Jul 30, 2023Liked by Erica Manfred

Well, my own rule is not to use the phone at the dining table unless someone there has asked me to find some information- and even then, only a brief search. In general when there are others around, I try not to be on my devices. I go to a separate room to write, or talk or text so as not to be rude or show disregard for those who are actually present. Because of the way cellphone communication is, it's often hard to get a word in with a monologuist friend; one cannot, in the time-honored manner of cultures everywhere, talk over one another. This is a huge handicap and I don't know how Latin Americans handle it. I've found that it means an insensitive or incurious friend can talk uninterruptedly for an hour without noticing any attempted interjections.

It's not pleasant to cause others annoyance. I don't have long conversations within earshot of anyone else. One disturbing effect of the use of cellphones is the increased volume of voices in public places- people think nothing of yelling even their in-person conversations no matter where they are. And laughter too is louder. I find it quite disturbing.

But in case you can't tell, I am an older white lady from the northeast of the US. My habits and preferences mean nothing at all to people of other cultures. Very easy to see in the city, where students of all ethnicities display their own styles with great aplomb. I've whined about the loud volume of public voices, the volume of both music and conversation in restaurants, the joy in noise that truck and motorcycle owners display- all the while loving the over the top scream of the subway which seems less aggressive to me because it's mechanical, not a choice someone is making.

The first person who ever stayed on her phone during an entire meal we were having on the upper west side was a Tibetan friend. I thought it was terribly rude but chalked it up to cultural differences. Which is probably where it belonged, and now that each of us seems to be in a culture all her own, how can we continue to complain about anything or even have an idea of a shared etiquette?

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I actually have a landline, which I prefer to use when there is going to be a long conversation, but I don't insist that people remember to use it, since I also give them my cell, and suggest that they text when they are ready to call. Since I am one of those people who tend to be early for any appointment, including phone appointments, so this way I don't sit waiting for people who are habitually late for everything. Instead I can type merrily away until I hear the little ding of the text.

And, since I never went out much before covid, and practically not at all since, the how to behave in public isn't relevant, although I do have to work on letting go when grandkids visit. But I do love the ability to write my texts on my laptop, because it is so quick, and frankly, texting on a phone, with arthritic thumbs is a nightmare. Who needs the aggravation!!! :)

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Erica, while I'm fine with people using their phones in restaurants where the general din is something expected, nothing makes me angrier than having to sit in a quiet medical waiting (with signs asking people to go outside to use their phone) and listen to someone's loud and prolonged conversation while I am trying to read.

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