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Noise pollution
Jan 28, 2005

The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States are contemplating removing the ban on cellphone use on airplanes while in-flight. 

In Canada, where a similar ban is in place, Transport Canada has expressed an interest in the changes under consideration in the U.S. It indicated that if the Americans amend their airline policy, they will probably follow suit.  

Actually, instead of permitting the use of cellphones on aircraft, the present ban should be extended to airports, since most cellphone users pollute airports with useless chatter. 

Like smokers, cellphone users should be forced to make their calls outside regardless of the weather. At the very least, they should be confined to specifically 

designated rooms or areas.

Recently in the Minneapolis airport during a long layover, I was forced to hear the most intimate of details involving the love life of a young woman. She was apparently in discussion with another young woman and noted that her present boyfriend hadn’t asked her out in a while and she was thinking about accepting a date from another young man who had shown some interest in her. Amazingly, the cellphone conversationalist wasn’t  the least bit concerned that she was engaged in a personal discussion that could be heard throughout most of the airline flight check-in waiting area.

Another man paced the flight check-in area, showing impatience with the speaker at the other end of the line. His 

irritation grew louder and louder and his pacing intensified. 

A young man kept checking his cellphone, showing obvious signs of distress. He would look at the cellphone. Put it back into his coat pocket. Take it out again. Put it back. Frown. Until finally, he dialed a number, received an acknowledgement of his call and then went into a tirade about the person on the other end failing to keep in touch on a regular basis.

The content of the conversation revealed the person at the other end resided in Minneapolis, was not scheduled to be on the plane with him and would not be waiting for him when the plane landed in another city. But that didn’t matter. The real point was that, if one possesses a cellphone it is to be used and used frequently.

A mother and father on their way to Reno, Nevada with two overly rambunctious children in tow, decided to call a friend in Ottawa to tell them they were in Minneapolis and that the kids were acting up. What someone thousands of kilometres away could do defies one’s imagination. 

The father didn’t even ask the person at the end of the line to soothe the troubled souls of the children by singing them a nursery rhyme over the cellphone. No, the main intent was to complain and at a high decibel level since one of the children was continuing to holler to the point of drowning out the father’s conversation. As one tried to outdo the other, the level of hollering by the child and the father’s shouting into the cellphone grew louder and louder. Even other cellphone users paused from their own conversations and began to turn their heads in the direction of the now 

unbearable din with looks of disgust.

I can see using a cellphone to ask for a ride from the airport or warn someone at their destination that a flight will be arriving late, but that is seldom the case. A businessperson may even be excused when calling to warn the company that a delay may prevent him or her from being on time to deliver a presentation that may cost the firm thousands of dollars, but that is also seldom the case.

I overheard one briefcase carrying gentleman pull out his cellphone and talk to a friend in other city about the poor quality of the hotel room in the city he had just visited. He vowed never to return to that particular hotel, and then expressed the opinion that hotels were too expensive for the infrequent use made of them when he was in town for meetings. The nature, nor importance of the meetings, was never brought up, since the conversation was only about that darn hotel and hotels in general.

All the time I heard these conversations, I attempted to keep to myself while engaged in reading an interesting book. On occasion, when the conversations within earshot became too unbearably trite and irritating, I would change seats in the waiting area and return to my reading. But, the respite was never long. Regardless of the seat, the cellphone users seemed to surround me. When an area of seats near the check-in counter for the flight looked to me relatively free of chatter, someone would pull out a cellphone, dial a number and tell Aunt Sally that it was too boring to be just sitting waiting for a flight to board, so did she mind talking for a while to fill time. Of course, said the accommodating aunt, or whomever, and the blabfest was on.

The only relief from these loud and inane conversations came on the airplane itself. But, now Americans federal officials are thinking about removing the one place of refuge for weary travellers. The whine of jet engines, the cries of children who beg their mothers to let them run up and down the aisles, and normal conversations heard on airplanes, may soon be joined by the natter of ubiquitous cellphone users.

Frustrated travellers may soon be yelling, “Take it outside buddy!” just as  non-smokers shout at smokers who 

invade their space. Oops. The plane is 

flying at 30,000 feet. They can’t take it outside. So, expect “cellphone rage” cases to take flight.