Skip to comments.Fight the mobile phone invasion at 30,000ft
Posted on 03/29/2006 7:39:52 AM PST by tellw
Our right to peace and quiet is guaranteed by fining taxi drivers from India who honk as they drive: a habit acquired through years of dodging cycles, cows, cars and the carefree in the crowded streets of Calcutta and Karachi. Flights are not allowed to land in Washington DC beyond late evening so that those living around the airport enjoy what is now widely regarded as the human right to undisturbed sleep. Yet, noise pollution, practised with abandon in your face and in your ears, is tolerated in enclosed spaces in buses, trains, restaurants and cinemas and is spreading like bird flu, only more surely and more harmfully to our peace of mind and mental health.
The final straw in the US (followed, presumably, by everywhere else in rapid sequence) is the impending decision to allow the use of mobile phones on flights. In this way, loud passengers will be free to jabber away in a closed cabin, saying hi to Joey, Joel and Josie at home just for the heck of it, or conducting their business, which is no concern of yours, by public declamation. What can be done if the US Federal Aviation Administration allows this madness to happen, as it will? I say: we are not out of remedies.
Consider what you can do in the aircraft cabin itself. Before the Good Samaritans came down on smoking, I had a friend who was so annoyed by the smoke getting into his eyes in restaurants as the smokers at the next table held their cigarette in a Marlene Dietrich gesture, almost under his nose that he carried a little Sanyo fan that would blow the smoke back into their startled faces. While the stewardesses would not let you turn on a CD player at loud volume to drown out the mobile phone users, how about screaming into your own phone (without, of course, actually dialling and paying) sweet nothings to an imaginary girlfriend or boyfriend? This is worth a try. But frankly, how long and how often can such ridicule and retaliatory noise-making be sustained, without unleashing a competition in steadily higher octaves, one which the vulgar freaks you are trying to drown out are likely to win?
A more effective remedy has to be a collective, legal response. How about encouraging environmental and human rights groups to file lawsuits against the agencies that grant the permission for the use of mobile phones in flight, and against the airlines when they act on such permission? The American Association of Retired Persons might be convinced to join such a class action, in defence of the peaceful journeys sought by the increasing numbers of senior citizens taking discounted vacations from the rich countries.
The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms, under Article 8, guarantees that everyone has the right to respect for his private . . . life and there shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as in accordance with the law and necessary . . . in the interests of . . . the economic well-being of the country. Surely, the private life includes a life of peace in which one can snooze without the gaggle of gratuitous talk that certainly does not advance any countrys economic well-being.
But what of the rights of the mobile phone users? These are more frivolous than those of the fellow passengers on whom they impose. Besides, the airlines can readily accommodate their desire to talk without imposing on those who seek a quiet flight. Mobile phone users should be provided, at an extra cost charged to their tickets, with a phone booth at which they can queue for their turn. That would protect their rights without invading ours.
The smoking ban on all flights came along when the science behind the problem of secondary harm from smoking became well-established. But this harm does not have to be physical; it can also be mental. The stress of having to be in an enclosed space with continuous noise is sufficient to produce high blood pressure, fatigue and other ailments, as the plaintiffs complained in their testimony regarding airport noise in Hatton and Others v The United Kingdom at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in 2001. It is still not completely clear whether continual emission of radiation from the use of mobile phones on flights could cause secondary brain damage to fellow passengers. If providence were just, it would surely affect the brains of the users. But who believed at first that cigarettes could hurt the smokers own family?
So, perhaps the compelling answer may be to threaten the mobile phone companies themselves with ultimate liability, reminding them of the cigarette manufacturers who eventually faced huge financial damages. Eventual retribution could be the most powerful deterrent to the rising spectre of cellular noise.
The writer, university professor, economics and law, at Columbia University and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is the author of In Defense of Globalization
Do you agree with the author? Share your views online at www.ft.com/bhagwati
What a freak this guy is. He's been in his ivory tower way too long.
Rude people who talk loudly on their cell phones should always be told that they are rude, whether they are in an airplane at 30,000 feet or in a restaurant. People who let their phones ring loudly and disrupt others are boors. I have always wanted to see someone yank the phone from their hand, and throw it onto the floor and stomp it into a million pieces.
I agree 100%. The cellphones in the American Airlines Admiral's Clubs are so distracting with people screaming into them like they are talking through a can with string attached to another can. Then, while we are seated, the endless cellphone calls (usually people just killing time LOUDLY).
Once airborn, I would like quiet to work or sleep. Most people show little consideration on their cellphones, so we cannot rely on expectations of good behavior.
I will change airlines to whatever airline bans cellphones in the air.
I'm in the air twice a week. Being able to communicate with the ground is what let Todd Beamer "roll". Being able to do my expenses and email on the plane would let me spend more time with my family. Yes, Americans are going to abuse the priviledge, but some of us can benefit from it.
Allowing cel phones on planes could lead to violence. I hope it's never permitted except perhaps via some sound proof enclosure.
I for one will be glad when all the cell phone whining ends. Cell phones are here to stay. Get used to it people.
Didn't Todd Beamer use a GTE airphone in the seatback, not his personal cell phone to make the call? Those are reasonable to have in place for an emergency. They don't receive calls (so no rings) and the calls are expensive enough ($4 to connect, $4 for the first minute) that most people don't use them.
People are so obnoxious with their cell phones. I can totally see people seated in one section of the plane calling a friend/sibling/coworker seated elsewhere on the same friggin plane.
I've only been on a plane a handful of times in my life (my last time was September 9, 2001 on my way back from NYC), but I can appreciate being trapped with an abundance of noise! I have a cell phone but I hate it, and my carrying one was with the provision that we dump our landline phone. THAT was a decision I've never regretted.
I am a very content rural-dweller. The loudest thing in the neighborhood is my neighbor's donkey, who "laughs" at the strangest times. I appreciate the "off" button on the TV, and we only have one of those.
I love my laptop precisely because it IS quiet. I can do things easily and conveniently, and the only noise is the tapping of the keys. I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Given the uncertainty of safety of these devices, their ability to work in the 5 minutes after takeoff and 5 minutes before landing is no comfort.
If you have a good earphone the conversation should be no louder than with a fellow passenger. If you travel and plan to talk in a loud environment I recommend custom made earphones.
It's bad enough on trains. I have no idea why people scream into cells, or why they have no concept that what should be their private business is being heard by everyone.
A few years ago, a woman behind me on the Metroliner to New York was getting some work done on her beach house, making appointments on her cell phone. By the end of half an hour, I knew where her house was, where she kept the keys to it, what days she would and would not be there, and two of her credit card numbers. I could have taken over her whole life and she would never have been able to figure out how her identity - and a lot of her belongings - got stolen.
Did Todd Beamer use his cell phone at 10,000 feet? or the airphone?
Inquiring minds want to know, cuz cell phone towers radiate and orient EMF laterally, not vertically.
I don't know what phone Todd Beamer used, but the plane was low enough that people got to use their personal phones. Right now, cell towers point down at an angle so nobody gets a signal over 5000 feet or so. A couple companies are working on repeators to allow cell phones to work at any altitude. Some planes have directv receivers already. Having live news and communication with the ground should be considered security. Arming the pilots would be nice, too.
Neither of these are loud and obnoxious as cell phones. (Though I admit....doing expense reports IS obnoxious to the doer!)
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.