Yakking on the Phone at 32,000 Feet in the Sky

Barry Ritholtz heard the news that the Federal Communications Commission is thinking about allowing unrestricted cell phone use on planes and his response is: There will be blood.

Take railroads, for example. In the New York metro area, there are four major rail lines –AmtrakLong Island RailroadMetro-North, and New Jersey Transit. These commuter railroads are among the busiest in the nation. As the links above show, all of them have implemented quiet cars. This was necessary to quell the disputes and arguments and even fistfights that have broken out on commuter lines because of rude cell phone usage. Note that these trips are usually under an hour.

My own experiences on the rails have led to a few arguments and a near altercation. (Thankfully, a conductor intervened before I violated the conditions of my parole). I did find that shaming worked well — I used to post photos of really rude people on the trains atLirrcommuterfromhell.com, along with a brief description of their offenses. Changing my commuting routine brought some relief as well: I always travel with a fully charged iPod, a stack of reading material and a full download of podcasts to go with my noise-reducing headphones.

The difference between the rails and planes, he argues, is that if you don’t like the noise happening in the train car you’re in, you can just get up and move to a different car—hopefully, a quiet car if one is available. And it’s not like you can just switch planes in mid-air (maybe? I don’t know the future).

Photo: Sam Churchill



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