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Why I May Have My Eardrums Removed
Ben Stein writes in The New York Times of the ultimate idiocy in recent memory -- the proposal that passengers on airplanes be allowed to use their cell phones throughout the flight:

Now, as everyone who has the misfortune to fly commercially knows, air travel today is mind-bogglingly uncomfortable. The seats are small. The flights are nearly always full to overflowing. The food is unspeakable. The air is fetid and filled with germs. Many a time I board an airliner hale and hearty, only to emerge with a raging pneumonia.

But there is one saving grace. Unless you are seated behind or next to really rude people — which happens surprisingly rarely — air travel is fairly quiet. Yes, the flight attendants stand around and talk. Yes, before the plane takes off people scream into their cellphones, but along about three hours into the flight from, say, Kennedy to LAX, it's pretty peaceful.

That's solely because passengers can't use cellphones aloft. That prohibition was one of the great decisions ever. Now, in a fit of idiocy, some airlines are suggesting that they be allowed to sell the use of cellphones in the air at nominal prices. This will mean yelling and screaming and boasting and complaining for almost all the time you're sealed in that sardine can. The government is apparently planning to allow this anarchy.

...It is bad enough to allow cellphone use in a confined space anywhere. But on an airplane flight? No. Some planes already allow use of built-in telephones, but those are so hard to use, so amazingly costly, that they might as well not be there. Virtually unlimited cellphone use in the air will turn a swamp into Armageddon.

Welcome to Hell! Should the loud, dull conversation of the person next to you become too fucking annoying for any sentient human to bear, handguns will drop from the overhead compartment...

Posted by aalkon at March 26, 2006 11:12 AM

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The only thing wrong with the Stein piece is that they gave it to Stein to write, and it would be bad if his position comes to be seen as the stance of of middlebrow comics. Had I been the editor assigning the piece, I'd have leaned more towards Elie Wiesel.

This is just hideous.

And there's no room for compromise. The only middle ground would be PC terminals in the seatback screens, with unlimited IM-style computer chat. Maybe it's not too much to ask seatmates to put up with incessant typing.

But endless phone calls? No more drinking on planes for me... I'm gonna need a morphine drip. And let's get that IV in nice 'n' snug before pushback, 'K, Stewy?

Posted by: Crid at March 26, 2006 6:52 AM

I'm with you. They'll have hire an anesthesiologist for every other passenger -- at least for passengers like you and me. Horrifying, just horrifying. I don't care if somebody's silently typing -- providing they don't have the sound up on their computer so it goes "bling!" everytime they do something in Word or send an email. But, I don't want to be forced to be an audience to anyone's life. Anywhere. But, especially when I'm a captive less than an inch away from them (in the case of chunky seatmates) for hours.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 26, 2006 7:44 AM

Hopefully Godwin's Law was not invoked by the mention of Weisel, but these are the themes that come to mind... The perils of indifference, man's inhumanity to man... and most poignantly, the banality of evil.

"Stewardess, could I get a freshen-up on this OxyContin? Thanks oodles. By the way, honey, if Achmed actually manages to ignite his shoelace up there in 8B, you're on your own, OK? We're all drugged or distracted back here...."

Posted by: Crid at March 26, 2006 8:30 AM

Yeah, this is awful, awful, awful. However, reclining your seat is not. It's what they're designed to do.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at March 26, 2006 8:47 AM

There is nothing more annoying than overhearing people talk on their phones about their dates, or medical issues. Personally, I have the bad habit of tending to yell into my cellphone because it always seems like it isn't working very well. There are a whole bunch of other passengers' heads within 10' of your own, easily within earshot.

Those firing-range earmuffs do actually work pretty well, if you don't mind looking like a dork.

Posted by: Ajam at March 26, 2006 10:29 AM

this is why god invented mp3 players.
and piano wire.

by biggest beef is actually the people that don't bother to clear their six before heaving their chairs backwards into the wild blue yonder before inevitably displacing my kneecaps.

Posted by: g*mart at March 26, 2006 11:33 AM

I don't want to hear music all the time or to be forced to wear noise-canceling headphones because people are inconsiderate assholes. Why should I have to ask to be able to hear my own thoughts rather than somebody else's blathering about their dull life? This happened at Staples the other day. I had to buy some pens. There's one place to do that -- in the pen aisle -- which had become a phone booth for some assclown talking to his girlfriend. What's amazing to me is how indignant people get when you suggest that they might shut their traps (which I say more politely than that) so you can escape their loud, dull lives while selecting your writing implements.

If one more dullwit suggests the excuse, "It's a public place..."!

As I always say: "Yes, it is, which means you share it with other people, which means you should have some consideration for needs other than your immediate own... Asswad! (Well, I don't say that in so many words -- tends to diminish the argument just made by half -- but I'm pretty sure it comes through rather clearly in my tone if they persist in blathering.)

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 26, 2006 12:16 PM

Amy, I wish you would stop using such unladylike phrases such as "fucking annoying", as you did in this piece. What if some 10 year old would see this? Why, that kid would be scarred for life! The Lord God in the Kingdumb of Heaven hath revealed unto us, through his representative on earth, the Rev George Carlin, the seven dirty words which are Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits. Please copy this list and hang it on your refrigerator door so you will be reminded of His will at all times. You don't want to fucking annoy his son Jesus and be condemned to hell for eternity, do you?

Posted by: Bill Henry at March 27, 2006 2:03 AM

Fuck no.

PS Albert Ellis, at the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference, noted a study that found that swearing while speaking gets people to pay more attention to what you're saying.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 27, 2006 5:43 AM

My two year old boy had a birthday this weekend, and one of the presents he received (from a neighbor) was an electronic simulated cell phone that has ringtone & recorded messages from his friends and cartoon characters!

Did I get you to dig your nails into your desk Amy?

Posted by: Eric at March 27, 2006 12:33 PM

I'm not so sure cell phones work up that high. The point might be moot. Who would know? Mine showed no service, was it blocked somehow?

Posted by: thechicknlady at March 29, 2006 10:17 PM

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