By Debby Mayne

Do you ever find yourself getting annoyed when someone whips out a cell phone in front of you in the grocery store line and chats the entire time he’s checking out? Do you get tired of being ignored in favor of another person’s cell phone?

Does it bother you when someone sitting at a nearby table in a restaurant talks on her cell phone, and you can hear every single word? Don’t become any of those people.

One of the most revered inventions of the last century, the cell phone, is also one of the most controversial. There’s no question that almost everyone needs one. However, the way many people use them has gotten out of control. Teenagers and adults often ignore people around them and block out the real world as they hunch over their phones. 

Remember that the cell phone is not the problem; it’s the user’s lack of respect for others and bad manners. Rather than come across as one of those people, follow a few simple rules of cell phone etiquette in public.

Public Chatter

We’ve all been in public areas where someone is chatting away on his or her cell phone, ignoring everything else. In fact, some of us have been the person doing the chatting.

You may forget that everyone around you can hear every single word you say. Not only can what you say be misconstrued, a steady stream of one-sided chatter will likely be annoying to everyone around you.

That doesn’t mean you should use speaker mode. That is rude to everyone around you as well as the person you are talking to.

Places where you should limit your cell phone use:

  1. Restaurants: Put your phone on vibrate to prevent creating unnecessary noise if your cell phone rings. Only make outgoing calls if necessary and keep them brief; better yet, take the phone to the lobby or outside so you don’t bother others who are trying to enjoy a relaxing meal. When people call you, let them know that you are eating, and unless it’s an emergency, tell them you’ll call back later. If you stay in the dining area, keep your voice as low as possible.
  2. Movies, Theaters, and Plays: Turn your phone off before you enter the venue. If you are concerned about your children who are home with the babysitter, you may have your phone on silent/vibrate, but make sure it doesn’t make a sound when someone calls. Don’t answer it in the theater. Step out into the lobby and call the person back.
  3. Work: If you have a private office, it’s probably fine to leave your cell phone on with the ringer turned down low. However, if you are a cubicle dweller, do your neighbor a favor and put it on vibrate. Resist the urge to conduct private business in your cubicle. The people around you don’t need to know everything you do after hours or the latest gossip from the neighborhood. You should also refrain from using your phone during business meetings, or you risk ruining your professional reputation.
  1. Churches, Synagogues, and Other Places of Worship: Turn your phone off or leave it in the car. You and everyone around you should be able to worship in peace.
  2. Flying: Before your plane takes off, turn your phone completely off. Some airlines don’t allow cell phone use while flying because it may be a safety issue. There is some concern that electronic gadgets, including cell phones, may interfere with navigation equipment.
  3. Bus, Train, and Other Public Transportation: Turn your phone off or have it on vibrate when you take public transportation. Limit your calls to emergencies. Once again, it is rude to chatter on a phone in public.
  4. In the Checkout Line: If you are standing in the checkout line, talking on a cell phone is rude to everyone around you—from the other customers in line to the cashier. You can wait a few minutes to talk on the phone. 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.
  1. In the Car: Whether you’re the driver or passenger, don’t give in to the temptation to chat on the phone while you’re in the car with someone else. As the driver, you need to focus all your attention on the road. As a passenger, you should be polite to others in the car and avoid inflicting a one-sided conversation on them.

Private Talk

When you’re hanging out with friends and family, don’t be rude and chat with someone else on your cell phone. Be both physically and mentally present for the people you care about. If you feel that you must answer your phone when it rings rings, let the person know you’ll call back later, when you are alone. Doing otherwise gives the person you’re with the impression that he or she isn’t important to you.


Avoid text messaging while you are engaged in an activity or meal with someone else. Texting in front of others is the equivalent of whispering behind someone’s back. Even though it’s a typed message, it’s just as bad as chatting with someone who isn’t there.

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