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Phone etiquette & stop signs get same treatment
Dennis Wyatt
Dennis Wyatt

Phone etiquette is an archaic concept if there ever was one.

I was getting my hair cut at Scores Monday afternoon when my cell phone rang.

The young lady cutting my hair asked if I needed to get it as I moved my hand to push the mute button.

No, I told her, I was just turning my i-Phone off so it wouldn’t keep ringing.

She thanked me.

A minute later it sunk in.

I asked her if people really did answer their cellphones that rang when they were getting their hair cut. She replied some actually do.

I asked if they at least gave her a tip when the haircut was completed to compensate her for her time and inconvenience. Her answer was “no.”

Emily Post — for those born after the advent of Princess phones she was considered the foremost authority on etiquette — would have had a cow. Post was a stickler for driving home the finer points of human interaction in a civilized world that relied heavily on respect and common courtesy that served as the threads that weaved our social fabric together.

In the Age of Outrage we are more focused on ripping the social fabric to shreds.

To be honest there are times when I will interrupt a person I am talking with when I’ve been trying to get a hold of someone for a story I’m doing for the next day’s paper and the phone rings. I always ask first before I answer and will apologize for doing so. Then I’ll check the number. If it’s not connected with the person I’ve been trying to reach, I won’t answer, apologize again to the person I was talking with and continue our conversation. If it is the person I need to talk to I will take the call, keep it brief, and again apologize.

I’m not too sure Emily Post would approve, but I like to think it is a respectful compromise with the realities of my job and common courtesy.

I get that nothing says “you don’t matter” as much as someone taking a text and replying while they are talking to you. At the same time someone texting or surfing the web when they are on the clock and are manning a cash register and you are waiting to pay for items shouts “you don’t matter.” My response is simple. I get the message. Your personal cellphone habits are more important than the paycheck you are supposed to be earning so you can pay for things like your cellphone which is why you are ignoring customers that help keep your employer in business. No problem. There are dozens of places within a few blocks I can purchase something cold to drink.

I’m not going to raise a stink or become ballistic at such treatment. Most people don’t.

Perhaps it’s because when you essentially call people out who display deplorable cellphone etiquette they often react badly.

I’m referring specifically to those at red lights who bury their noses in cellphones and don’t realize the light has turned green. If they don’t move after about 5 seconds and you tap your horn about 1 in about every 7 such drivers will look up, mouth something as if they are yelling a profanity, extend the finger that tells the world they are the only one that matters, and then gun their engine and pull away from the intersection.

There was a time if you acted like that in public you’d have some explaining to do. Nowadays that would be too oppressive for authorities to point out or for anyone bestowed the title of being an adult to suggest it isn’t civilized behavior. Yet without thinking if we come across carnage such a self-centered driver glued to their cellphone causes we whip out our own cellphones to livestream the mayhem to everyone we can including someone who is having a stylist cut their hair.

I get that times change. A lot of what the Emily Posts of the world insisted on was a tad stifling, to say the least, in terms of regimented behavior. The basic foundation of respect and common courtesy, however, should serve as the bedrock for human interaction.

It’s amazing in an era where anti-bullying and the #MeToo movements get universal exposure and acceptance that we seem to forget the basic building blocks of civilization that apply to those two movements are essential for civilized behavior across the board including the use of cellphones.

While you might argue what you do among friends and those who think like you and hold the same values whether they are generational driven or otherwise should not be held to the same standard as when you interact with strangers, I beg to differ. If you don’t sharpen your social skills with people you know you’re not likely to turn on the spigot when encountering strangers or those who are different.

It is like those who continually run the stop sign on Van Ryn Avenue where it T-intersects Industrial Park Drive when they glance to the left and do not see a car coming. A California rolling stop would be a significant improvement.

The day will come because they are so used to their behavior at the stop sign that they will be in automatic mode and pull into the path of an oncoming car without stopping.

It is exactly why we inflict carnage when we interact with others. In our day to day lives we chose to dismiss standards whether they are stop signs or phone etiquette.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.