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Manners First

On October 28, 2008, the Ontario government tabled legislation that will ban text messaging and emailing while driving and force motorists to use hands-free cell phones on the road. 


A similar ban already exists in Newfoundland-Labrador, Quebec and Nova Scotia – and legislation has been put forward in Prince Edward Island and Manitoba. Alberta rejected a cell phone ban earlier this year. A few states in the U.S. have a ban, as do many countries including Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Turkey and the UK.


Opponents of the ban say that if cell phones are banned then so should applying makeup while driving, talking to someone else in the car, listening to the radio or eating a burger.


Supporters of the legislation say that too many lives are at stake due to these distractions, and safety should come first. 


Some of the rudest electronic device experiences have happened during meals, especially in restaurants with dinner partners ignoring you to answer calls or return email, diners talking too loudly or cell phones ringing incessantly.


At the movies, people ignore the “turn off electronic devices” message and take phone calls. Some are too inconsiderate to leave the room or switch their phones to vibrate.


In a business setting such as during an interview, meeting or a conference, coworkers are often busy texting or taking calls instead of giving their attention to why they were required to be in attendance.


Most embarrassing is having to listen to someone engaged in a fight and/or yelling while in a public place. You feel as a voyeur and are often drawn in as a moth to a flame.


Queues being held up by someone trying to text or talk are also  nuisances and cell phones ringing in serene or high etiquette settings such as a wedding, church, funeral, hospital, or a classroom are just plain rude. And finally, the ultimate invasion of privacy occurs when phones ring in the bathroom. The receiver often answers the phone and proceeds to tell the caller that they are in the bathroom but doesn’t end the call.

The reality of this situation is that most of the conversations taking place do not necessarily have to happen when they do. The conversations are not elevated ones designed to make the world a better place. They don’t discuss ideas for improving even the lives of the participants. Electronic devices have people moving together but operating in silos.

If you must answer your electronic device, here’s how to be more polite:

  • Let the person you are with know in advance that you are expecting an important call or email
  • Say “excuse me” and move away from the setting and don’t make them listen to the entire call or watch you compose your email
  • Don’t shush the person you are speaking with to hear the call
  • Allow your calls to go to voice mail and excuse yourself to take the time to return the call or email
  • Avoid taking more than one call or returning more than one email in any situation that has a finite time (e.g.: a 20-minute lunch)
  • Answer and make quick arrangements to call back
  • Don’t check caller ID and then not take the call

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use. – Emily Post

These are interesting times.

 C. Carol Brown


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