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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Boycotting Bluetooth, sort of

For the record, I like Bluetooth technology.

I've loved my wireless cell phone headset from day one. Granted, I'm using a wired headset for now, 'cause I haven't seen my Bluetooth in months (probably vacuumed it up, accidentally, or something). But I love the technology nonetheless.

So I was watching the Boondocks last night on Cartoon Network. And while I often cite moments from 'toons like the Boondocks and South Park, I'd never suggest we build our personal moral platforms off the plot of a cartoon. Still, I think I'm gonna conduct a personal experiment based on something I saw on the show last night.

Two wealthy morons were sneaking around in combat gear, burglarizing homes in a high end neighborhood in the fictional Chicago suburb of Woodcrest. While one of them barked instructions and tried to engage the other in conversation as they drove to their crime scenes, the other kept saying bizarre things. Each time the first burglar was baffled for a moment till he realized the other guy wasn't talking back to him. The other guy was talking to a girlfriend on his Bluetooth headset that guy #1 couldn't see.

So for most of the episode, burglar #1 lectured burglar #2 on the "evils" of almost-invisible headsets for phones.

And you know what? He had a point. He argued that the reason we hold phones up to our heads is to let other people know we're busy. In fact, it's how phones were designed. But his logic was sound.

Holding a phone - excluding the 1980s lunchbox-sized cell phones that caused brain tumors and shrank testicles - up to your ear, tells everyone around you that your time, for the moment, is occupied.

It is a preemptive strike against interruptions. People are less likely to approach you and break into your conversation, if they see you're on the phone.

It is also a safeguard against angry reactions to any dumb thing you might say into your phone. Say something stupid into a Bluetooth headset, and you might get smacked by the person standing closest to you on your other side. Say something stupid into a handheld phone, and the worst you'll get is a harsh look.

Plus, there's something about holding a phone that demonstrates the person on the other end has your full attention. Free your hands by way of a headset while you're on the phone, and tell me with a straight face that in less than a minute you're not already using both hands to fiddle with something else that diverts some of your attention from the person you're talking to.

Since rude interruptions, lack of clarity, and divided attention are three of my biggest pet peeves, then for the foreseeable future (until I can't stave off hypocrisy any longer), I am going to hold my phone to the side of my head...and hope that nothing inside my skull or my shorts shrinks or glows as a result of my dedication to civility.

UPDATE: I forgot one exception. If I absolutely have to take or make a call while I'm driving, I'll use my headset.

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  • I don't particularly care for them. I had to buy one because there's a conference call I have to listen to every week, and there's no way I could make it to work in time to participate, so I usually end up listening in the car. But other than that, I never use it. I can't stand to see people walking around in public talking on them. I don't know why, it just annoys me.

    By Blogger fiwa, at 1:01 PM  

  • I had the same problem when my nephew came over and plugged a headset into his video game and started talking to them online. everytime he said something weird I responded with huh?

    I'm not a fan of the technology or more precisely the people who are rude with it.

    By Blogger Hammer, at 3:21 PM  

  • You mean all those people walking around talking to themselves really aren't lunatics, wackos, and freaks?

    Who knew?

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, at 3:46 PM  

  • I hate, hate, HATE those things!!! I work in an office full of salesmen who wear them and it is impossible to have a conversation with any of them. Mama G got one so that she could do the dishes, etc while she's on the phone at home and now she's driving me batty too. They sound weird (from the other end) and they are crazily annoying (or maybe I'm just easily annoyed). In any case I hope you can hold out long enough to break the's for the good of all mankind, James. Do it for us :)

    By Blogger WNG, at 3:51 PM  

  • Ironically, the very real city of Chicago made it illegal to hold a cell phone up to ones head whilst driving. A move I don't completely disagree with.

    But otherwise, I'm with you on this one: still remember the first time I thought someone was talking to me, only to quickly learn they weren't.

    That was embarrassing for both of us.

