News

Cell Phone: Convenient inconvenience

By ELIZABETH CIEPIELA

Staff writer

It may seem like most people have a cell phone — the convenience and the occasional lifesaver. But cell phones can also be a nuisance if abused.

People carry on private conversations while browsing in bookstores, sitting in a cafe, on the bus, in public libraries. Rude cell phone users have even been addressed by Dear Abby.

In a recent column, Ken of Livingston, Tex., wrote:

“I used to commute by bus to work in Manhattan...and every morning a woman passenger behind me would...use (her phone) for intensely personal conversations.” One morning, Ken turned around, faced the woman, and listened with rapt attention. The woman told him, “Excuse me, this is a private conversation!” Ken replied, “No, it isn’t, lady. They can hear you in Brooklyn.” She turned her cell phone off immediately.

Movie theaters, performing art theaters, municipal courts and classrooms are places where cell phone use is often restricted.

Within the Federal Way school district, students in secondary schools may carry cell phones and pagers and they may make calls outside of class time.

“We have asked that they are not on or audible during class time,” district spokeswoman Deb Stenberg said. If a cell phone does ring during class, appropriate action is up to the teacher’s discretion: there is no official policy.

And at the Galaxy 8 cinemas, manager A.J. Witherspoon said he trusts patrons to turn their cell phones off. Most of the time, there is no problem.

“If we have any complaints, we’ll...ask the client to turn it off,” Witherspoon said. “When I get into a dark theater and tell someone to turn it off, it gets turned off pretty quick.” He mused that this could be because of his height — six feet, five inches tall.

He added that a patron recently asked for a refund when another moviegoer’s cell phone range twice during the show. But, Witherspoon said, that’s the only cell-phone related complaint the movie theater has had in two years.

Linda Thielke, spokeswoman for Metro Transit, said inappropriate cell phone use is not a common problem on the bus.

“I think people are just aware of common courtesy,” Thielke said. If there is a problem, she said it’s usually resolved well between the passengers.

At the Federal Way Symphony, general manager Coni Sumners said ringing cell phones mid performance has never been a problem.

“We’ve never had it happen,” Sumners said. She attributes the good behavior to patrons’ politeness and courtesy.

But at the Knutzen Family Theatre - which is owned and operated by the city — theater coordinator John Gamache asks patrons to turn off or lower the volume of their cell phones before each performance. He said he has never had a problem with distracting rings during a performance.

Artistic Director Sharon Munsey of Centerstage Theater said she requires cell phones to be turned off or left at the box office. Their request is included in the program and reiterated before a show.

At City Hall, there is no policy against cell phones or pagers during city council meetings.

“Our public meetings, the cell phones go off every once in a while and people walk out,” said Mehdri Sadri, Information Systems Manager for the city.

But at the municipal court, there’s a strict policy. “We ask people to turn off cell phones and pagers prior to going into the court room,” said court administrator Gina Hoffman. “There’s a sign outside the courtroom.”

“We tape record all of our court proceedings, so a cell phone or pager going off can disrupt the recordings.” At most, the cell phone or pager owner will get a rebuke from the bailiff or judge, but there’s no fine.

Cell phone policies are strict in hospitals as well. Todd Kelley, spokesman for Tacoma General Hospital, said cell phone use is restricted within operating rooms, Intensive Care Units, emergency rooms, or near any medical devices.

Electrical or battery operated cell phones may not be used within one meter of any operating medical device because of the potential of interference with medical equipment.

And at St. Vincent DePaul Church, the music director usually asks people to turn off their cell phones and pagers before Mass. But, if a cell phone does ring during the service, nothing is said.

King County Library officials recently decided to allow cell phones and pagers. Judy Renzema, manager of the Federal Way Regional Library, said cell phone conversations are accepted in the library — as long as the conversation doesn’t disturb other library patrons.

“If someone is speaking in a voice that is inappropriate for a library, we ask them to...go into the lobby,” Renzema said.

So far, that’s worked. Except for one patron.

“I’m having a problem with a man right now who...he’s rather self important,” Renzema said. “He walks around the library just talking all the time...I ask him to leave and he mostly ignores me. Then he argues that “This is important business.’”

“He stays in the library too much to be employed, actually,” Renzema added.

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565, echiepiela@fedwaymirror.com

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