I know, we’re supposed to be full of cheer this time of year. But how can anyone be jolly when the world’s coming to an end? And it is! They’re about to allow cell phones on commercial airlines. Bah humbug!
Maybe it’s a generational thing. I admit, I’m old enough to remember the days before cell phones. But, ever since they’ve taken over human communication, I’ve learned several things about cell-phone users.
First, those who own cell phones are very, very important people. They are so important that they can’t go five minutes without making or receiving a call. Although, having been forced to listen in on one end of thousands of cellular calls, I have yet to hear one that’s necessary. On planes, especially, it’s usually: “Hi. Just wanted you to know we’ll be taking off in 10 minutes.” Or the equally thrilling: “Hi. We just landed.”
Second thing about cellular talkers: They’re all deaf. Or maybe they think the people they’re calling are hard of hearing. Either way, all cell-phone conversations take place at a high enough decibel level to be heard across town – without any phone at all. I understand why someone might have to place a call from a train. But why is it necessary for people sitting at the other end of the car to hear every word?
Which brings me to point No. 3: Cell-phone users are also the rudest people on earth. They don’t care about flesh and blood in front of them. They only care about voices at the other end of a phone signal. Consequently, they will interrupt your dinner conversation in order to chat with someone else more important, perhaps sitting in the same restaurant. Who knows? Or they refuse to put the phone down long enough to make a transaction at the ticket counter. Didn’t they read the instructions? Don’t they know they can turn the damned phone off?
Today, once the door is closed, airplanes are about the only place left you can escape cell phones. Restaurants aren’t out-of-bounds. Neither are movie theatres or concerts. Despite warnings from management, some idiot always forgets to silence his phone. Not even churches are safe. One friend told me about attending a funeral where a pall bearer’s phones chirped – and he proceeded to have a conversation in the middle of the eulogy! God save us.
But soon, even the enforced quiet of airline travel may be lost. The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration are both experimenting with ways to introduce cell-phone usage on airliners – even though European experts blame a cell phone for the crash of a commuter plane in 2000. A passenger took a call at the same time the pilot engaged the autopilot, and the plane went into a fatal dive.
So why the rush to play with safety in the United States? Because of pressure from Verizon, AT&T and other big cell-phone companies, which complain about lost revenue. And pressure from frequent-flying businessmen who complain about hours lost by having to stay silent. When the truth is, they might be much more successful if they just took advantage of the time to read, or think.
Frankly, I can think of nothing worse than being locked for five hours in an aluminum chatterbox at 30,000 feet with 200 people all shouting at the same time. Unless it’s being stuck alongside the only talker on the plane, who reviews his business plan from coast to coast, loud enough for everyone on the plane to hear. We will yearn for the days when a screeching baby was the noise pollution on planes.
Ever the optimist, however, I refuse to go quietly. I see at least two solutions to this problem. First, some smart CEO will launch a “talk-free” airline. “Fly the Silent Skies.” Sure, he will be laughed at, just like the first airline to ban smoking was laughed at, but he’ll make tons of money. Sign me up.
If that doesn’t work, I’m ready to take revenge. My big secret, which not even Bob Novak knows, is that I once took accordion lessons. Not only that, I still have my accordion. Once cell phones are allowed on airplanes, I vow never to fly again without my accordion. I dare you: Take out your cell phone, and I’ll unpack my accordion and play “Roll Out The Barrel.” Serves you right.