LLOYD GRAY: Keep the skies a safe haven



The Federal Communications Commission has proposed that airplane passengers be allowed to use cellphones in flight. Rules against phone conversations are “outdated,” the FCC’s chairman said.

Also outdated, it seems, is common courtesy when it comes to cellphone use, which the FCC apparently hasn’t thought much about.

The other day I had lunch in a restaurant and during the entire time I was there I was treated to a phone conversation a salesman was having with a co-worker. I learned more about his business than I’d ever care to know.

He was not seated at the next table, nor even a couple of tables down. He was all the way across the room. I could hear – couldn’t help but hear – every word of the conversation. You know, the phone voice – louder than normal conversation, guaranteed to let everybody else in on the details of your life.

I know, this is old stuff. Complaining about forced-listening to cellphone conversations is so 2003. Get over it, Gray.

But maybe not. Maybe there is still a vestige of hope that things will change, that social pressure will bring us back to some sanity – at least in this one sphere of our always-connected but perpetually never-here-at-the-moment society.

Why such hope? It goes back to the FCC.

Looks as if there’s a backlash against the idea of phone conversations on flights. Media interviews of people at airports after the proposed change was announced produced mostly negative reviews. Airline officials and flight attendants immediately protested.

I fly only occasionally, but I recoil in horror at the thought of potentially dozens of cellphone conversations going on at the same time when I’m on a plane. Next to that, a mere screaming baby or two is nothing.

Airline flights are one of the last refuges from the cellphone assault we are forced to tolerate in other public places, as well as a safe haven from actually having to be glued to the things ourselves.

Before I get even more self-righteous, a confession: I used to get agitated when someone in a meeting or group gathering of some kind would 1) arrive with their cellphone on, 2) answer it when it rang, and 3) proceed to talk in front of the group. Now I’ve been guilty of all three.

I’m sure there have also been times when perfect strangers have had to listen to one-sided phone conversations of mine, especially when my wife says on the other end, “I can’t hear you. Speak up!”

It’s to my shame that I’ve sinned in this way, swept away by the cultural currents.

Defenders of the proposed FCC change point out that it will affect only the time when the plane is at least 10,000 feet in altitude. But that’s nap time. Or simply time for a bit of peace and quiet.

There will come a point when people have had enough of the communications overkill we’ve been experiencing the last few years. This could be a turning point, a chance to make a stand.

I have a friend who growls like a dog every time someone answers a cellphone in a group gathering. It’s his commentary that we, like Pavlov’s dogs, are conditioned to respond and it’s as if we really have no choice. Experts now suggest that to avoid distracted driving people should put their phones out of reach – even in the trunk – when driving, because when they ring, or when we hear the ding of a text arriving, we’re unable to keep ourselves from picking them up.

So please, FCC, don’t enable our addiction. Hear our cry. Help us come clean. We’ll all thank you one day.

Lloyd Gray is executive editor of the Daily Journal. Contact him at (662) 678-1579 or lloyd.gray@journalinc.com.

  • barney fife

    Those rule makers will never fly in the back of the bus with the rest of the poor slobs. Why would they be concerned about the impact of permitting cell phone use?


    We can pray smartphone signal and sound quality be so poor on the plane it limits passengers to texting and email communication.