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It's A Café Table, Not Phone Booth
I’m guessing you were held hostage today. Maybe three, four times. Then you finished your latte and shuffled back to your car. Here's my itsy bitsy teenie weenie op-ed on all the jerks on cellphones we all encounter every day, from today's LA Times:

Every day, across Los Angeles, boors on cellphones drag us into their lives. We need to tell them our attention doesn’t belong to them. That their right to have loud, dull cellphone conversations ends where our ears begin.

Sometimes, I do this with a polite suggestion. Other times, I’m too irritated, either by the last 10 people telling me where to stick that suggestion, or by the need to instruct another adult, “Please use your inside voice.” That’s when I help them see a downside of overshare.

A woman at the Rose Café shouted her eyeglass order into her cell -- going into detail about her family’s medical plan (they have flexible spending, they’ll pay after the first of the year). After I blogged her conversation, including her phone number, she got calls from around the world: “Eva, your glasses are ready!” I’m guessing she has newfound respect for others’ profound disinterest in her life.

Barry sure does. He shouted his number across a Venice Starbucks. I went home and called it: “Barry, I know everything about you but your blood type.” Next time I saw him, he took his calls outside.

Maybe you’re too timid (or too sane) to do what I do, but please do something. Shush the rudesters. At least glare. Ask restaurants to post “no cellphones” signs.

Peace on earth might not be doable, but we could try for peace and quiet. For civility, not technology, to be our guide. Perhaps the manners of the future are best informed by our pre-wireless past. Think about it: There’s a reason nobody installed a phone booth right at table five.

This is just one of many modern rudenesses I cover in the book I'm writing, REVENGERELLA: One woman's battle to beat some manners into impolite society.

Posted by aalkon at December 26, 2007 11:21 AM


I just got back from lunch and would now like to propose child-free restaurants. I'm not anti-kid. I don't think kids need to be locked up in their houses. But, they're very loud and even the best behaved, best disciplined kids freak out. Like, every 15 minutes or so. Multiply that by about 20 kids (I work near the Children's Museum...) and it's not too pleasant.

There are few lunch options near my work and I alternate b/w brining and buying...and when I buy it's nice to eat somewhere that isn't my desk. A kid-free lunch zone would be really nice for people, esp. those of us who only have thirty minutes to de-pressurize before heading back to the office. I find the high pitched shriek of a cookie-denied 3 year old to be far more disturbing and painful to my ears than a person on a phone. It's just not as PC to say "kids are loud and annoying" as we should all just accept that kids are necessary for the continuation of the human race and as a member of society we all have to deal w/ it and yadda yadda yadda blah blah blah.

Well, I'm saying it. Kids which aren't your own ARE annoying (and I've known parents who will admit their own kids annoy them sometimes). And I don't want to hear them flipping out during my lunch break b/c they're exhausted and need a nap yet you insist on eating at a "real" restaurant (get your expensive Au Bon Pain sandwich to go and take the kids to McD's).

Looking forward to your book.

Posted by: Gretchen at December 26, 2007 9:21 AM

At the LAT link, I was kind of amazed by the guy who wrote the anti-dog piece. There are some ill-behaved dogs out there -- and Cathy Seipp wrote about one that was way too much for it's owner. But, I'll take my dog over most kids any day. Last night, I had Christmas dinner over at my neighbors, and they asked me to bring her. She sat quietly in my lap the whole time, and drank water out of a little teacup my neighbor's 3-year-old daughter offered her.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 26, 2007 9:33 AM

This world needs more people like you,I will try to be one

Posted by: Allan at December 26, 2007 9:42 AM


Do you have some tips on cozy coffee places in LA? It could be good to know when I am visiting America next time. We let people talk on their mobile phones at our meeting place, Blue Chip Café & Business Center, but we prefer if our guests keep the calls short and sweet and instead talk to each other.

All the Best,

Martin Lindeskog - American in spirit.
Gothenburg, Sweden.

Posted by: Martin Lindeskog at December 26, 2007 10:12 AM

I greatly enjoyed your column in today's Times. My gym has numerous, conspicuous signs posted which say: "Cell Phone Use Prohibited". Apparently there are those members who are either illiterate or totally inconsiderate. I've wanted to ask them, "How much extra do you have to pay for the 'cellphone exempt' membership? Also the cellphone makers abet rude cellphone users by installing (or encouraging uploads) of the most annoying ring tones imaginable.
Larry Rothstein
Newbury Park

Posted by: Larry Rothstein at December 26, 2007 12:36 PM

Does this mean the Times has lifted its Alkon ban?

