The sound of silent cells

I’ve finally succumbed, swallowed my pride, dropped my principles and joined the masses. That’s right, I bought a cell phone.

For the longest time, I held out, disparaging the constantly-in-touch who have the spooky habit of appearing to be talking to themselves in public places.

Cell phone users, on the whole, have appalling manners. In theatres, lectures, restaurants, buses, trains and bathrooms, they disturb hundreds of people around them with the mundane chatter of their day-to-day lives. It seems hard to believe people really have something so important to say that they need to do it while they pee, but they do.

I have to admit the things are handy. Especially now the Transit strike is in full swing, the phone will make my life easier. It’s also nice not to have to search desperately for a phone if you’re going to be late, early, or unable to show up at all for an appointment. Still, this is the sort of 30-second call you can sneak into a corner to make, and conceivably not bother anyone.

And for the busy student, writer, employee, et cetera who is never, ever home, it’s nice to have a telephone number that goes where you do. But really, if you’re in a social or educational setting, you should really turn the darned thing off. But no one ever seems to bother.

This is why it’s so exciting that the Canadian government is contemplating licensing cell-phone silencers for use in public places like theatres and restaurants. In a CBC news article dated March 8, I discovered two companies have asked the government to license the sale of these devices, which block the signals emitted by cell phones, effectively blocking their use. Industry Canada will seek feedback on the devices until July 12.

While it is, to a certain extent, a matter of overkill, it seems a simple solution to the problem of people who just don’t care about people around them. Polite requests haven’t worked, amusing advertisements haven’t worked and neither, unsurprisingly, have the (more or less) veiled threats posted in many establishments. Since people are unwilling to be considerate by themselves, it’s about time we helped them along forcefully.

The United States and the United Kingdom have universally banned the use of these devices while Japan and Austraila are currently using them on a limited basis. It would be an interesting experiment to see which countries’ restaurants and movie theatres are marred by lengthy discussions about whose turn it is to do the dishes, and which one allows you to enjoy your meal and movie in peace.

Whether you agree with me or not about the menace that is the inconsiderate cell phoner, you should let Industry Canada know exactly how you feel about cell phone silencers. Visit http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/SSGsf05401e.html for information on how you can make your voice heard, and either help stop legions of rude phoners in their tracks or defend to the death your right to talk while you eat.

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