What is it that’s so annoying about a person talking at length on their cell phone in public? (I was reminded of this while waiting in airport lines as of late.) The same person could be talking to an embodied person and I wouldn’t notice; it certainly wouldn’t irk me this way. But put me in line with this person on their cell phone—or put us on the bus or in an elevator together—and I can’t help but feeling just the tiniest bit outraged. But by what? Their bloated sense of self-importance? Why do I find it so obnoxious? I’m guessing I’m not alone*, yet it seems somewhat irrational (assuming the issue isn’t the loudness). It’s worst I think when the user is just shooting the breeze, or sounding as if they’re closing a deal, or describing (in “real-time”) being in line.
I’m aware of a few studies on adverse reactions to cell-phone use, but do any of them get to the operative factors? I doubt any get at mine. Maybe we need to home in on these factors first, in order to design a study to pick them up. But what would they be? “Varieties of annoyance with public cell-phone use and users’ exaggerated sense of self-importance”? I think it is possible that I’m simply annoyed by their inadvertently (and foolishly) acting as if they wished to display an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
Yesterday, in the condo, where most of the residents are relatively new, I’m in the elevator, alone, when a man gets on and begins to talk. My first thought is that he’s introducing himself to me or some such, until I notice the headset firmly implanted in coils around his ear lobes! (The guy in the picture is at least holding the phone, the implants seem worse for some reason, maybe because they show how planned it all was!) He’s engrossed in sporadic utterances, staring into space. . . . hardly aware of me—so, why am I just the slightest bit put out by his insinuation that …what? That he’s fully engaged with a headset, and I’m not? I really can’t quite put my finger on it…..can you?
*But I’m prepared to grant that the particular source of my annoyance is unique.