Reach out and punch someone

We need to adopt some new, universally accepted rules for cell phone etiquette before one of these rude cell phone users winds up getting punched in the face. And here I’m talking about the extremely loud lady at Borders the other day

I understand people have to be connected. God forbid you let your fellow citizens have five peaceful minutes in a bookstore. But this woman was talking on her cell with the same volume you’d use if you were in the front row of a Metallica concert. It was a real important conversation, too. Something about Tyler going to Glenwood this weekend.

Anyway, this fascinating dialogue went on for about 15 minutes before everyone within a 40-foot radius started thinking of different ways to kill her with the phone. I would have done it myself, but I already have two prior cell phone murder convictions under my belt and Colorado is a three-strikes state.

Our etiquette rules need to cover land lines, too, because I still don’t know how to handle caller ID. You people under 20 will be shocked to learn that we didn’t always have this technology. In the old days, you’d pick up the phone with no idea who was calling. In a way it was kind of exciting, because it literally could be anyone on the other end — a long-lost relative, Publisher’s Clearinghouse or an attractive member of the opposite sex inviting you to come over to drink tequila and play naked Twister.

In my case it was always AT&T asking me to switch my long distance carrier.

Here’s a typical modern scenario I have trouble with. The phone rings. You look at the caller ID, because you don’t want to answer it if it’s someone you wish to avoid, like a telemarketer, or a bill collector, or a jealous husband.

The screen reads: “Frank Smith.” What do you do? Do you answer with a presumptuous “Hi, Frank”? Do you act phony, pretend like you don’t know who’s calling and say: “Hello?” Or do you just angrily pick up and shout into the receiver: “For the last time, Frank, no! I am not interested in coming over and helping you shave your back.”

I remember my mom calling me after caller ID first came out. I’d always answer, “Hi, Mom!” But she didn’t know about caller ID yet, so this always caught her off guard. She’d ask me how I knew it was her, so naturally I told her I had psychic abilities. This went on for about six years. Now she has caller ID herself and realizes that instead of her son being a genius with ESP, he’s actually sort of a jackass.

Then there are the questions of etiquette surrounding outbound calls.

Say you have an acquaintance named Melanie. You call her but she doesn’t answer. Do you leave a message? She can see that you called, so isn’t that a sort of a message in itself? And if you don’t leave her a message at all, is that still considered a violation of the restraining order?

And why is it that some people always — always — answer their cell phone, even if it’s during the middle of, say, a dinner, or a meeting, or a funeral? They follow a typical routine: Pointing to their phone, they shamelessly slink out of the room while informing everyone in a very serious whisper that: “I really have to take this call. It’s important,” as if they are a cardiovascular surgeon called to an emergency aortic valve replacement, when in fact, they’re a real estate agent dealing with a backed-up toilet in a mobile home on Glade Park.

I’ve got lots of other phone-related etiquette questions, but I don’t have time for them right now. My phone is ringing, and I have to take this call. It’s important.

It’s AT&T.

E-mail Steve Beauregard at beauregardsteve@ hotmail.com.


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