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Turn off the #*##*# phone and shut up!

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It's time for many people to grow up, shut up and turn off the cellular telephone.

Or, at the very least, take their loud and disruptive cell phone conversations out of earshot of the adults around them.

Disrupting classes and seminars with cell phones isn't just unprofessional—it's the height of ignorance and selfishness. There's no other way to express this. What's more, my field experience indicates that some folks definitely need to hear this message...maybe several times until it finally sinks in.

Cell phones may be high-tech conveniences. But sadly, they are often misused. When misused, they represent a new level of old-fashioned rudeness, period.

The behavior of many people—including many Baby Boomers—often suggests that cell phones always have been commonplace. No, indeed, there was a time not too long ago when a wireless telephone was a relative rarity. In the same era, it seems, common courtesies were—for lack of a better description—much more common.

For instance, there was a time when most reasonable adults understood this common courtesy: Pay attention to the person speaking to you; when the person has finished speaking, then you speak.

But since the cell's advent, many adults—forget the children for the moment—have forsaken this time-honored convention. They readily and repeatedly interrupt you to answer their phone. The ringing of that cell seems to elevate the most-trivial of utterances or questions into urgent communiqués. Moreover, these vital calls warrant immediate recognition and responses.

I have news for you, Mr. and Ms. Cell Phone Answerers: You just aren't that important and neither is your caller. The simple fact that a cell rings doesn't automatically impart importance to your caller and the message. All that a ringing phone indicates is that someone's calling you—nothing more.

Those ubiquitous advertisements suggest a ringing cell conveys immediacy, primacy. Wrong! All you have to do is to listen to the response to appreciate how trivial calls can be. I think I'm qualified to comment. Regular Tire Business readers know I travel a great deal. This endless—and I do mean endless—barrage of chatter and drivel is inescapable in tire dealer customer lounges, hotel lobbies, airport waiting areas and restaurants.

Considering how seriously people treat incoming cell calls, you'd think the participants were brokering peace settlements in the Middle East. But it ain't so—it's usually baloney.

Here's how real adults and real professionals behave. First, if the cell phone rings while you're speaking to someone, politely excuse yourself. “Forgive me, may I take this call? It could be important.”

Second, keep your voice down when speaking on your cell. The conversation is your business and yours alone; sharing it with others around—perhaps at 110 decibels—is simply rude. Where necessary, ask the caller to wait a moment while you seek a quiet place in which to finish the conversation.

Third, be extra aware of your surroundings because your big mouth could be broadcasting your conversation to 80 people or more in an adjacent lecture hall or meeting room.

Last but not least, turn off the phone or put it on the silent mode during a class, a lecture or similar event. Few things are more aggravating than some bigmouth's phone ringing and subsequent conversation while you're trying to absorb information at a seminar. As an instructor, I'll confirm that a cell sounding off during a class is as welcome as a screaming baby in the next seat on an airplane. The difference is that, likely, the baby can't help crying.

But the jackass with the cell phone can help it—he or she is just too selfish, ignorant and self-absorbed to do so.

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