Posted by: justin case at December 26, 2007 2:00 PM

Great essay in the Times, Amy. You're right, very few will handle it like you did, but that's why you're the best person to write your book!

Posted by: Donna B. at December 26, 2007 2:14 PM

We Brits have a ready kid-free lunch environment on most street corners -- the pub! A few, in cities, are dog-free as well. Apparently there's a universal human freedom to be slobbered on out in the country.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at December 26, 2007 2:45 PM

Thanks, everybody. And no, I'm still not allowed in the features sections. But, this might be a very good time to write the editors and ask them to run my syndicated advice column. Hint, hint!

And I know what you mean, Larry. I call that disregard for the signs "Very Special Boy" or "Very Special Girl" syndrome.

And Martin, please e-mail me and I'll fill you in. Been out all day...just checking in. Back soon!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 26, 2007 3:20 PM

Three cheers for this article! The other day, I was joined in a long bank line by a middle-aged gentleman talking loudly on his cell to an elderly man whose rasping responses were also being broadcast to the entire bank. My initial shock quickly turned to embarrassed giggles and eye rolls with other customers, as this disruptive holiday call unfolded. We learned that the elderly man - I think his name was Larry - was 89 years old and he needed to eat and exercise more often to have more energy. As my mind weighed whether or not to say something to the caller or to management, the conversation thundered on. Finally I decided - given the holiday season and the advanced age of the man on the other end of the noise device - to say nothing, breathe deeply and go with the flow. Given the circumstances, I think it was the appropriate choice; but now, because of this article, I'm inspired to speak with the bank about putting a "No cell phones" rule in place. Whew... We're not alone!

Posted by: Pamela Kelly at December 26, 2007 3:30 PM

At the counters of our state-run liquor stores they have prominent signs that read "We will be happy to serve you after you finish your cell phone conversation". I love it.

If you're too busy to stop gabbing on the phone then you're too busy to be served.

Posted by: just another lurker at December 26, 2007 3:56 PM

Brilliant, Amy, brilliant! This article sooooo needs to be printed in Vancouver and I've contacted the two big local papers to ask them to contact you!!

Posted by: Robert W. at December 26, 2007 5:31 PM

Thanks, everybody. Please do ask businesses to do this, and to enforce the policy by asking these boors to take it outside. (I mean, this is LA, not The Arctic Circle, huh?)

I don't go back to the Rose Cafe -- haven't for maybe a year -- because of a particular simian boor who sat shouting into his cell phone next to me. He always did it -- all the regulars loathed him for it, but he didn't notice (or, I guess, care). When he sat right next to me and did it, I asked him to pipe down. He said, "It's a business call."

ME: "Well, I'm on a breakfast call."

He kept yammering on and on and on, and when he'd get especially loud, I'd shush him or ask him to pipe down (horrors...interrupting His Royal And Very Important Little Highness' call). About 45 minutes later, he went to leave, and got up, called me a "cunt," tried to take a cell phone picture of me while moving...because...get this...this grown man was scurrying away! He called me a name, took my picture, and RAN!

I thought this was hilarious. As you can probably imagine, I'm not afraid of little simian boors. I thought I'd take his pic, too, and put it on my site. I don't take pictures inside businesses, as a rule, but I figured he'd scurried out the front a little rat!

Nope. I actually saw him nervously ducking out the back...sneaking through the section where they have waiter service! Hilarious! He was that big a pussy, after all that rudeness.

I went out the side door of the cafe and he turned and saw me, and bolted up a little set of stairs. He ran through the parking lot! I was laughing and laughing, and told a few people what he did, and they started laughing, too.

I went to the binoculars building (the Frank Gehry-designed one on Main Street), and called, "Little man, little man...come out..." etc. No dice. I went back to the Rose -- to the navy Range Rover I believe was his...and sloppy mannered man, he had mail all over the back, one piece, a BofA statement, facing up, so I could see his name.

This guy is now a consultant, but had a BIG job at a Hollywood production company. What a weenie! A pity I didn't get his picture at the time. But, I do have a photo of his mail!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 26, 2007 5:33 PM

I'm new to the whole cell-phone-owning thing, but I find that I cannot have a conversation in too public a place, because ambient noise is distracting...thus I try to find a quiet place where no-one's around, as much for my own benefit as theirs.

But I did buy the cheapest model.

