I’m guessing that the advent of the smartphone has created the most etiquette questions since the invention of the soup spoon and salad fork.
If you are in a social gathering, when is it appropriate to accept a call? If you are in a multi-person business meeting, is it proper to check your email or send a quick text? I’m not sure what the rules are anymore, and if there are rules they seem to be routinely ignored. Recently I was out at lunch and saw four women at the next table over, all silently texting to other people as they sat together over coffee. They looked happy enough, but . . . really?
It’s a social issue caused by technological innovation. During the land-line days of yore, people didn’t have to worry about a phone in their pocket ringing during lunch. When written communications were limited to letters, you couldn’t just touch an icon on an ever-present electronic device to catch up on your friends’ latest ruminations.
Etiquette is all about establishing rules so that people are comfortable, and not offended, in everyday settings — so I think of how I feel, for example, when I am in a store waiting to check out and the clerk takes a phone call rather than completing my transaction. I’m there, I’m ready to buy, and I get treated like second-hand news in favor of an unknown phone call? It’s not a happy feeling that’s likely to make me want to go back to that place. My baseline rule, therefore, is to try to give undivided attention to the people I’m with, no matter how many beeps and bloops my phone might make while we’re together. I figure there is plenty of time to check on emails, texts, and updates when the gathering ends. And if I’m expecting an important call that I can’t miss, I try to explain that possibility up front, so the people I’m with don’t think they are playing second fiddle to any random caller.
Cell phones are handy, but they can be a recipe for rudeness if we’re not careful.
In the modern cell phone and smart phone world, can pollsters know with any assurance that they have reached an appropriate sample of voters? For years, pollsters relied on land line telephones to conduct their surveys. Recently, however, many Americans have dropped their land line phones as a nuisance and unnecessary expense. In 2007, nearly 13 percent of American households had no land line phone. By 2008, that number had jumped to 20 percent and it has only increased since then as millions more — including Kish and me — have gone totally wireless.
So, in these days leading up to Election Day, let’s not pay too much attention to the polls and their competing results. The only poll that really matters is the one that will occur on November 2, and all registered voters — be they wireless Gen Xers or land line fogies — will have an equal opportunity to be counted.