Stop & shop: Cell phone etiquette at an all-time low
July 31, 2006
Like a bad smell in a small, hot room, the cell phone has overpowered our culture. It can be a wonderful aid in an emergency, and it certainly serves as a positive tool for many contractors and businessmen, but in the hands of certain drivers, it can be a deadly weapon.It seems as if a huge number of citizens have had negative encounters with drivers on cell phones, enough encounters to rally for legislation that would ban such devices in vehicles. A large percentage of those folks probably shouldn’t be driving to begin with, as they are not particularly good at what they are doing without a cell phone in hand. So you take an inept driver and handicap him or her even further by adding the distraction of a cell phone to the mix. Doesn’t make much sense to me!For some reason, it appears as if women are more addicted to this business of driving and phoning than are men. That conclusion is based on nothing more than casual observations, but I would be willing to bet a dollar or two that it is a fact. I don’t know. Maybe it is the result of some yet to be discovered feminine gene, or perhaps it is the fact that women have more to say of importance than men? I am certain many ladies would agree with that.At any rate, I have had a couple of aggravating encounters with drivers on cell phones but nothing to compare with what happened about three weeks ago. I was hit by a lady on a phone while shopping at City Market in El Jebel. It did not happen in the way to the store, nor did it occur in the store’s parking lot — it happened inside the store.I was walking down one of the main aisles when she came bursting out of a side aisle, babbling away into her cell phone and paying no attention to anything around her. It was a minor collision but an aggravating one nonetheless because it could have been easily avoided. Amazingly enough, I did not go ballistic. I muttered something to her about the dangers of multitasking in a crowded grocery and she shot me one of those looks that could be translated as, “Who in the hell do you think you are, anyway,” as she continued down the aisle, babbling into her phone.Had she hesitated for a second, I could have explained that I am a cranky old fart who has had it completely with narcissist individuals who have no manners whatsoever, or believe they are too important to be courteous toward anyone. But she was gone, so I trundled off, bought some king crab and had a terrific dinner that night, with no thoughts of the day’s strange incident.Guess what? It happened again about a week later. I was back in City Market near the checkout stands when this young man on a cell phone, who was in an obvious hurry, came charging out of one aisle, barely missing me and my cart, and turned quickly into the next aisle. He was, of course, talking away and did not seem even to notice just how close he came to colliding with my cart. He certainly never acknowledged the near miss. He was young, maybe still in his late teens, and perhaps had not yet developed the ability to think. At any rate, it was much easier to excuse him than that arrogant lady I had encountered the previous week. I am working on a theory that when the ozone hole appeared over Antarctica, it somehow sucked all of the remaining civility off our planet and sent it spinning into outer space. Or maybe it just has to do with the fact that modern parents fail to teach their children manners and politeness, and they themselves are just too damn busy trying to get ahead to waste time being courteous toward others. I’m not certain what is going on, but I do know it is becoming rather uncomfortable out there.A friend, upon hearing my story, told me about a woman he encountered in City Market who had blocked the aisle with her cart and was standing there reading a product label to someone on the other end of her cell phone. My friend said he offered up an “excuse me” a couple of times and all the woman did was glare at him. She must have been terribly upset that he was interrupting her phone call. Is this what we have come to?One of my favorite images appeared while I was standing in front of the Woody Creek Tavern and a cyclist went by talking on her cell phone. That is definitely taking it to the extreme. No, let me correct that. “Taking it to the extreme” would be blithering away on your cell phone while having sex. That seems kinky enough to encourage someone out there to give it a try.I suppose it is rather shallow of me to be put off by cell phones considering all the tragic events taking part around the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, India, Pakistan and now Lebanon and Israel. But I do know this, I intend to upgrade my alert system to “red” that next time I go to City Market. This is the 331st article in a two-part series devoted to the community of Woody Creek, a place where grocery shopping may be included in the next X-Games.