Don't Take Your Smartphone to the Bathroom

Last Updated Apr 5, 2011 2:39 PM EDT

Let me break the news to you: You're not the first person to take your smartphone to the bathroom. Not only are we all hopelessly addicted to tweeting, emailing, and one app or another, we're all so pressed for time that we just can't waste even a few minutes of potential productivity.

At least that's what we keep telling ourselves.

But you know, there should be a protocol for this sort of thing. The problem has been brewing for a long time and it's starting to get out of hand. Seriously.

It all started 13 years ago. I was at a big industry conference when my cellphone started vibrating. It was my advertising director and I knew why she was calling. Something important. So I took the call and stepped out of the ballroom.

While she's talking I'm making a beeline for the bathroom. I'd been sitting in that conference drinking coffee all morning just waiting for a break and this was it. When I was done with my business, not thinking, I flushed. There was silence for a brief moment.

"What was that?" she asked.

"Um ... nothing," I said, as it slowly dawned on me what I'd just done, "So, what were you saying?"

And on the conversation went. But the episode didn't end there. When I got back into town, my HR manager had a little talk with me about a story she heard that made one of my female directors very uncomfortable and, frankly, sort of grossed her out too.

I never did that again. Sure, I take my iPhone to the bathroom all the time. I just don't flush when someone's on the line. I mean, I'm not a dope.

Still, there are lots of really good reasons why we all need a Smartphone Protocol:

Don't take your smartphone to the bathroom. Even if you just want to check your stock portfolio or messages, if there's a call and it's important, you'll pick it up. And you just might flush. Or it might fall in. Here's a tip: you can drop the phone, but not in water.

Don't say anything vulgar on a conference call unless you know exactly who's in the other room. Yesterday Howard Stern was talking about how he was rattling off f-bombs in a call with an associate at home, not realizing the guy's two daughters were in the room. Embarrassing, even for him.

Don't have a late night video call when your wife might be walking around in her underwear. If you think you've got this whole protocol thing down, just wait until you start using Skype's video call iPhone app or Apple's FaceTime. Better get ready for a whole new world of embarrassment and sexual harassment lawsuits.

Look where you're walking. Have you heard? There's a whole new category of accidents: cyber-junkies with their eyes glued to the screen walking into poles and falling off curbs. I'm not kidding.

Don't even take the phone out when you're on line with people behind you. The other day I was waiting in line for a sandwich when some genius in front of me, enthralled with something fascinating on her phone, starts to walk off without paying for her drink. The cashier stopped her and that started another five minute transaction. Sheesh.

Lower your damn voice or learn how to text faster. Every time I'm in a quiet airport lounge trying to think, some self-important jerk is screaming into his phone like he's the only person in the room.

Don't play games when you're supposed to be paying attention in a meeting. Trust me, you don't want to have to explain to your spouse how you got fired over a Scrabble game.

Turn off the ringer when you're at church, a funeral, a hospital, and if you're smart, with a customer or your boss. Just goes without saying.

If you're driving and running late, don't even think about texting; do a hands-free call. Yes, I know, we've all done it. The first time you take your eye off the road and start to swerve, narrowly missing a concrete divider, you're heart skips a beat and you swear you'll never do it again. Until six months later.

Put the damn phone down and think once in a while. There's a movie called Idiocracy where society becomes so dumbed down by gadget and media-addiction that everyone's a moron. It's hilarious, but it'll also scare the crap out of you. Good.

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