Tony Long:  Rude cell-phone users are nothing new. Actually, they’re getting very tiresome. But good manners count, so here are eight simple steps to help you avoid offending refined sensibilities.

Waiting in line recently at my local coffeehouse — an establishment as renowned for its leisurely service as for its place in San Francisco history — I was blown away by the absolute arrogance of a young woman standing two or three places ahead of me.

She had already irritated everyone within earshot by conducting a very animated cell-phone conversation in her singsong, Valley girl, yuppie voice. But now it was her turn to order and the cafe‘s irritation turned to cold fury as she impatiently waved off the barista to complete her thought (which no doubt required a herculean effort). Alas for young Brie, or whatever her name was, she picked the wrong guy to trifle with. Our barista tossed her out of line and took the next person’s order. She huffed off, still tethered to her phone, to our general delight.

Today, we consider the mobile phone. More than the personal computer and, now, the iPod, this is the technology that even the most technophobic of cats is likeliest to possess. In other words, they’re all over the place. It’s understood why people use cell phones. What we’re concerned with here is how they use ’em.

Too often the answer is "rudely." Yeah, "rude cell-phone user" columns have been done to death over the years. But those columns keep getting written for a reason: There are still far too many of you thoughtless blockheads out there. So let’s try it again.

Not everyone who uses a mobile phone is as willfully thoughtless as our friend Brie. But the level of rudeness isn’t the issue. It’s the mere fact of rudeness itself — that’s the issue.

Mobile phones have helped to make a crass and vulgar society even more crass and more vulgar. Portability makes it possible for anyone to take a private conversation public and that’s never a good idea. In its way, some moron babbling into a mobile phone is as obtrusive and obnoxious as the idiot who plays his boombox at full throttle in the park.

Look, the world is not your personal playground. Do not share with us your musical tastes; do not share with us your latest wheelings and dealings. In public places, you have an obligation to hold up your end of the implied social contract by not imposing yourself on those around you. This is crucial to a civilized society and just because technology allows you to act like a braying ass in public doesn’t mean you should do it. Quite the contrary, in fact. You need to be more aware of your surroundings than ever.

That said, it’s understood that you will use your phone away from hermetically sealed rooms and the solitude of your studio apartment. So, please, observe these little niceties:

  • Don’t use your phone in obvious situations where your one-sided conversation can only be disruptive: at the movies, at a concert, in a public auditorium, on an elevator, in a crowded waiting room, etc. I would add city buses to the list, but those are already rolling prison yards for the most part. Use your phone if you must, but use at your own peril.
  • If you’re in the middle of a face-to-face conversation with someone, don’t take a phone call. It’s disrespectful. You can go on the theory that if the incoming call is important enough, the caller will leave you a message. You can then return said call at a more convenient moment, and nobody is offended.
  • If you’re expecting an important call and somebody stops by to chat you up, let your buddy know that you might have to take a call. That’s fair.
  • Ditch the ring tone and put the phone on vibrate. The only person who cares about an incoming call on your phone is you. Don’t worry, you’ll feel it. (It feels go-o-o-od.) Most ring tones are not only intrusive, they’re inane.
  • Don’t have emotional phone conversations in my face. In other words, don’t break up with your boyfriend publicly. (Besides, we can’t see him and being able to see his reaction is half the fun.) Wait until you get home and then toss his sorry ass out the door.
  • Don’t talk on the phone while you’re grocery shopping. For whatever reason, the acoustics of a shopping aisle seem to amplify your voice. Also, talking on the phone tends to distract you from what’s going on in your immediate vicinity and I need to get around you to reach the Cocoa Puffs.
  • When you’re in my cafe, turn off your phone and don’t use it at all.
  • Personal note to my son: Using part of a rap song as a voicemail greeting, where the only intelligible words are "bitch" and "fuckah," is not a felicitous way of welcoming an incoming caller. While your friends may find this the height of wit, your employer and professors and parole officer almost certainly will not.
A final thought: I kind of like those Bluetooth earpieces where you don’t use your hands. The ones that hang from your ear and have you talking off into the ether. You look like a crazy guy wandering down the street, the only difference being that a real crazy guy usually has something interesting to say.

More here.