Cellphone Chatting How Annoying

John Leland writes in the NY Times this week about cellphone etiquette, or lack of it. “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 détente. Everyone knows it’s rude to use a cellphone at dinner, but civilized people do it anyway.

The workplace, though, remains unsettled territory. “This is the next area,” said Peggy Post, director of the Emily Post Institute and an author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business.” Ms. Post, who often lectures business groups about cell use, spoke over a land line from her home office on the Florida Gulf Coast.

Unlike many new technologies which are beloved by users but resented by everybody else, cellphones are considered a nuisance even by the people who embrace them. In what must be comforting news to the cell Hobbesians, a recent University of Michigan poll of 752 adults found that 6 of 10 users found public cell use “a major irritation.”