It’s Good to Talk? An old British Telecom (BT) saying that’s not applicable for Eurostar … or any public transportation for that matter.
Having recently done a couple of round trips on the Eurostar I have made a few survey-of-one conclusions about the need for a standard of etiquette for cell phone usage on trains.
There is a severe need to reel in the mobile manners of travelers — and this before the airlines democratize cell phone usage on board. On these recent Eurostar trips between London and France, I started to make a mental note of the profiles of those who were prone to get up and be discrete with their telephone call and those who chose to make telephone calls while seated in the midst of their fellow passengers. Whilst my assessment obviously reflects the population on board, in terms of professional profiles, I detected a large number of lawyers [ironically] and other suits who tended not to mind talking openly. In terms of nationalities, I tended to hear more French. But, I am open for debate! [My recent experience at LAX has shown that the US traveller has equally little tact when it comes to his fellow partner.]
Typing on a computer, fiddling on the blackberry or listening to an Ipod hardly bother me. And if ever they do, hooking up a low volume Ipod is the perfect remedy. However, others speaking on the cell phone in such confined spaces do truly irritate me. Talking on your cell in the comfort of your [business class] seat demonstrates a total lack of courtesy to your fellow passengers. We have everything to learn from the etiquette of the Japanese who — admittedly reinforced with frequent public announcements — leave to find an isolated place to make an irritation-free telephone call. A culture of respect and cheap SMS are a good combination. Discretion oblige!
I know that many passengers in trains and buses around the world are also defying the most normal norms of politeness. Perhaps the transport companies will, themselves, have to intervene as they do in Japan? Otherwise, I fear the onset of liberalized mobile phone use on airplanes…
In the meantime, on line, you can find a myriad of sites giving their version of proper cell phone etiquette. Many of the ideas converge. Here are a few of them:
Infoworld – The Ten Commandments of Cell Phone Etiquette. Right on the money in terms of the major faux-pas (or ne faut pas) with a good sense of humour.
About.com – How To Respect The Rules Of Cell Phone Etiquette. A substantially dry but appropriate 7 rules…with nuances according to the person/people around you.
Wisegeek – What is Cell Phone Etiquette, with eight good points here, including the 10 foot personal space.
Digital Media Wire – 12 Unwritten Rules of Cell Phone Etiquette with some rules that should be or could be written and others that, as Scott Goldberg suggests, should remain unwritten.