Mobile Manners


Call me old fashioned, but I am constantly astounded at the rudeness and lack of manners that people show when using their mobile phones. They seem to have forgotten a basic set of manners that apply when interacting with others.

Recently, I was out with a salesman who was having a detailed discussion with a customer (in the customer’s office), when his mobile phone rang. Guess what?  He actually answered it – and had a discussion with his boss while his customer sat and waited. In our debrief  afterwards he couldn’t understand how that was ill-mannered, let alone the idea that the customer had given up his time for this meeting and because of that, was at that moment much more important than his boss!

People always seem to talk more loudly when on a mobile phone (probably me included). Once when I was in Hong Kong, the entire hotel lounge was overwhelmed by a woman discussing something on her phone so loudly that it was simply uncomfortable. Eventually, a businessman walked over and stood in front of her and gestured that she should lower her voice. She took the hint , but even at half the previous volume, people around her could still overhear every word.

Why is it that is generally a higher priority to answer the phone than attend to people who are physically present? I’ve been in numerous places – restaurants, hotels, shops or airports where people have had to wait while the service person answered the phone. I must say that I have also used this to my advantage. In one restaurant where the service was terribly slow, I resorted to calling the number and saying “Hey, I’m the person in the far corner, can you please send someone over to take my order.” It worked!

Some people assume that it is quite appropriate to talk to people on their phone while being served in a shop. I was at Woolworths recently when a young man at the checkout had a discussion with one of mates during the entire time that he was going through the checkout. He didn’t even acknowledge the lady at the checkout, instead communicating with her by gestures as he continually conversed on the phone. She was able tp preserve some of her dignity (and deal with his arrogance) by at least holding back his change until he stopped his conversation and acknowledged her. Good on her!

Not only was this young man rude and arrogant, he didn’t understand that the subject of his discussion was quite inappropriate for a public place – the conquest of a couple of women on he and his mates recent night out. Talk about a case of ‘Too Much Information’.

Finally, it amazes me why people can’t develop a discipline of turning their phones off (or at last on to ‘silent’) when they go to an event – theatre, movies, church or even a business meeting. I like the story that I read the other day of Slovakian violinist Lukas Kmit who was interrupted by a Nokia ring tone as he gave a solo rendition at a Jewish orthodox synagogue in his native country. He simply stopped, glared at the offending person, and echoed the ring tone before continuing on with his performance.

Perhaps that what these inconsiderate and ill-mannered people need – some personal embarrassment. Where’s June Dally-Watkins when we need her?


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