For What It’s Worth

Cell phones encourage rudeness

The noise, though not loud, clearly echoed through the stillness of the sanctuary as the speaker spoke earnestly during the memorial service. Someone had failed to turn off a cell phone or change the sound mode to vibration.

It was unplanned and, no doubt, regretted. Nonetheless, a rude and unnecessary interruption.

Then, a few minutes later, another cell phone with greater volume and a distinct ring sounded off, drawing attention from several in the audience.

To some extent, I have come to expect cell phones to ring almost anywhere—church, classroom, concert, wedding, and myriad other places where one would hope they would be silenced. Although not surprised to hear them, I still am not accepting of it. With regret, I have to confess to having had my phone ring in places I should have had it turned off. Still, whether it happens to me or someone else, it is rude.

Without doubt, cell phones have made a major contribution for good and progress in our society. However, they also have been a major stimulus to a rise in rudeness in many arenas of life.

Aside from the irritation of the sound and the breaking of concentration a ringing cell phone produces, it can lead to serious distraction when the phone call recipient feels compelled to answer or, at least, yields to the temptation. For example, I recall visiting in a church service a few years ago in which a man seated about two-thirds of the way toward the front of the sanctuary put his phone to his ear and walked out with his flip-flops clacking. If that weren’t rude and distracting enough, a few minutes later he wandered back in and returned to this seat.

We have all experienced multiple times going to a store and standing in line while a fellow customer chats loudly on a cell phone, allowing us the unwanted opportunity of sharing in his or her private life. Sometimes, the individual is happily recounting something funny, other times it is a business transaction, and, unfortunately, often it is an angry conversation. In none of these instances is it any of our business. Plus, the individual too often engages in profane language, which certainly is rude and disrespectful. I find it particularly rude when such language is used with children present.

Rudeness also results when people stop in the middle of a conversation and chat on the phone rather than informing the caller that they can’t talk at the moment and will return the call later. Holding up progress at the checkout counter while trying to talk on the phone and to the store employee at the same time is also rude. Texting in class or having whispered conversation is both rude and disrespectful to your classmates and the teacher.

In addition to contributing to a rise in rudeness, cell phone usage can endanger the user and, more importantly, other individuals. It is not unusual to hear or read about a person who is concentrating so much on texting that he or she walks off a curb, runs into an object, falls into a pond or water fountain, or otherwise suffers embarrassment or injury.

Especially dangerous is texting and driving a vehicle. That has become one of the most prevalent causes of wrecks with injuries or fatalities. Yet, despite the sure knowledge that they could kill themselves and possibly others, people continue to text and drive. That is beyond rude. It is reckless and irresponsible.

At times, I wonder: Who is smarter, people or Smartphones?

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