Listen up, ladies and gentlemen! I recently learned a few highly important points that I'd like to share with you. First, I learned that Todd is doing great in college. Solid 3.2 grade-point average, just like his father. I also learned that Lucy is deciding between two colleges, and she's not quite sure which one she likes best. And little Rachel? Well, I learned that she's still a long way away from college. Hell, it was her Bat Mitzvah only last week! Oh, and most importantly: I learned all of these things dramatically against my will.
Here's what happened. A couple of weeks ago, I'm sitting in a automotive service department waiting room, minding my own business, catching up on a little work, stuffing complimentary packs of Fritos into my pockets. And this old woman comes and sits down across from me.
Now, normally, this would be a fairly standard occurrence, except that the waiting room was enormous, the size of a guest bedroom on Cribs, and she decided to sit directly across from me. This would be like flying through the middle of the desert, and your plane crashes, and you're walking around this barren land devoid of all life, and trees, and shrubs, and you're thirsty, and tired, and hungry, and nobody's around for miles, and then a bird comes and poops on your head.
So anyway, I'm sitting there, minding my own business, working away, and it happens. She pulls out her cell phone. She begins dialing. Could it be? Oh yes: she begins speaking. Loudly. So loudly that I could hear every single word of her conversation. The service writers could hear every single word of her conversation. The technicians were probably back there, drilling and installing and screwing and removing, covered in grease and oil, thinking to themselves: Man, I wonder which college Lucy is gonna choose!
It got the point, after a few minutes, that I decided there were only two possible explanations for this woman's behavior. Number one: I was actually on that old MTV hidden camera show Boiling Points, where they would intentionally piss off people for several minutes, usually in large, liberal cities where there was a low likelihood of concealed weapons. Or number two: I was actually sharing this service department waiting room with the single stupidest human being currently in existence.
In the end, it turned out to be number two. I'm sure of this because of her actions at the end of the phone conversation, which – I should mention – lasted approximately as long as a modern household light bulb. Here's what happened: she ended her call and stood up. She walked over to the television, which was playing at a low volume on the other side of the waiting room. She turned it off. And then she looked at me and announced – I swear this is true – "I just find that SO distracting."
And this story brings me to the point of today's column, which is: for God's sake, don't talk on your cell phone in public.
Actually, I'd like to amend that. You are free to talk on your cell phone when you're walking around, in the open air, on the street, with nobody nearby who's forced to hear your entire conversation. In this situation, you should probably be more worried about your phone getting snatched up by some petty street thief, especially in certain cities. I am not going to name these cities because I don't want to embarrass anybody, but I think we can all agree that one of them is Cleveland.
Anyway: where you shouldn't talk on the phone is in a confined public space. To decide whether you're in a confined public space, look around for a moment the next time your phone rings and ask yourself the following highly technical, complicated question:
1. Are there walls?
If the answer is yes, then you are in a confined public space. This includes, though it is not limited to, elevators, buses, department stores, subways, train stations, public restrooms, restaurants, county lockup, a shipping container on the open ocean with 147 ragged immigrants just searching for a better life, large boxes like the kind that might involve a refrigerator, etc.
The reason for this is that nobody wants to have their personal space invaded with half of your phone conversation. To explain what I mean, allow me to demonstrate what happened as I sat with the woman in the service department waiting room.
"IF ROGER GETS HOME IN TIME FOR DINNER TONIGHT," she screamed, because she was almost certainly speaking to someone who was simultaneously pissing off people in a different, louder public space, "THEN WE'LL PROBABLY HAVE POT ROAST."
Then there would be a pause. She was waiting for the other person to speak. This is my chance! I realized, excitedly. So I would re-focus on my laptop, and concentrate on my next sentence, and try to put her conversation out of my mind. And then:
"I DON'T KNOW IF HE'LL BE HOME IN TIME," she said especially loudly, just to make sure every last person in the dealership was aware of Roger's work schedule, including anyone who may have been outside. "HE'S BEEN STAYING LATE THE LAST COUPLE DAYS. YOU KNOW HOW IT IS."
Then it was over again. She was like a geyser, and I was like a little boy, visiting Yellowstone with his family, whose ball was lost on the other side of the fence. "BOOM!!!" she would blow, without warning, just as I was about to grab the ball. And I would have to pull my hand in and wait until she was done. And then I would ease back again, steadily, carefully, trying to focus on the task at hand, and then "BOOM!!!!" she would blow again, and at the end of it I started to realize why Jim hasn't been coming home on time lately.
The good news was that, with her phone away and the television off, the waiting room was finally quiet, finally peaceful, finally a space where I could concentrate and get some real work done. Or at least it was, for approximately 45 seconds. That's when she leaned over, stared at me, and said: "So, what are you working on?"
It was at this moment that I decided to kill her.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.