There is a new cultural divide in America. It is cross-generational, cross-gender, cross-race. And it is inflicting a new rudeness into our culture. It is interruptive cell phone use.
Now, a lot of the other cultural "decline" issues are in actuality, meaningless. Language for one is always a moving target. The word "humbug" used to be truly shocking for people. Of course now it has no meaning. That’s because it had no effect on the attention people paid to one another. Words are words. But actions have much more power.
Here’s the thing: Interruptive phone usage (IPU) has a real effect. It has the effect of diminishing others. Making them feel small and unimportant. Right to their face.
I was in The Gap the other day, and there were two people checking out beside me, a father and his daughter. Both were talking on their phones while the clerk was checking them out! He had to keep "interrupting" them to ask questions about their purchase. They of course acted irritated and spit out answer fragments, all the while apologizing to the people on the other end of the line.
Almost every time I’m in line at a fast food restaurant I see the same scenario played out over and over. And in "real" restuarants people will just answer the phone. Mid sentence. No warning. It’s demeaning and demoralizing for the victim.
Gap employees are people. So are Chipotle employees. Certainly the new friends you are having dinner with are people as well. They deserve your time. They deserve eye-contact.
The reason IPU is a cultural divide is that there are two types of folks right now as this technology proliferates. Those who seem to be oblivious to the fact that taking a phone call in the middle of a transaction or a conversation is rude, and those who realize that it is. The former seem to be winning. And someone needs to let folks know. Now – I know that anyone reading this blog is on the side of the right and the just. So perhaps you can help by forwarding this to some of your IPU afflicted acquaintances…
Because it’s rude. It’s rude and demeaning and really uncool. If you need to take a phone call (and we all do sometimes), excuse yourself. Hell, at least acknowledge to your companions that you need to take the call. At least pause the conversation before you just pickup! And if you’re in line for a burrito or a sweater or a plane ticket? Have the courtesy to hang up before you get to the front.
Transacting with people is a social function, and as such it deserves your full attention and courtesy.