• Michelle Dawn Mooney

To Call, or Not to Call, That is the Question

Everything you need to know about cell phone etiquette.

A staggering 96% of Americans now own cell phones according to Pew Research - up 81% from 2011.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it looks like I am a violator. Little did I know when I decided to share a few thoughts on Cell Phone Courtesy Month that I would learn that I, in fact, have been in violation of one of the golden rules of cell phone etiquette. In my defense, I would like to think that I'm one of many who have fallen victim to caller confusion when it comes to where, when and how to take and receive calls in a courteous manner.

A recent Pew Research Center study shows 96% of Americans now own cell phones, which is an increase of 81% from 2011. So, we know that pretty much "everyone" has one, but are we using them wisely in public? Here is a compiled list from some of the top etiquette experts on where and when NOT to use your phones. Try to guess which rule I unknowingly rebelled against and I'll let you know if you were right at the end. ;)


1. Restaurants: No one wants to sit across from someone who looks like they're ready to pounce on their phone as soon as they have a text message come through. Let the person/people you're with feel like they're valued more than that funny snapchat or youtube link that someone may or may not send. Turn off your ringer or put your phone on vibrate if you're expecting an important call. Keep any outgoing calls brief and make them only out of necessity.


2. Movies, Theaters, and Plays: Turn your phone off before you enter the venue. Have your phone on silent or vibrate if you have a sitter at home with the kids. Answer any incoming calls out in the lobby.


3. Work: Private office yes. Cubicle, no. If you're expecting an important call in an open work space, keep your phone on vibrate and walk out of the room to take any incoming calls.


4. Places of Worship: Keep phones off. It's never worth being that person who "thought" they put their ringer on silent, only to have a super fancy marimba mix play out for all the world to hear as you frantically fumble to find your phone during a word of prayer.


5. Flying: Before your plane takes off, turn your phone completely off.


6. Public Transportation: Either turn it off or have it on vibrate. Limit calls to emergencies only. Believe it or not, a woman was actually arrested after refusing to get off her phone and conducting what was reported to be a very loud 16 hour phone chat on a train. I can only imagine what it was like to be a passenger on that ride.


7. In the Checkout Line: Don’t initiate a call while standing in line. If the phone rings and you feel that you must answer it, let the person know you’ll call right back and hang up.


8. In the Car: One sided conversations are the worst. Whether you are the driver or the passenger, be mindful that while you are fully engaged in your conversation, other people in the car are left to try either tune you out or try to figure out what the other party is saying. (Don't judge, you know you've done it too).


If you still have questions about cell phone etiquette in other places that may not be on the list, a good rule of thumb is to try to stay at least 10 feet away from other people when you are having a phone conversation. So if you're in a doctors office or at a school play that probably means going out into the hallway, lobby, or even outside to take a call.


If you're wondering about my violation - that would be number seven, sort of. I am often known for making calls when I am out and about taking care of errands and running in and out of stores. Like many other people I know, I often struggle with finding time to return calls or catch up with friends or loved ones and look at it as more of multi-tasking than anything else. I am however, aware of trying to keep my voice low when I come in contact with other people, but sometimes I get wrapped up in conversation and am probably a little louder than I think. I will say that I always hang up when I'm actually ready to check out. Still, it's a lesson learned to be a little more aware of my surroundings at the risk of strangers become annoyed with me telling a friend about the newest murder mystery show I discovered on BBC.


For those of you reading this who may have caught me in the act, I do apologize. If you see me in a store near you and I'm violating that 10 foot rule, feel free to tap me on the shoulder and shush me and I promise I'll hang up. Of course, I may in turn want to tell YOU about that show I just saw. It really is that good. Happy calling!

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