The day is coming when the last vestige of serenity – the aircraft cabin – will become polluted with ring tones and annoying conversations.
While making bothersome mile-high phone calls still requires approval from The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, and The U.S. Federal Communications Commission, it widely expected to come in 2006.
That’s almost enough time educate passengers on when to talk – and when to shut up.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m usually passionate about the confluence of flying and new technology. But I dread the day when I no longer hear my favorite in-flight announcement: “Please turn off your cell phones.”
Call me crazy, but I look forward to a few quiet hours on a plane. A time when I can read, listen to good music and most importantly, decompress.
Now, technology is disconnecting one of the last cell-free zones on earth.
The momentum for this change is fueled by hard-charging business types with a need to stay connected. For them, a minute without their mobile phone is a business meltdown.
Last week, on a 45-minute minute flight, the young hard-charger next to me chatted away on his phone. The proximity of our seats meant that I couldn’t help but hear his obtrusive conversation – one mainly consisting of blabber.
But then, a beautiful thing happened. The aircraft door closed and the conversation stopped.
Until we landed.
As soon as we touched down, he was back on the phone to find out if he had any messages. Then he asked to be transferred to a number of extensions until someone picked up willing to carry on a seemingly incessant conversation.
For years, air passengers have been spared the yapping of cell-phone users, thanks in no small part to fears that the wireless devices would interfere with a plane’s navigation and communication systems.
Newer mobile phone technology is less intrusive to a plane’s systems, but no less obtrusive to the person sitting next to you.
If the current trend among cell phone users is any indication of what we can expect-the skies will be noisy. A local Southern California library recently imposed a $200 fine for violating noise-free-zones. Fines from cell phones users have increased the library’s revenue 1000 percent.
I understand the convenience factor. It would be nice to use your cell-phone for an emergency situation, or a high priority call. I’m not so important that someone calling me can’t just leave a message. If I were, I suspect that I would have my own private jet, or a cadre of lieutenants handling my calls.
Informally surveying passengers on a recent flight, many concurred that there is serenity on a cell-free flight. Among the most common comment: “It’s nice to get away from the phone.”
When the cell phones take off – and they will soon enough – I hope my fellow passengers will heed decorum and remain mindful of their seatmates need for solitude and peace.
Think about the last time your seatmate chewed you ear off when all you wanted to do was be alone with your thoughts.