Cell Phones Ring Up Rage

Conservative activist Grover Norquist, President of the Americans for Tax Reform, stands in his office in Washington Thursday, Jan. 26, 2006. Republican activists Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed landed more than 100 meetings inside the Bush White House, according to documents released Wednesday Sept. 20, 2006 that provide the first official accounting of the access and influence the two presidential allies have enjoyed. (AP Photo/Yuri Gripas) AP Photo/Yuri Gripas

The atmosphere was cozy inside the elegant San Antonio club and the jazz singer was crooning love ballads.

Then a cell phone rang. To the dismay of performer Ken Slavin, the patron not only answered the phone but shushed the singer so he could take the call.

On a San Francisco Bay ferry, where "Cell Phone Free Zone" signs are posted, a woman gossiped loudly on her phone.

"Hey lady," a fellow rider piped up. "I think I speak for the rest of the passengers here when I say that we don't care to hear about the intrigues of your office, so please either finish your call or go outside."

The woman stormed out - to applause.

As cellular or mobile phones proliferate rapidly, with more than 100 million U.S. users and counting, so do complaints about cell phone rudeness.

"No Cell Phones" signs are popping up all over. Restaurants, theaters, libraries, museums and doctors' offices have banned the devices.

It's no wonder actor Laurence Fishburne became something of a hero for bellowing at a cell-toting spectator during a Broadway play last year: "Will you turn off that (expletive) phone, please?"

Quite a few Broadway shows now make an announcement before the curtain goes up, asking patrons to turn off their cellphones and pagers.

"People on the street jabbering away, in restaurants, in public toilets for heaven's sake!" complained New Yorker Judy Walters.

She's not joking. According to an industry-sponsored telephone survey conducted in March by Wirthlin Worldwide, 39 percent of those polled said they would answer a cell phone call in the bathroom.

Manufacturers are so concerned that they have started campaigns to educate cell phone users about etiquette.

Nokia Corp. took part in Cell Phone Courtesy Week in San Diego in July, handing out "Quiet Zone" stickers to businesses. Mayor Susan Golding started the campaign after 73 percent of nearly 5,300 people responding to a question on her Web site said they favored restricting cell phones in public places.

You don't have to look long-distance to find evidence of the public's aggravation level:

Doctors at a Toronto hospital report treating both mobile phone talkers and irritated bystanders for black eyes and even a cracked rib after eruptions of "cell phone rage."

A New York restaurant fielded so many gripes it banished users to a cell phone lounge.

A Chicago train commuter publicly urged other passengers to do what he does when cell phone yakkers push his button: whip out a notebook, lean closer and exaggeratedly take notes of the conversation.

Then there's the separate safety issue of people using hand-held phones in cars. Several communities have banned the use of cell phones while driving.

National Public Radio's popular Car Talk program, whose hosts rail against cell-phoning drivers, has given away 60,000 "Drive NowTalk Later" bumper stickers since last September. "The response has taken us by surprise," said staffer Doug Mayer.

Sociologist Jill Stein said that while the novelty of cell phones is wearing off, people still feel important when they use them in public: "Now everybody gets to be a big shot."

She believes high-tech innovations have helped hasten the deterioration of old-fashioned etiquette. "Manners between strangers have broken down," said Stein, a UCLA sociology professor and director of Cultural Research Assistants in Santa Monica, Calif. "We've become desensitized to each other."

Cell phone devotees respond that way too much blame is being heaped on the devices and their users.

"People should give cell phone users a break and quit slamming them," said Dina Medina of San Francisco. "Cell phones are a fact of life, are not going away and actually help improve people's lives."



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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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