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 4:43 PM  

  • Whenever I see people wearing one of those all I can think of is:


    By Anonymous Karmyn R, at 7:38 PM  

  • I can't STAND to be in a room with someone using those things. They walk around, talking to themselves...and please, at the dinner table? TAKE IT OFF. I don't think we need to be THAT connected, all the time.

    And I agree about the car thing. In fact, I think I agree with your entire post!

    By Blogger Tiggerlane, at 9:46 PM  

  • I say beam 'em up Scotty.
    Great for driving. But irritating when someone can't get off the darn ear plug long enough to conduct a little business at a check out counter somewhere.

    By Blogger Pamela, at 12:30 AM  

  • If people say stupid things into phones and you can hear it, does it matter if they are using Bluetooth technology, holding the phone to their ear, or prancing on an Arabian horse? They have still polluted the environment. Too bad the Blue tooth can't pick up brain waves and transmit them quietly, then the only person who would be aggravated would be the listener, who would have the option of hanging up!

    Please stop by my blog a moment, Wednesday. Thanks.

    By Blogger The CEO, at 1:00 AM  

  • I'm B.C., that is, Before Cellphone. So I really freak out when people get too close talking loudly to themselves and there is no one around.

    My first thought--are they talking to me? My second thought--are they one slice short of a sandwich? My third thought--are they using a cellphone? With Bluetooth technology, it's not always immediately obvious what's going on.

    I'm afraid this new tech stuff is not bringing us closer together, it's just making us more paranoid.

    By Anonymous thefirstdomino, at 1:53 AM  

  • I have one--don't use it.

    My car has Bluetooth that syncs up with my cell built in.

    i agree 1000% about the annoyances.

    By Blogger Turnbaby, at 1:24 PM  

  • My phone is capable of it, but I don't use it.

    It also really annoys me when I'm out with someone and he's wearing that stupid little ear piece all night long. He might as well be holding a phone up to his ear the whole time.

    Rude rude rude.

    By Blogger SWF42, at 3:32 PM  

  • I am going to hold my phone to the side of my head...and hope that nothing inside my skull or my shorts shrinks or glows as a result of my dedication to civility..............................

    LOL, This made me laugh, because I am so with you on this James..the things we have to worry about!!

    By Blogger Cazzie!!!, at 7:15 AM  

  • thefirstdomino said it all for me.


    By Blogger jali, at 9:29 AM  

  • i gave mine to my son! he lives out in lalaland and is in his car all the time! hands free is a necessity!

    By Blogger savannah, at 4:17 AM  

  • it's my freaking birthday!

    By Blogger Crashtest Comic, at 5:18 PM  

  • I try to be sure my earpiece is showing - imagining it makes my muttering seem less insane to passers-by.

    Get caught holdiing a phone to your ear while driving in Germany, and you get a point on your license. Nein, Danke!

    By Blogger MollyB, Bloggerin, at 12:18 PM  

  • Oh I dunno...I always get a little kick of humor when I realize the crazy person walking down the grocery store aisle is just talking on the phone, not their carrots. I'm easily amused though.

    By Anonymous Franki, at 1:30 PM  

  • I have to agree with everything you said, especially as most car accident calls I report to as an EMT involve at least one party being on a cell phone at the time of the accident! How delightfully responsible...

    I had a Bluetooth headpiece. As good as I normally am about not losing things, this was lost in no time, and I never was able to master it in the time I had it! Rather pathetic... Unbelievable.

    By Blogger Aislínge, at 10:30 PM  

  • I sometimes cup my hand around my Bluetooth ear for the same reason. Or I look down and "appear" to be concentrating on something abstract.

    I like it when people get lost in themselves, though, however obnoxious midddle-aged men can be with such technologies.

    Saw this dopy white teenager walking down the street the other day in DC, lost to everyone else. He started moving his right hand along with the bass line.

    He was rapping.

    By Blogger M@, at 2:59 PM  

  • Nice post you got here. It would be great to read a bit more concerning that topic. The only thing I would like to see here is a photo of any jammer.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:01 AM  

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