Cell phone use strains the rules of etiquette
For many Vineyard-bound travelers, their vacation begins the moment they board a Steamship Authority ferry in Woods Hole. Everyday cares disappear, lost to the sounds of gulls, salty waves and children shrieking in anticipation of arriving at their Island destination.
One commonplace sound remains: the ubiquitous cell phone ring. On the deck, in the lunch area and along the mezzanine, passengers can be found engaged in phone conversations.
Cell phones appear to give some people a false sense of privacy. Why else would some people speak in an easily overheard voice about personal matters in a public place like a ferry boat? Normally quiet people suddenly raise their voices as though the signal on the other end needed amplification; can you hear me now?
On a recent ferry ride to Woods Hole, a Times reporter easily listened in on one side of several cell phone conversations going on at once. Some passengers appeared to be having brief chats about logistical issues, such as what time the boat arrived, while others were engaged in lengthy, emotional talks.
Cell phones make it possible for families to talk - without having to converse with each other. Waiting in the standby line, Marie Fife, front right, and her daughter Marissa pass the time on their cell phones, while Dick Fife, front, and son Matthew, back, wait in silence. Photo by Ben Scott
Cell phone use, or more specifically, the lack of cell phone manners, has opened up a new frontier for those concerned with an erosion of manners in everyday life. There has even been some discussion of creating a cell-phone-free section on the Island Home, the Vineyard's new ferry that's scheduled to be delivered by the end of the year.
On board the ferry on her way to the Vineyard, Heather Robb, a Boston native and a regular Island summer visitor, said, "I come to the Vineyard to escape. I wish people would use good judgment with their cell phone etiquette." Gesturing towards a man dressed in a suit yacking away animatedly on his cell phone about some business matter, Ms. Robb sighed, "They should spare the rest of us from unnecessary conversations in public."
Following are some tips on cellular etiquette, adapted from cellphones.about.com and roadandtravel.com, for cell phone users and abusers:
- Volume control. Hard as it is, try not to yell when speaking on the phone. Even a brief, polite conversation can disturb other people when it is loud. Also, turn the ear volume down so that others only hear one side of the conversation.
- Turn off your ringer. Put your phone on silent or vibrate mode so that you don't startle others with a loud ring, especially if your ring tone is some catchy hip-hop melody.
- Mind your own business. Strangers don't want to hear about your bad date last night, so keep personal conversations on hold until you're in a more private place.
- No dual-conversations. If you're on the phone, don't try to talk to someone else in person. Same thing with text messaging - there's nothing worse than trying to talk to someone face to face while they keep glancing down at their phone.
- Keep it short and sweet. Get to the point, and end it there. There's no need to tell everyone around you your entire life story.
- You're not that important. Do you really need to finalize that business deal while you're on the ferry to the Vineyard? Go back to your office and don't return until you're ready for a real vacation with your cell phone off.
- Text message. Although text messaging is more popular among the younger generations, it is a great way to communicate quick notes to people without talking. If you don't know how, ask your grandkids.