Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Not-So-Common Courtesy

This could be a rant. Easily. Soooo easily. But I won't do that to you. Instead, let me tell you a story...
Once upon a time, there was a weary princess who worked far too many hours.One day she realized she had to stop her work and run to the royal post office. So off, uh...she went. Of course, it was a day like any other in the kingdom of Justmyluck, so the line at the post office was long. Reaaaallly long. Like any good princess, she took the situation in stride and joined the line, only to find herself struggling not to listen in as the noblewoman (who was FAR from noble) in front of her talked, full volume, into the cell phone connected to her ear. Now I don't know about you, but our princess was taught that it's only common sense (&courtesy) to speak to the people around you when in public. But there this thirty-something woman stood, talking away. Without lowering her voice. Not caring one whit that she was forcing everyone in the room to listen in.

The princess glanced at the couple behind me...I mean, her... and their pained expressions matched the princess's own reaction. She wanted SO bad to turn back to the woman and blurt out, in her most Princessly tone, "Puh-lease! Have mercy! Don't make us listen to another inane word!" Instead, our dear princess held to decorum and settled for praying the line would move at a far speedier pace than the geriatric-tortoise-crawl customary at the post office. Thankfully, the woman's turn came and she moved up to the counter. The good princess let loose a relieved sigh. Surely the woman would hang--and shut--up now!

No such luck. The woman sidled up the counter and handed her large envelope to the clerk without stopping her conversation for even a second. She didn't look at the clerk. No eye contact, no recognition of a human standing there. When the clerk asked if she wanted postage, the woman tossed him an annoyed grimace and a cursory nod, then went on with her phone conversation.

By this time the people behind the princess were in full mutter mode. To his credit, the royal postal clerk handled the whole thing with grace and class. When the utterly oblivious woman snatched her receipt from his hand and headed out the door, the people in line cheered.

No fooling. They clapped and cheered.

Sad thing is, the woman didn't even noticed. She just kept walking and talking on that cursed cell. The princess...oh, forget it! I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but actually, I've seen it over and over in the last year. People more interested in cell phone conversations than in being courteous to those actually around them. People in their cars, talking away, cutting others off, almost causing accidents because they aren't focused on driving. People in movie theaters--and yes, in church!--who answer cell calls and talk away. People in lines or even checking out at stores, utterly ignoring the clerks as they chatter into cells.

I don't get it. What happened to common courtesy? What happened to looking someone in the eye and at least acknowledging they exist? What happened to paying attention when you're behind the wheel of what can become a several-ton lethal weapon??

Okay, fine. I'm ranting. Sorry about that. I just find it so...sad. How so many in our gotta-have-it-all society seem to have forgotten the importance of treating others with respect. How I forgot that for awhile. Yes, I'm just as guilty as the next person. In fact, I was the one who, a year ago, caused an accident--one I shouldn't have walked away from--because I was talking on a cell phone while driving. By God's grace, I survived. And no one else was hurt. But that incident was a definite wake-up call.

So I've made a decision. I can't control what others do, but I can make a change in my own life.
  • No more talking on the cell phone when I'm driving. (Haven't done so since the accident. Folks, I could have killed someone! So could any of you. It only takes a heartbeat of inattention for lives to change forever.) If the phone rings, I let it go to voicemail. Then call whomever it is back as soon as I'm off the road. Hands free or not, you're still distracted. So as far as I'm concerned, the only rule for cell phone usage while driving is HANDS OFF!
  • If I discover I'm talking to someone who is using a cell phone while they're driving, I ask them to call me back when they're parked. For the same reasons as above. I don't want to be the distraction that could end up hurting someone.
  • No more talking on the cell when there's a human in front of me. I will focus on the people around me and treat them with respect.
  • If I do have to take a call when I'm around others, I will walk away so that I'm not forcing anyone to listen to my conversation. If it means stepping out of a line, so be it. If it means going outside for privacy, fine. My conversation may interest me, but there's little chance it will do anything but irritate--and impose upon--others.
  • No more using the cell phone because I'm bored. I use it to make calls I NEED to make. It's a tool, that's all. It's not the center of my world.
So there you have it. My plan for keeping the cell phone in its place. And keep me focused on treating people the way my sweet mother taught me to treat them: with courtesy and respect.

Peace to you today.

"Princess" Karen


Nicole said...

Amen, Sistah!! I detest the use of the dang things in public places. Same thing happened to me in the post office! Some lady talking about "American Idol" contestants. Puh-leeze. My goodness.

Yes, they're a handy tool but so unnecessary for most of the trivial conversations had on them--especially in public.

Good grief. Hit a nerve here.

Cee Cee said...

I "hear" you on proper cell phone usage. I hate it when my mother comes 600+ miles to sit in my kitchen and talk to people she sees everyday.

Rel said...

Hey Princess! Bid thee come to the Kingdom Down Under where it is illegal to use one's mobile (cell)phone while driving so should one do so the long arm of the law just may reach thee - LOL!!!

Rant away, my friend! It is good to know one is not alone in these thoughts - LOL!!!!

Richard Mabry said...

I'd love to make this required reading for soooo many people. Thanks for putting into words what many of us have been muttering under our breath for quite a while.
Now if you'll excuse me, my cell phone is ringing. (Oops).

C.J. Darlington said...

I had an amusing experience like this recently at a concert. The first band who played had everyone's attention well enough, but the second band was just not connecting with the audience, made up mostly of teens. So during this band's set (during!) I looked around me and saw something like half the crowd sitting down text-messaging their friends on cell phones. It was actually quite hilarious, but I did feel a little bad for the band. I was glad I didn't have text-messaging on my phone or I might've succumbed to the temptation! :)

Karen B. said...

Oh, my, you all gave me a good laugh today. So thankful I'm not the only snarky person out there. Actually, I don't really think it's being snarky to ask folks for a little courtesy. I have a friend in retail who said she had a gal come to the checkout counter, phone at ear, and hand her what she wanted. When my friend started to ask a question, the gal stuck her hand up, like a cop stopping a car, to keep her from talking.

Any day now I expect to see a new malady being diagnosed: cell phone rage.

Hey. This is America. It could happen!

Karen, grinning again

Angela said...

Hey, K!

I was at the post office today (first time I've had to go in MONTHS!), and I noticed a new little sign at every single station. when I finally got close enough to read it, I saw that it said, "PLEASE TURN OFF ALL CELL PHONES WHEN YOU REACH THE COUNTER."

Ha! I loved it!