Underground and in the Air: Cell Phones Go Where They've Never Gone Before



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20 September 2007

This morning I picked up a copy of AM New York on my way to the office. On the front page there’s a story about the MTA’s plan to wire subway stations for cell phone use. Some people are happy about it because now they can “call in when they’re late and stuck on the train”. Except not, because only the stations will be wired, not the tunnels. Duh. However it would mean a lot of extra annoying sounds on the subway platform (as if there aren’t enough: excessively loud headphones, people who snap their gum, crying babies and screeching trains) and more conversations to eavesdrop on, although these conversations will all be one-sided.

Like, ok, is this necessary? Really? You won’t be able to call anyone if you’re stuck on the train, which would be the only advantage, and you’d just have more noise when you’re waiting on the platform. As if waiting for the trains weren’t grating enough. It reminded me of an article I’d seen a few years back–about the possibility of cell phone use on air planes. In some places–mostly Europe–it’s already happening. Emirates–an airline based in Dubai–was the first. They started allowing cell phone use in January of this year.

Personally, I don’t see the need. Even if there is an emergency, you won’t be able to do anything about it from an altitude of 30,000 feet. It’s useful–maybe–when the plane is about to go down and you want to say goodbye to your loved ones before going out in a blaze of fire and twisted metal. Otherwise, it’s just an opportunity to annoy fellow fliers in a new way, as if Murphy’s law and screaming babies didn’t make it bad enough.

I really don’t see the need to be connected all the time–and neither do a most business travelers. Wagonlit Travel reports that a whopping 61% of business travelers oppose in-air cell phone use. (Who can blame them: on a six hour flight from New York to Los Angeles, you can escape a bratty teenager or nagging wife, but if they can call you while you’re flying, that seat just got ten times more cramped.

I say, screw being connected 24-7. I mean, what’s next, cell phones on submarines?

TTYL,
Roxie


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