Sunday, January 26, 2014

Proper Cell Phone Etiquette for the Socially Impaired

Am I beating a dead horse here? Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

An old man walks into a theater. He’s there with his wife and they’re waiting for their perpetually-late adult son to show up to the outing. This Old Codger, he’s the type of guy that doesn’t take any shit from anyone. A real man’s man if you ask me. So he’s sitting two-thirds of the way up in the middle, primo seating. It’s a good thing he got there early. The previews start and he’s excited to see this film he’s heard so much about. He heard it was nominated for some awards. This asshole in front of Old Codger, though, he’s been texting away and talking loudly to his wife. So Old Codger politely asks Mr. Asshole to be quiet and put away his phone. One thing leads to another and BAM there’s one less Mr. Asshole in the world. Do you get it?

It seems to be the lament of every comedian, but few people are truly getting the message, so let me put it simply for you: Put away your goddamn phone.

These days, we seem to be transfixed by glowing screens, by the omnipresent Bright-and-Shiny. We’ll be in the presence of friends, of family, of a hot date. And hey, doesn’t this food look delicious—I’d better post a pic of it to my Instagram! Can you believe that guy in the car in front of me?—I’d better tweet about it, that’ll show him! I saw this awesome video the other day—I’d better interrupt everyone’s conversation to show them the video now!

Stop. Just stop.

Did that guy in the theater in Florida deserve to get shot? Probably not, but let’s be honest here, I’m glad he did. Perhaps he’ll serve as the poster child for improper cell phone use. Maybe all of the other Mr. Assholes of the world will think twice before whipping out their cell phone at inopportune times. That Old Codger who’s getting charged for second degree murder, he’s a martyr, really. He sacrificed himself for the good of humankind.

There’s a reason that every theater in America reminds you to silence and put away your phone, usually multiple times. It’s because that bright-ass LED and any noise you make with your greasy lips and pudgy fingers is distracting to moviegoers. Respect the $30+ I spent for this outing, Mr. Asshole.

There’s also a reason that there are laws in many states banning cell phone use while on an active motorway. Yes, “active motorway” includes while you’re at a stoplight. If you’re texting, talking on your phone without using a hands-free device, or reading your Facebook feed while you’re driving, you’re not devoting 100% of your attention to making sure you don’t kill a couple kids on your way to work. Have you forgotten that you’re operating a two-ton death machine? If you’re distracted when the light turns green, then you are not ready to move immediately, significantly delaying me getting to the theater to spend $30+. Every few seconds of delay at that light is another car you trapped by the upcoming red light. Plus, if you’re just now realizing that the light is green, you haven’t sufficiently checked to make sure there aren’t any errant children in your peripheral. If you’re out to dinner with a loved one, then every time you separate yourself from their presence by looking into your phone, you’re isolating and alienating them. You’re casting them away from you. You are choosing your online presence, or your friends who are not present, over the ones who are. You’re pissing everyone the fuck off. Who knows if the guy behind you is just another Old Codger who’s at his wit’s end with Mr. Assholes like you? Who knows if he’s got a gun? BAM, one less Mr. Asshole.

Now, here’s the thing: I’m just as addicted to social media as most people. Everyone likes being the center of attention, at least every once in a while. That’s why we take selfies, why we gripe about our day online, why we feel the need to announce to our entire network of friends, family and associates the minutiae of our lives. We feel that we’re important, that we’re all beautiful, interesting, unique snowflakes and everyone is interested in what we’re doing right now. But there’s a time and place for everything. Wait until you get home. Ask to be excused and step out if that text or phone call is so important. Nobody really cares that much about your life. If you are really that concerned about social interaction, then live in the moment and not through an LED screen. And for the love of God, put away your damn phone.

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