Monday, April 7, 2008

Can you hear me now?

Allowing cell-phone use aboard airplanes is a slippery slope...
You can use your cell phone in the skies over Europe as early as this summer under new European Union rules — allowing travelers to stay in touch but also raising the cringe-inducing prospect of being stuck next to a chatterbox at 30,000 feet.

Announcing the guidelines Monday, EU officials said they expect several Europe-based airlines to move within the next few months to launch services, effectively making the 27-nation bloc the first region in the world to scrap bans on the use of cell phones in the sky.
I think there are several arguments that can made and should be acknowledged.

Allowing the use of cell phones in emergency situations should most definitely be allowed. As 9-11 shows, and in case of crashes or mechanical malfunctions, God forbid, people should be allowed to make their calls to loved ones.

However, I believe that this lax approach to air-communication simply provides another excuse for annoyances in small spaces. Is the idea of someone annoyingly chatting on their cell phone enough to ban it? Perhaps not. Larger people that lop over onto my seat are annoying. Talkers in general who want to introduce themselves and know your life story are beyong irritating. People who insist on leaning over you to look out the window when you land, though they likely had the chance to get the damn window seat themselves, are annoying. There is no rule banning these people.

Children can be annoying, and they're allowed on planes... ok, I went too far. (But you know it's true.)

Anyway, we all have a right to peace and quiet, or to space, or to be left alone. I look at airplanes as a means to an end- getting me to a new destination. I do not look at them as social, business, or even speed-dating opportunities. Would you, sitting in a small airplane- perhaps in the middle of a 3-seat row, desire someone next to you chatting away with their best friend, spouse, or even mother-in-law? I usually ask that the person next to me let me be- to read, sleep, listen to my headphones, etc. And I vocally request, if flying Midwest, to save me my cookies should I sleep through their delivery.

But that's just me. Perhaps the tables were turned and I needed to make a call. You claim your right to free speech - to chatter all you want on your cell phone. But where do we draw the line? What if I have a work item that needs to be taken care of before my vacation officially starts when I hit the ground in 2 hours? Or a family member has an emergency. Where do we distinguish between those emergency calls or the calls that could still wait a few more hours. It's a tough call - and who decides who makes it?

In a world of increasing online and technological communication, we must cherish our phone calls and re-connect times with our loved ones and friends. But we also have lost that face-to-face, eye-to-eye communication skill and our connections are shallow, though we may refuse to admit it. Perhaps you email your coworker 24 times a day, but if you consider a coworker a friend, do you really know how he or she is?

Will being allowed to make phone calls on an airplane really make a difference to your life? Oh sure, if you have a blackberry, now you can e-mail in the sky!! Whoopeee! (Crackberries!)

Maybe use that time instead to organize your thoughts, write them down, think about your day, unwind, sleep, rest, pray, practice a skill, etc. Think about the gift of airplane time.

And now think about how cellphones could kill it.

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