I had a conversation with a friend today, someone I met through Thing Two and consider a good friend on my own. At one point, she asked if I'd spoken with Thing Two recently and I mentioned that he often calls late at night ("late" being relative, of course: I'm talking in the 9:30 - 10:00 range) and leaves rambling messages on my answering machine.
Now, leaving aside the fact that he bloody well knows I go to bed before then, let's talk about the last message. It was left at 9:35pm, and he made it on his cell phone, from the diner in which he was eating dinner.
[sidebar: if you're in New York State, your state tax returns aren't processed in Albany but in Kingston, but a subsidiary of Bank of America. Thing Two works there during the Tax Season]
I don't really care what sort of people populate the diner after 9pm. I don't want you calling me from a public space like that. It's just wrong. No one should have to hear the conversation. I feel this way about his calls from the grocery store, when he wanders aisle to aisle, talking away, occasionally interrupting what he or I are saying to order something at the deli counter.
I feel this way when I'm on the crosstown bus listening to a woman tell her husband (who works in a hospital) that she should bake cookies for his staff because they all work so hard... or perhaps he should do the baking. Whatever. Definitely not store bought though.
Cell phones can be very useful. When I'm at a conference and can't figure out which entrance to the convention center I'm meeting friends at... when I'm traveling and lost (or worse, late)... when I need to ask a quick question of someone. But it's not ok to have a conversation in a public space, holding everyone else around hostage. I've said it before: unplugging is ok.
My assistant, otherwise a very reasonable person, gets cranky when mine isn't on. I have a phone at home. I have a phone at work. Both have answering machines. Why do you need my cell? I'm a school librarian. Really, there's nothing so important that you have to talk to me Right Now.
I know the argument about kids and being able to be reached. Less than half a century ago (less than forty years ago, even), when I was a young thing, I did something stupid on a school outing and cut my left wrist. Badly. My father wasn't reachable (no answering machines back then, and the department secretaries weren't available, for some reason). My mother was out playing tennis. I stayed with the school nurse until someone was found to take me to the hospital for stitches. I was ok. I'm not horribly scarred mentally (I'll show you the physical scar if you want to see it). My parents aren't reliving that moment thinking "if only we'd had cell phones then".
Yes, there's a sweetness (or is it sadness) to the fact that Thing Two wanted to talk to me while he waited to eat his dinner at the diner the other night. There's also a lower classness - personal business is personal. Phone conversations are personal. Mixing the two in public? Just wrong.