April 13, 2005
Cell phones, airlines could make noisy
Will there be integrity issues with unlimited cell phone
usage on airlines?
In May 1992, while working feverishly between flights,
in an airline "club" at Chicago's O'Hare Field,
a fellow traveler was speaking loudly on his cell phone,
making my concentration impossible. After staring at
him, hoping he would lower his voice, I noticed others
doing the same thing. He continued his abrasive noise
level. Other business types also were making phone calls,
writing notes, but quietly. This individual was oblivious
or ignorant; insensitive or simply a clod. Friday nights,
after intense work "on the road," when folks
are heading home, it is unwise to be loud or rude.
I bit my lip, approached the "noisemaker" and
whispered: "I know you are under time pressures
to get your calls made. I have stresses, too. Your powerful
voice overwhelms my ability to concentrate. Please speak
softly. Thanks." I turned and walked away. The hush
in the large room was deafening as all eyes watched to
see if I would get hit in the nose. My heart was pounding.
Fortunately, he accepted my comments and lowered his
voice. Suddenly, about 40 folks - when he was not looking
at them or me - flashed the "high sign" and
nodded approvingly. A crisis was avoided, no punches
were thrown, work proceeded again and "everyone" lived
happily ever after. But that was then and this is now.
Try that same approach today at 30,000 feet, in a cramped
airplane, and there likely will be confrontations. Flight
attendants already are overwhelmed "sorting out" travelers'
frustrations. Cell phone noise will be blamed when folks
are unable to sleep, read or converse with seatmates.
Decent people will become testy, feisty and belligerent.
Fights will follow. Arrests will be made. If you have
not traveled lately, it is already semi-organized mayhem
in the air. Planes are dirtier, service is surly and
food is approaching inedible. Because there is no "cellular
sheriff in the sky," you can expect "vigilantes" to
fight for peace and quiet.
"Cellular freedom" is not simply about productivity
and staying connected. It also illustrates the self-centeredness
of today's air traveler and the greed of cell phone companies
and airlines seeking additional revenue streams. Integrity
demands that free markets regulate themselves with sound
judgment and discretion, or chaos will prevail. When the
fights break out, and they will, violated travelers will
demand that governments establish stifling regulations.
Cellular abuse must be stopped before it can start.