he phone rings. I
click File, Save. The voice on the line is familiar and
more than friendly.
"Hi, it's Gordon. How ya doin'?"
"Been a long time. Thought I might
check up on you."
Several pleasantries later, I looked at
my watch and back to the screen. "Gordon, I'm kind of
in the middle of something here. Can I call you back?"
"Sure, got a pencil? I'll give you my
cell phone number. The 405 is chrome-to-chrome. Ring
me up later."
know that cellular enthusiasts have discovered a
wonderful remedy for traffic jams and other boring
situations. Unlike radios and tape players, however,
this technology entertains the caller by
demanding the unwelcome participation of the callee.
Then there's this other problem I
encountered recently on a shuttle bus at LAX.
A person with an exceptionally
loud voice in the seat next to me pulls out a
flip-flop phone and thumbs up some
here [beat]. On our way to pick up a car
[beat]. That's right, a car, okay? Hahaha!
Everything all set for the meeting? Hahaha!
No, I brought them with me (grins at others
on the bus). Hahaha, both of them, okay?
Hahaha! So, who's going to be there? You
can't be serious [beat]. I was afraid of
that [beat]. But we won't let him get away
with anything, okay? Hahaha! And you know
what else he's looking for [beat].
Yup[beat]. Uh-huh [beat]. That's for sure.
Wrested from my own
contemplations, I found myself listening and
not a little embarrassed. It was obvious
that the caller next to me was not bored. I
tried to remember the last time I saw a real
phone booth. The kind with doors.
Calls were private back
then. And non-invasive. I may be mistaken,
but before cellular phones, nobody would
think of blasting their half of a
conversation all over a waiting room or a
restaurant. Or a shuttle bus.
"We'll be there in a few
minutes, okay? Hahaha! Bye-bye." The caller
put the phone back in her purse as the bus
pulled into the lot.
o here's my
idea. If you get a call like this from me, just play
"Hello, may I speak to Emily
Post? Yes, I'll hold [beat]. Miss Post?
Thanks for taking my call. I'm sitting here
with some time to kill, and --
Excuse me, will you please
lower your voice, I'm trying to talk on
the phone, too.
-- some time to kill, and I
got to wondering: Are you planning to update
your chapter on phone manners for cellular
users? Hahaha! What's that? Yes, right next
to me [beat]. No [beat].You wouldn't believe
it if I told you [beat]. Hahaha!"
Epilog Six years after this screed was published,
an anecdote entitled "Brave New World" arrived by
forwarded e-mail from several correspondents...
On a drive from
Montreal heading toward Quebec City, I found it
necessary to stop at a comfort station. The
first stall was occupied, so I went into the
second one. I was no sooner seated than I heard
a voice from the next stall:
"Hi, how are you doing?"
Well, I am not the type to chat
with strangers in highway comfort stations,
and I really don't know quite what possessed
me, but anyway, I answered, a little
embarrassed, "Not bad."
"And, what are you up to?"
asked the stranger.
Talk about your dumb questions!
I was really beginning to think this was too
weird! So I replied, "Well, just like you, I'm
Then I heard the stranger, all
upset, say, "Look, I'll call you back.
There's some idiot in the next stall answering
all the questions I am asking you."
And then another dozen
years later, in 2015, this anecdote came along...
After a tiring day,
a commuter settled down in his seat and
closed his eyes. As the train rolled out of
the station, a woman sitting next to him
pulled out her mobile phone.
She started talking
in a loud voice: "Hi sweetheart. It's Sue.
I'm on the train. [beat] Yes, I know it's
the six-thirty and not the four-thirty, but
I had a long meeting. [beat] No, honey, not
with that Kevin from the accounting office.
It was with the boss. [beat] No sweetheart,
you're the only one in my life. [beat]Yes,
I'm sure, cross my heart!"
Minutes later, she was
still talking loudly. When the man sitting
next to her had enough, he leaned over and
said into the phone, "Sue, hang up the
phone and come back to bed."