Thursday, July 07, 2005

Corporate Cellouts

NYT addresses a subject near and dear to my heart... sort of.
In the great American debate about cellphone etiquette, some of the early turf battles seem to be settled, with winners and losers falling into camps familiar from Western Civ classes. Movie theaters, funerals and libraries appear to have been carried by the cell Rousseauists, who believe the social contract forbids such things as shouting intimate details into a piece of plastic in a room full of strangers.

Most public transportation systems, on the other hand, appear to belong to the cell Hobbesians, who believe that since life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short, there's no need to give the rider engrossed in her newspaper in the seat next to you a quiet commute. Restaurants constitute a middle ground, in a state of d├ętente. Everyone knows it's rude to use a cellphone at dinner, but civilized people do it anyway.

The workplace, though, remains unsettled territory....

(snip)

The points of friction... are numerous: the executive who takes a cell call in the middle of a meeting; the phones that blast impossible-to-ignore ring tones in a busy office; the seminar leader who interrupts his speech to take a call on his cell; the co-worker who, like clockwork, answers hers to discuss lunch choices with a child.

(snip)

One reason office cell etiquette is so scattered is that different people use the phone differently. Some people flaunt their cellphones at work to show how important they are, said Ms. Hastings, whose office takes 400 calls a day for help with workplace issues. "In some office cultures, the more calls you get, the more powerful you seem," she said.

Others use the cell as an alternative communications network for the people they really want to talk to - children, paramours, baby sitters, plumbers, gurus - while the land line carries all the calls they want to screen out. "People tend to give their cellphone number out less frequently, and it's not printed in a phone book," Ms. Hastings said. "So they feel it's a little more direct to them. Whereas the desk phone, anybody could be calling you."

I'm amazed that talking on your cellphone is still considered a sign of status and power - any yahoo can get a cellphone and blather on it all day long, and it doesn't mean they're important, just narcisisstic and rude. I'm still waiting for a backlash where flaunting your cellphone is considered desperate and gauche, like someone obsessively showing off their keen digital watch.

Oh well, what do I know - I'm just a Luddite with three computers, a wireless network, and a digital camera...

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