08/28/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Cell-tiquette: How To Polish Up Your Cell Phone Etiquette

Lately I have noticed more and more "cell-free zone" signs in offices and public places to encourage proper cell phone etiquette. Last week I was picking up a prescription and behind the counter was a very large sign that read: "We will be happy to help you once you finish your cell phone conversation." Personally, I appreciate these signs. Don't get me wrong, I love my cell phone and appreciate the convenience it offers, but these addictive devices can often be intrusive and used at the most inappropriate times.

Case in point: This morning I walked into a public bathroom in an airport lounge and as I sat down on the porcelain throne, the woman next to me started speaking. At first I assumed she was asking for a friendly "help a sister out under the stall toilet paper pass" but I quickly realized she was not talking to me at all - she was on her cell phone. The bathroom was so quiet that I could also clearly hear the man on the other end of her cell phone. Suddenly my bladder got very bashful in the presence of this mystery man who was not invited into this bathroom. I couldn't help but listen to the conversation, hoping some kind of emergency was being discussed thereby warranting taking a call in the john. Nope. They were actually discussing business in a place where the only business that should be conducted is personal.

I considered saying something like, "Excuse me lady but could you please complete your business call when your pants are on?" - but decided that someone who talks on her cell phone while sitting on the toilet probably would not respond well to being interrupted. She would probably think I was the rude one. I also considered making as much noise as I possibly could muster, including flushing the toilet multiple times, but then I would indeed be the rude one. So I took care of my business and left the bathroom before the other woman exited her "phone-booth."

Noticing my upset, I reminded myself that what happened really wasn't that big of a deal and I let it go. But it did get me thinking about cell-tiquette - including my own. We learn to put our napkins on our laps and use the smallest fork on the left for a starter course, but where is Emily Post when it comes to cell phone etiquette? I thought about times when I continued a cell phone conversation when making a purchase, ignoring the human being behind the cash register. And I am definitely guilty of looking at my phone when it rings or a text comes in, diverting my attention from the person I am with. Where are my cell phone manners?

I encourage you to consider polishing your cell-tiquette. Complete a conversation before entering a public place. Silence your phone when you are in a relatively quiet area. Ignore a phone call that comes in when you are doing something (that is what voice mail is for). Turn your phone OFF whenever you are engaged with someone so that you can fully be present. Our cell phones are wonderful blessings yet they can also be unwelcomed distractions.

Most importantly, cell-tiquette is not just for the benefit of the people around you who are unwillingly subjected to your (usually loud) cell phone conversations. You reap the benefits as well. Your cell phone does take you away from fully taking in the present moment and the people and things around you.

And I'd like to complete my rant on cell-etiquette today with a quote from an iconic expert on etiquette, Emily Post: "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use." So to the unknown Chatty Cathy from the airport bathroom, the next time you take a call in public please consider the feelings of those of us who'd like a little more privacy and silence.

- Christine