I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers. Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.
Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:
This week’s topic comes from Moma Rock, who said: Some airlines allow it. Other’s don’t. What’s your take on airlines allowing cell phone usage while in-flight? Are you for it, or against it?
My answer is simple: Cell phone usage should not be allowed on airplanes. Period.
The reasoning behind my answer rings slightly more complicated. I am actually okay with people texting on their cell phones on a plane, or checking email or playing a game or whatever non-talking-out-loud options their phones offer. The problem arises when people begin to use those phones as originally intended – as phones, objects into which they speak. With that, I am so not okay.
I blame it on Therapy Woman.
I’ve mentioned before that one of my kids has special needs, and those needs require twice-per-week therapy. The sessions happen at a pediatric therapy center in a suburb just west of ours: an hour on Tuesdays; 45 minutes on Thursdays. While she works with her therapists, I sit in the narrow, crowded waiting room with an assortment of other special parents. The room is stuffed with chairs, and those chairs are stuffed with people, most of whom are tired or stressed, all of whom would rather be somewhere else. Many read or text or check Facebook on iPads or phones; others work on laptops or occupy their children.
But not Therapy Woman. No, Therapy Woman talks. On her phone. Constantly. Incessantly. LOUDLY.
Over the past months, I’ve heard a variety of Therapy Woman’s phone conversations. I’ve heard highlights, low lights, the mundane. I’ve heard her negotiate a house sale, order Mexican take-out, check on her mother. I’ve heard her argue with a kitchen designer, complain about the shortage of parking in the therapy center lot, order Italian take-out. I’ve heard her and I’ve heard her and I’ve heard her. I’ve put in my headphones and listened to my iPod and, yet, still, I heard her.
One week, I bumped into Therapy Woman in the upstairs vestibule instead of in the waiting room. She was, of course, on the phone, either brokering world peace or ordering Thai – who can remember? Later, I passed her again on my way out. I caught a snippet of her conversation (how could I not?). She was complaining that someone in the waiting room had been really rude and – gasp! – had shushed her as she tried to talk on the phone. The nerve! she cried. What was the world coming to? I left her roiling in her haze of righteous indignation and walked to my car, shaking my head. The nerve, indeed.
Therapy Woman was right: someone in the waiting room had been rude. But it hadn’t been the man who bravely (and thankfully) shushed her. It had been her, of course. In all the weeks I’d been near her, including that day, she gave absolutely no thought to how her loud, public conversations might be unwelcome in the small space she shared with a dozen other people. She apparently held no clue that she spoke much, much too loudly for her surroundings or that, sometimes, she spoke of topics that were not appropriate for an audience.
Therapy Woman is why I want a bright-line “no phone” rule on airplanes. Plane travel is stressful enough: small spaces, jam-packed carry-ons, testy airline personnel. Planes are replete with passengers clutching bags of McDonalds or bottles of nail polish or pairs of toenail clippers, which they then eat or uncap or snap open (and use!) in flight. Throw in rows and rows of Therapy Women scolding car mechanics or yelling at husbands or ordering pizza and inevitably this mode of travel will progress from merely stressful to largely unbearable.
Although Moma Rock’s topic seems simple, it implicates a much bigger issue. It asks us to consider terms of our shared social contract, elements like manners, respect, and common courtesy. These basic tenets too often seem dead, or at least mortally wounded. These days, it seems that when people are given an inch, they take a mile – and then another and another and another after that. There’s a big “i” screaming out from the middle of “society,” and individual want now trumps the greater good. Too many people believe social rules of propriety don’t apply to them; too many people believe they deserve special treatment. And if it isn’t given to them, they simply take it, oblivious to the cost.
In law school, we discussed “bright-line” rules – the ones that say something (say, cell phone usage) is absolutely prohibited, etc. We talked of the “slippery slope,” how the goal of the law must be clarity, because the gray area always leads to problems. It’s that slope I consider when I say that, even though I’m okay with cell phone texting or game playing on a plane, cell phones must be completely banned. It’s too short a leap from using your hands to text to using your mouth to talk. I easily imagine people “hiding” cell phones in their hair or next to their shoulders, trying to make it look as if they are simply talking to their seatmate, and I imagine the fight that would follow between the rule breaker and the flight attendant. And I just sigh.
I’ve had too many doors not held open, too many “thank yous” not answered with “you’re welcomes,” too many hours listening to Therapy Woman order Kung Pao chicken to believe that the allowance of cell phones on airplanes will end well. And, frankly, there’s something a little wonderful about the idea of being disconnected for a time – an hour or two or maybe even three or four – without the possibility of a ringing phone or a binging text, be it mine or something else’s. Maybe I’ll make conversation with the person in the seat next to me; maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll read or nap or look out the tiny window at the clouds. Or maybe I’ll just sit, silently, enjoying the whoosh of the airplane engines as they carry me far away from Therapy Woman and everything she represents.