Lend Me Your Earpieces

By Robert MacMillan
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, July 14, 2005; 9:30 AM

I can hear some of you begging: Please, MacMillan, when are you going to quit with the cell phones?

  • Not as long as summer keeps parching the fields that yield new things to write about.
  • Not as long as cell phones continue to dominate the headlines in news outlets large and small around the world.
  • Not as long as the subject keeps prompting readers to write back to me in such huge numbers.
  • Let's face it, we want to hear more epic tales of flagrant etiquette and safety violations.

    Speaking of which, here's today's treat from Gordon Posner of Tolleson, Ariz., the man who risked being labeled as crazy, but instead picked up rave reviews (he says) for his thespian's stance against mobile malaise:

    "I was eating at a restaurant when a woman in the booth in front of me began a loud cell phone conversation about mortgages. Even worse was a man at the other end of the restaurant, whose complaints on his phone about 'frigid women' were audible to everyone. That's when I decided these two deserved a taste of what they were doing. So I proceeded to recite Marc Anthony 's funeral speech in the loudest and most projecting voice I have. Of course, the manager came out and asked me to stop. In the same voice I explained what I was doing, pointing to the two offending individuals. I left soon after, but I noticed both phone callers had lowered their voices. I also noted many 'thumbs up' and 'high-sign' signals being given to me by the other patrons."

    Mike Hansen sends this brief from the Middle East: "Talking while driving is officially illegal here in Dubai, but it is more the norm than the exception. We recently went on a 4x4 desert safari. The driver was the owner of the company and had perfected the art of talking on a cell, steering with his knee and texting his mates on his other phone. Thank goodness for automatic transmissions. It must be said, however, that his ability in the dunes was unparalleled."

    Friends, Romans, countrymen: I still welcome your horror stories, but I haven't heard enough from the unrepentant. I want to know why it's good, even desirable to conduct conversations in loud voices in various places.

    Where's my chain-smoking, stick-shift-SUV-driving, handheld-cell-phone-using radio dial twiddler? I know you're out there. Find me and let's talk.

    Cell phones and cars can prove a lethal combination on the highway, of course, and that "news" hit the headlines again this week with a report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety . The study concluded that using a headset while driving is no safer than devoting one hand to holding the phone.

    On a side note, I find it funny that the Arlington-based institute conducted the study over two years in Perth, the western Australian city of about 1.4 million people sandwiched between the Indian Ocean and a vast desert. It's a nice excuse to go to Oz, but couldn't they have gotten more accurate results that better reflect circumstances in the States by looking out the window?

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