We’ll be seeing much more of this

Too loud on cell phone? You’re busted

A loud-talking pregnant woman cursing into her cell-phone was arrested after an encounter with a D.C. Transit Police officer escalated.

Transit Police and some Metro officials say Saoutis was protecting the peace by removing a woman who had overstepped the boundaries of civil behavior because she was loudly cursing into her phone.

They say that cell phones have become just another instrument of loutish behavior in the public space and that they are fighting a dramatic deterioration of manners in the transit system.

“We need better enforcement to allow people to know we are serious and want to maintain the high-quality level of the system,” said Robert J. Smith, chairman of the Metro board, adding that “ranting youth” have become a plague on the subway. “This isn’t Montana. We live in a very dense region, and people are on top of each other all the time.”

This is something I’ve been noticing as it’s been getting progresively worse. I’m sure everyone reading this has also noticed, at least at one time or another, people behaving badly on cell phones.

I’ve just returned from vacationing in South Dakota for two weeks, and I ran into a number of people who would have seemed intent on wrecking the atmosphere of one place or another if they hadn’t already appeared ignorant of everyone else around them. In particular, while waiting to be helped at the front desk in a hotel in Ft. Pierre, a woman sat and carried on a conversation at approximately five times normal speaking volume. On and on she went, loudly “speaking” into her little phone without any regard for others in the room, including the desk clerk who was kindly calling around to other hotels in an attempt to accomadate those of us looking for a room in a city with too few hotel rooms for the weekend.

As the quote says, cell phones are just another opportunity for people to be rude. Personally, I think rudeness itself is on the rise, but that might just be me. Although cell phones are infinitely useful, they do bring another set of circumstances that users should be prepared to deal with in a kind, polite manner. Since too few people are prepared to deal with any sort of circumstances in a kind, polite manner, cell phones are going stir up all sorts of trouble from here on out.

I don’t let my kids talk loudly or get (too) out of control when in a public place. And I’m embarrassed if they do. If my little kids can behave with a modicum of politeness, why can’t adults, who should know better? And why aren’t these people embarrassed for themselves?

All of this being said, I’m also concerned about “politness police” running around and putting the smack down on those who “break” loosely-defined “codes” of conduct. I think there’s a line that, once crossed, is simply TOO MUCH, whether it’s loud people on cell phones, crying babies in movie theaters, or the booming subwoofers at one in the morning in the car of the guy that lives down the street. When that line is crossed, something has to be done if the responsible party doesn’t do anything on their own. I’m just glad I’m not the one that has to sort out the details.

I’m just wondering out loud, is all.


  1. For the record, I don’t think Montanans would appreciate loud cell phone users either. It’s nice and quiet there.

  2. I think that people don’t have any sense of what is appropriate when they use their cell phones. In public places, they just chat away like idiots, completely unaware that they are speaking too loudly. In their cars, too many disengage their brains and flip into ‘crusing idiot’ mode. Phone conversations are a lot like public displays of affection, in my mind. If you exercise even a little discretion, then I won’t even notice you. That’s a private phone conversation, so stop including the rest of us in it by chattering away at full volume.

  3. I can’t tolerate morons who loudly grandstand on cell phones. I couldn’t help overhearing one guy who was saying, ‘You BETTER call a meeting of the board! The stockholders will NEVER stand for this!’ Oh, brother! The guy is probably the janitor at at two-man company.

  4. Rudeness, not just shoddy manners but particularly a lack of consideration for others, IS on the rise. And the outraged belligerence of these miscreants when called on their poor behavior offers some insight into the true extent of the problem. Things weren’t always like this. The root of the problem is that somehow, much of an entire American generation has been allowed to grow to maturity believing that their whims and urges are all that matters. I suspect that things never would’ve reached this point if so many of the rest of us hadn’t become so pathologically averse to any sort of con- frontation. People notice rudeness and thoughtlessness, you can be sure — but rather than objecting to it, they shy away from any possibility of sparking a confrontation or creating a scene. ‘What if they have a gun?’ is a commonly-heard excuse, but that’s just a smokescreen for social cravenness. As far as so-called ‘politeness police’ are concerned, we can be certain that this fraying of the social fabric will continue unabated unless people regain some sense of a stake in their own society, and grow the collective backbone with which to sanction some basic standards of public behavior. –Geoff