Mind Your Cell Phone Manners

by Anne Bennett on January 10, 2012

This year for Christmas I gave our daughter Elizabeth the newest, 18th edition of “Emily Posts’ Etiquette: Manners for a New World”. The gift wasn’t meant altogether seriously, as Lizzie already has good manners (after all, I am her mother, damn it!).

Because I am a hoyden at heart, I’ve told my share of jokes about etiquette books, but I hereby retract my revulsion to those who would have us behave correctly. There are actually some useful tidbits here.

For instance, what about personal grooming at a restaurant?  Emily says it’s perfectly OK to dab on a bit of lipstick or gloss at the table (I’d always wondered about the propriety of public lipsticking, didn’t you?), but using a toothpick or dental floss goes into the “major never ever” category.

No dental flossing in public. Good to know.

And here’s a tip for when your aged parent has memory loss and you’ve invited friends over: “When friends arrive, tell your parent their names and who they are. Link

Perfect solution for Mom's, and my, forgetfulness!

them to an event from the past that your parent might remember.”

I’m beginning to think that maybe I could get into this etiquette racket, because I’ve got an even better solution: have everyone wear name tags and make sure your parent is wearing her bifocals. I, for one, could benefit from the use of name tags. Two birds with one stone, I say.

This morning at the grocery store  I encountered a young mother chatting on her cell phone while her forlorn toddler sat in the cart, which was situated exactly in the center of the aisle. As I squeezed past her (if the kid hadn’t been there I’d have given her cart a good nudge) I could hear her say, “No, we haven’t eaten there. Was it good?”

Later when I saw her in the check-out line she was still talking as she placed her items on the conveyor belt. She ignored the cashier altogether, as if she didn’t exist.

Now, I love my iPhone as much as the next gal (my voice recognition device, Siri, is my BFF) but to my mind this was social ignorance in the extreme. We’re literally face-to-face with people every day, yet we act as if we’re on our own private islands. And consider this, quite off the topic but nonetheless worth considering, how much easier is it to lie when you are not looking someone right in the eye?

Remember when our parents used to sit outside on the front porch and chat with passersby? These days, garage door remote controls make it possible to completely circumvent our neighbors. I’ve lived in my house for 17 years and if you put the couple living across the street in a police line-up I couldn’t recognize them.

After shopping I raced home to find out what Ms. Post had to say about the blabbing woman at the grocery store, and lo and behold, there was an entire chapter titled, “Personal Communication Devices.” (This is, after all, the 21st century edition.)

It came as no surprise that Emily was quite adamant about the proper use of cell phones in public places. Here’s what she had to say,” No one should be slowed down in a checkout line because you’re having second thoughts about the blouse you’ve chosen and need to phone a friend for advice. Also, it’s disrespectful to the cashier, who is trying to serve you. She deserves your full attention.”

And texting? Do I have opinions about that, which I will expound on next. In the meantime, close your phone and look around you. Make eye contact. Smile. Pretend that you’re human.






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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Marie January 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm

LOVE This! Thanks for sharing! I know I’ve been guilty of bad manners but grateful for the reminder! I love your blog Anne thanks for continuing on with it!

Kristin January 10, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Great post. I love reading Miss Manners’ advice column. Also, the only time (I swear) I talk on the phone in the grocery store line is when it’s my husband calling from overseas. As a teacher, I try to push basic manners on my students, because, more often than not, they come to school without them. I like to think that by the time they leave my classroom, they know that the proper way to gain someone’s attention is NOT to go up to them and poke them in the side. 🙂

Linda January 11, 2012 at 5:56 am

Yes! Technology enables us to invite someone into our immediate presence who wouldn’t normally be there and thus divide our attention. What Kristin says about basic manners is the key. Even before cell phones it was frustrating to be in a store and have the phone customer take precedence or to be a guest in someone’s home and have them spend an extended length of time on the phone with someone else. How about the person who calls you and then leaves you hanging while they take an incoming call? Cell phones just enable us to be rude wherever we are. 🙂

Judy January 14, 2012 at 10:34 am

So happy to see you post about people chatting on the phone when checking out – it is difficult enough to be working at a register these days but how nice is it when someone actually looks at you and asks if you are having a good day……instead of just ignoring your very existence.

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