A little courtesy

Published: Tuesday, August 1, 2006 at 9:29 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 1, 2006 at 9:29 a.m.

July was National Cell Phone Courtesy Month. You may have missed it if you were busy talking on your cell phone in a movie theater, restaurant or library.

A poll conducted by Pew Internet & American Life Project in cooperation with The Associated Press and AOL found 82 percent of all Americans had been irritated at least occasionally by loud and annoying cell phone users in public places. Nearly one in 10 said they had been criticized by others or stared at for using cell phones in public.

Cell Phone Courtesy Month was founded by etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore in 2001. "I don't think that (cell phone users) think about what they're doing in many times because we're multitasking," said Whitmore in a Webcast video produced for wireless carrier Sprint, which helps promote cell phone courtesy.

When in a restaurant, theater or other public setting, turn the phone from its ring setting to its silent or vibrate setting, advised Whitmore. Let voicemail take calls to avoid interrupting meetings or dinner. If a call must be answered, "excuse yourself and find a secluded area," she said.

The National Association of Theater Owners has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to allow theater owners to block cell phone signals within the theater. The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association objects, saying blocking signals will also block emergency calls.

And the FCC is considering a rule change to allow cell phone use on in-flight aircraft. But that proposal is drawing considerable objection from the Federal Aviation Administration, which has concerns about mobile phones interfering with aircraft navigation and other electronic devices.

No doubt, such conflicts will continue. Etiquette expert Whitmore said she has even had a priest complain that a parishioner in a confessional took time out to answer a ringing cell phone.

One more sin.

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