that only they can make.  But most of us are not really that important.  Most of us can afford to let anyone who calls leave a voice mail.  Some people would beg to differ, but I offer this litmus test: If someone won’t die or have some other permanent major problem in life happen (no teenagers, not being able to talk to your “crush” who told you he’d call at this time is not a permanent major proble in life) because you didn’t pick up the phone, then it can be left off.  And I do mean off.  Not on vibrate. OFF.
I constantly notice this problem, even in places like church.  Of course there are exceptions.  An on-duty fireman must have his on, or someone of like position.  But frankly, every fireman I’ve ever known leaves his on vibrate in such situations, and usually sits in the back in case he has to sneak out at the slightest vibration.  And usually it is not these people who cause the problem.  It is not intentional, the apologist would say.  It is just an oversight.  I believe that, but if you really thought it was important you’d turn it off.  I guarantee it would be off if you were the one who was preaching.  Either way, when you leave the phone on during a meeting it says to everyone there “Anyone who may dial my phone number is more important than you.”  I don’t think that is the message that you want to portray.
5. Turn off that little automated addendum on your voice mail.
Most people have no idea what this is, so let me explain.  When you get someones voice mail you usually hear something like, “Hi this is Chuck and I can’t get to the phone right now, so leave a message at the beep and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.” Now here is where we get the lovely addendum (in a computer voice) “Leave your message at the tone.  When you are finished recording hang up or press pound for more options.”  This is the silliest thing to me.  If a person doesn’t really know how to leave a message on another persons voice mail by this day and age, they probably aren’t going to be able to use the phone to call you in the first place.  So why in the heck do we need a person telling us how to do it, and then a robot telling us the same thing?  Actually, we don’t.  The computer addendum can be turned off in the setup options of any voice mail system.  It was meant to be there to replace a persons greeting when that person didn’t want to have their own voice on their greeting.  Most people just don’t investigate their voice mail enough to figure it out.  Please turn that addendum off.  I beg you!  That 10 seconds wasted each call could add up to an extra hour of sleep for me every night 😛
6. Turn down/vibrate your ring in places where it might disturb others
We have more ringtone options than ever before with the current technology on cellphones.  So you want “White and Nerdy” by Weird Al to play whenever I call.  It’s all good.  But when I am reading in the bookstore, or in the library, or a place where a lot of people are talking in a subdued manner, no one, let me repeat, no one wants to hear your flavor of the month interrupting everything.  Use some of those options you paid $300 bucks for, and make it quiet.  Please.
7. Only use your Bluetooth headset when it is necessary.
Believe me, I’m a big fan of the Bluetooth.  I have one myself.  My wife gets her paycheck by selling them to distributors.  I am all in favor of the Bluetooth, especially when it is used while people are driving (more on that later).  Despite all of this, daily I watch people walk around all over town with their Bluetooth headsets on.  Sometimes they are actually talking on the phone.  I could go on and on about this, but I’ll try to make it short.
First of all, most of the time that people are using their Bluetooths they have NO need whatsoever to have their hands free.  This is not a huge problem, really.  But it does point out the utter ridiculousness of some people.  I do realize that you bought a $100 piece of handsfree equipment that you now feel compelled to use.  But let’s be honest.  You bought the Japanese beatle-esque device simply because you wanted to seem as cool as everyone else, not because you were walking around all day unable to carry things because you were gabbing on the phone.
Of course, what this leads to is not cool at all.  Perhaps many of you didn’t quite think this all the way through.  Now you are walking through Barnes and Noble talking about your problems with hair loss at the top of your lungs, wildly gesticulating with your hands (cause man are they free), and everyone else is playing “look at the looney.”  If you had seen someone walking around doing the same thing 10 years ago you would have called for the men in the white coats, but now you are the one doing it, and all the while thinking “I am so cool.”
This brings me to my final issue: people walking around with their headsets on with no intention of having a phone conversation at all.  Yes, yes, I know that it is in case a call miraculously comes in.  It would be next to impossible to reach into your shirt pocket and put the thing in your ear in enough time to answer the call before it even rings, but lets get to the real reason you are doing it.  When you bought your bright pink Motorola Bluetooth you weren’t buying it to blend in.  You bought it because you thought it, and therefore you, looked absolutely cool.  It is a neat little device, and I’m sure in the future it will become the size of a small hearing aid.  That said, you don’t look like Universal Soldier, or a model for the Army’s Landwarrior Project.  Everyone looking it you is thinking, “He really thinks he is cool.”  People aren’t envious.  They are laughing.  I am not trying to be rude.  I know that it kind of sounds like that.  I am really not.  I am trying to help.  Please, if you aren’t using it just put it away.  I understand if you are an automechanic under a car, a secretary taking phone calls all day, or a cab/truck driver, but everyone else just have some cooth.  Please
8. Keep your voicemail greeting short.
9. In-person takes precedence over on the phone.
I was recently re-signing the lease at my apartment building and trying to hurry to make it to my next appointment, when the lady helping me suddenly got a phone call.  Without saying a word to me, she proceeded to turn completely away and have a full length conversation while I waited.   This happens to me on an almost daily occurance with people, no matter where I am.  We really can’t let our culture degrade to this.  It is really the height of rudeness.  I went through the effort to actually arrive in your presence to discuss something, yet someone who simply pressed a few buttons gets bumped up the access list simply because the magic little glowy lights flash and a song plays, really?
It doesn’t take much to do the right thing in this situation.  Let’s role play to see how it could work:
I am talking to you about the rise of the three day weekend holiday and its effect on microeconomics and socio-economic polarization…(ring…ring)
You: “I am sorry, I really need to take this, will you excuse me?”
Me: “Sure, no problem.”
You to your phone friend: “Hello how are you?….Hey, can I call you back, I am in a super important conversation with a significant religious figure (me).”
You to me: “Sorry about that.  Now where were we?”
See, it was painless, and all it took was thinking about what the other person might be thinking, and not being a slave to the cell phone.
10. No calls while driving
This is a perfect time to use your Bluetooth, because other than that no one, and that includes me, should ever be using the cell phone while driving.  You may think you can drive while holding that thing up to your face.  Well, I am being very frank in this post, so let me be totally blunt here.  You have no ability to drive while talking on your phone.  Your vehicle can be a very dangerous weapon.  Please be responsible, and don’t do it.  I am daily almost murdered by people having a lovely conversation and just out for a drive.  I have new restrictive laws, but it should be illegal everywhere.
Oops, I’m getting a call….we’ll talk more later….have a good day!

2 thoughts on “10 Commandments of Cell Phones

  1. This is the funniest thing I’ve ever read. Although I am guilty of a few (I drive while talking and can’t figure out how to turn off the little robot voice on my voice mail)I totally agree on everything. You put it in a very funny way. Btw, am I the only person to post comments? How do you feel about them? Are they annoying or do you like knowing that someone is actually reading your musings? 😀

  2. Thank you so much for the compliment, and the comment. Turning off your “robot voice” is accessible through your “personal options” on your voice mail settings. Just play with it. You will figure it out. Some systems can’t turn it completely off, but most have options to shorten it.

    You are not the only one to make comments. The site is really set up with 4 separate blogs. Some have more of a following (like church-tech) than others, and therefore more comments. I love comments! I blog for myself, not to get readers, but readers add comments that often really make me think, or at least make it a lot more fun. I don’t find comments annoying, unless the person is being annoying, which I haven’t actually had…yet. I also do not have a huge readership yet, because it is such a new site.

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