Mobile manners matter

LORI WELBOURNE/Guest Columnist

I had lunch with my young friend the other day and during our brief visit together she texted the entire time. It wasn’t the kind of texting where she apologized for having to attend to an important matter, but the casual kind that could have waited until after the rare hour we spent together.

I knew this because I asked.

“Who are you texting?” I inquired.

“Oh, just a guy I met last night,” she said.

Temporarily conscious of her divided attention, she put down her iPhone for a moment. But, like a magnet, it was quickly in her hand again and she was giggling at a new message she’d received.

“Did he say something funny?” I asked.

“No, this one’s from my roommate,” she said as she responded and snickered at what she’d written. She put the phone down again and went back to the story she’d been telling me.

For the rest of our lunch she periodically checked her messages and sent quick replies, seemingly unfazed to be carrying on multiple conversations at the same time.

The situation reminded me of my friend Steve. Not because Steve does this, but because he doesn’t.

“Lori, your time is valuable to me,” he said to me the first time I met him for coffee a few years ago. “I’m going to put my phone on silent.”

He then took his phone out and made a show of pressing the button that would do exactly that.

He repeated the same gesture every time I met with him from then on.

Turns out, he can’t stand it when people carry on digital conversations with others while talking to him.

He’s not the only one.

“People are so rude,” a grocery store clerk said to me the other day, shaking her head at her last customer who was now walking out the door and gabbing loudly on his phone.

“Does that happen a lot?” I asked.

“All the time,” she said. “Especially with the younger generation. They don’t seem to realize how they make people feel when they don’t look them in the eye and treat them like a human being.”

I quickly thought back to my own behavior. I, too, have been guilty of grocery shopping while talking on my cell phone.

There have been times I haven’t finished my conversation by the time I get to the checkout and had to apologize to the cashier for being rude.

I’ve also texted in the presence of others and have heard myself saying sorry to them as well.

But does acknowledging and apologizing make it okay?

With instant communication and being so easily attainable, it’s sometimes hard to resist the temptation, even though it’s impolite. I don’t turn my phone off during the day, like my friend Steve does, just in case it’s one of my kids. I do, however, turn the ringer off when I’m at home or when I don’t need to be immediately available to my children.

Some might find it rude when I’m not as easy to reach, but being unattainable can feel rather liberating.