Monday, August 21, 2000

Cell users: Keep it quiet

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's a scene Shelly DeFelice has seen often enough at Covington's Dee Felice Cafe.

        In the hope of celebrating some romantic landmark, a couple asks for a cozy table in a quiet corner.

        “The next thing I know the man's on a cell phone,” the manager-hostess said, laughing. “What's that all about? Real romantic, huh?”

  The keyword to cell phone usage in public places is don't. If you must use a cell phone, follow these tips:
  • Use your voice mail as a polite way to keep in touch with the office.
  • Arrange to divert urgent calls to an assistant or a colleague.
  • Use a “quiet” method of message notification like vibration or a flashing light.
  • Use cellular phones with caution in hospitals and turn the ringer off.
  • Switch phones off before entering cinemas, theaters, concerts or any public performance.

        Are cell phones libido quenching? Maybe.

        Rude? Definitely, etiquette experts say.

        “Cell phones are the greatest invention since sliced bread when they are used properly,” Enquirer advice columnist and business etiquette expert Ann Marie Sabath wrote in a recent article.

        “However, since they do not come with much-needed courtesy manuals, many ... cell phone users don't realize that using a mobile phone in a restaurant setting is an invasion of privacy. Etiquette dictates that cell phones be turned off upon entering a restaurant.”

        As cellular phones proliferate, with more than 100 million U.S. users and counting, so do complaints about cell phone rudeness.

        “No Cell Phones” signs are popping up all over. Restaurants, theaters, libraries, museums and medical offices have banned the devices.

        Signs posted on the doors of Cincinnati City Council demand visitors turn off all cell phones and pagers.

        And at Playhouse in the Park, signs politely tell patrons to turn off cell phone ringers so as not to distract performers. Yet, every now and then, officials at the theater said, a ringer will go off.

        “Our customers are polite. They'll get up and go outside and talk. But it can be distracting,” one employee said.

        At his Jeff Ruby's Steak House, 700 Walnut St., Jeff Ruby has taken the lead locally in curbing cell phones usage. A sign posted by the maitre d's stand states: “Cell phones are a turn-off.”

        Manufacturers have started campaigns to educate cell phone users about etiquette.

        In San Diego, Nokia Corp. took part in Cell Phone Courtesy Week this summer, handing out “Quiet Zone” stickers to businesses. Mayor Susan Golding started the campaign after respondents to a question on her Web site overwhelmingly favored restricting cell phones in public places.

        Sociologist Jill Stein said that while the novelty of cell phones is wearing off, people still feel important when they use them in public: “Now everybody gets to be a big shot.”

        She believes high-tech innovations have helped hasten the deterioration of old-fashioned etiquette.

        “Manners between strangers have broken down,” said Ms. Stein, a UCLA sociology professor. “We've become desensitized to each other.”
        The Associated Press contributed.


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