Posted by: LYT at December 26, 2007 6:40 PM

If the loud talker won't accept a few glares or a finger to the lips, as in "shhhhhh", " I try to think of something embarrassing to say so the receiver of the call will hear.

Me (loudly): "he's going to get a brain infection if he sticks his finger any further up his nose."

Posted by: scott at December 26, 2007 6:55 PM

Ha! Like that.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 26, 2007 7:12 PM

When my wife leaves me, will you marry me?

Posted by: fft5305 at December 26, 2007 7:16 PM


Posted by: Amy Alkon Author Profile Page at December 26, 2007 7:33 PM

Amy, congrats for being in the Times!

Note also that despite the thinly-veneered, you-know-what-I'm-talking-about-here implications of her chosen theme, EAK never actually mentioned being black in her part of that column.

That's two miracles on one page of the Los Angeles Times!

Also, Havrilevsky is right, but all the greatest public spaces in the last 50 years have been private enterprises. (Possibly exception: the Vietnam Memorial.) When she said "Plaza", I thought of the California Plaza downtown, by the MOCO. It has lots of public-ish concerts and events, but the security is all from guys in blazers, not Officer Friendly from nearby Parker Center. Also, the Spanish city with the plaza she describes as an American Dream dates back to 1014AD... It's not fair to compare LA to a place like that.

LYT- As a fellow late adopter of the cellphone, I feel your pain. Here's an unsolicited recommendation from a guy who's half-deaf and has a dozen anecdotes of public humiliation to prove it:

For the next ten times you use your cell phone, make a conscious effort to speak into it a whispery, sotto voce, James-Bond-seduction kind of way... No matter how loud the environment you happen to be in. It doesn't matter if you're singing onstage with the Rolling Stones, tumbling through a crash with two 18-wheelers on the 405, or trying to wrangle a wagonload of screaming children at a Chuck E. Cheese.

Cellphones sound like shit. The natural impulse when listening to a bad signal is to shout in response. But cellphones ate great at picking out the closer source (your mouth) from whatever the surrounding environment is. Therefore, by getting into the habit of speaking softly-

A. You'll give your partner on the other end of the call an impression of serene authority despite Katrina-style chaos. If it's your boss, this will be helpful when your raise your rate.

B. Espresso-crazed redheads won't photograph the mail on your car seat and mock you in the newspaper.

Posted by: Crid at December 26, 2007 8:10 PM

Thanks, Crid.

And I loved the ending.

And Gregg will tell you I'm "a wacky broad" even without the coffee.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 26, 2007 9:09 PM

> I don't go back to the Rose Cafe....

Joe Esterhasz will applaud when he hears this.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at December 27, 2007 9:32 AM

Uh, Stu, that's kinda very old and moldy news, the Esterhasz grudge, whatever it was.

I miss my friends from there, and the staff, who are by and large, lovely, and whom I've known from going there for years. Others I know from the Rose -- people I've run into around town -- tell me they aren't going as much for the same reason.

Posted by: Amy Alkon Author Profile Page at December 27, 2007 9:54 AM

Oh, I just looked that up, he said it's a place where "wannabe screenwriters" hang out.

I don't have a problem in the world with wannabe anything; in fact, I respect people who go after what they want. The cafe I go to now is populated by wannabe screenwriters and Academy Award-winning Paul Haggis, who is too much of a gentleman to snob on anyone sitting around him hoping to achieve what he has.

Posted by: Amy Alkon Author Profile Page at December 27, 2007 9:58 AM

I've found Esterhasz's "Hollywood Nightmare" tell-alls to be fairy accurate, judging from my experiences so far.

Keeping in mind that he too was one of those "Hollywood bastards" he often describes. He had to have been. How else could he have operated within that end of the business?

Posted by: RedPretzel in LA at December 27, 2007 10:35 AM

I've found Esterhasz's

Make that Eszterhas...Ugh...Sorry...

Posted by: RedPretzel in LA at December 27, 2007 11:20 AM

I take brief calls in public if they look important, usually my kids. I do the whole whisper thing Crid talks about. I like to go to a favorite restaurant alone to do work. I tip well, so they don't mind if I camp out for a while. I don't like to talk on the phone much anyway, and even if I am quiet, sometimes there are those nosy types who will watch your mouth when you talk. I can't take that, so I text more than I talk. I can text without looking, so it's fast, but what I like best is the fact that it's brief and to the point. No extra info that you didn't want to know anyway.

Posted by: kg at December 28, 2007 10:05 AM

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