Week two of Canuck in Kantuck writing on location! Insert flamenco dancer emoji (my favorite one forever and ever) here.
I am sitting in Minneapolis airport after a lovely Easter visit with my family. It is 8:30 a.m., which meant a painful 4:15 a.m. wakeup in Winnipeg. I will go ahead and hazard the guess that it meant the same for a lot of people around whom I’m sitting, which makes it doubly, possibly triply impressive how loudly the guy in front of me is talking on his phone.
There are many, many subjects upon which you could comment when it comes to airline travel. In fact, watch Netflix comedy specials enough and you’re hard-pressed not to listen to a comedian complain about his or her time spent in airports.
But how people behave with their cell phones while traveling merits a whole podcast. Possible even a Planet Earth episode. And certainly the remainder of this column.
I’m not exactly sure what goes on in people’s minds when they’re in public this way, but it’s got to be something big.
First, their inside voices get turned off immediately and they begin to speak in the way one does when attempting to talk over the sound of an approaching helicopter:
“WE ALL WENT,” the man in front of me, for example, is saying. “NO, JIM TOO. YEAH, IN COLORADO. NO, THE OTHER ONE. THE ONE WITH THE FLIES.”
It’s annoying when people write in all-caps, but it’s the only way I can think to depict the volume at which this man is speaking. “Loudly” is the politest word I could use. “Tastelessly” might be the most honest.
Why is this the case?
I’ve actually spent a lot of time thinking about this. First, I suppose I could accord a few decibels (since I’m feeling rather generous) to how badly cell phones act as phones, which does necessitate a slight increase in volume.
But — “OH YEAH. YEAH, YEAH. WITH THE TWINS. THE ONES WITH THE NOSES” — it can’t account for all of it.
Take this man in front of me. He is sitting with one ankle perched on one knee. He wears a pretty current pair of jeans and a pair of fashion sneakers. His sweater seems well-made. He has a checkered button-up shirt underneath it. He sips on a glass that presumably contains bloody Mary mix. And he has a head of hair that looks like it’s been professionally, even admirably cut.
By all accounts, he looks like he’s the type of man who has the capacity to speak in lower tones.
“NO, THEY HAD THEM DONE. YEAH, BUT I DON’T BLAME THEM. DID YOU SEE THEM BEFORE? BIG AS PICKLES. ONE STILL HAS A BIGGER ONE THAN THE OTHER THOUGH. YEAH. YEAH, YEAH. THAT’S HOW YOU CAN TELL THEM APART.”
Instead, I get the impression that, somehow, he wants me to hear what he has to say. Because he, a), thinks it is very interesting and important, but, b), because he feels like I am choosing to listen. That, because I’ve sat in his vicinity, he’s decided he has an audience. And, as his audience, I deserve to be entertained.
This is not true, of course, although I am rather curious now to see before and after pictures of these noses.
But I do feel that that’s part of it: that the vicinity and aural helplessness is interpreted as the right (even obligation) to impose upon.
Granted, I am also tempted to draw this conclusion because of the way he holds his phone. This is another component of the classic airport cell phone talker. They don’t hold their phones normally, with the device pressed against their cheek. Instead, that phone resides in a horizontal position from their ear, so that if you were to somehow ram the phone into the person’s head (as one may be inclined to do if forced long enough to listen to an inane conversation), the phone would lie (float?) like a bed inside one’s sinus cavities.
Why hold a phone this way?
My only conclusion is this: Holding your phone like this is an announcement, a pose whose message seems to say, “Hey, look at me, I know everyone in this airport (except for the babies who can’t talk yet) owns a phone, but I’m important because I’m talking on mine.”
What else can it be?
It can’t be more comfortable. I mean the torque on your wrist alone is enough to make a person wince.
It can’t be because you want to be quieter since you’re effectively moving the speaker away from your mouth.
Instead, it’s got to be the sense of self-importance.
“NO. NO, NO. SHE DIDN’T SAY THAT. CAROL? NO. NO, SHE SAID SHE WAS GOING IN JULY. OH, AUGUST? NO, I THOUGHT SHE SAID JULY. OH, REALLY?”
Alas, yes, oh yes, yes, the man in front of me is still talking. And in 15 minutes, you won’t have to wonder if he’s still talking because I can assure you he will be. And that’s the final comment I’ll make about airport cell phone talkers: how long their conversations are.
Let’s face it, these people have all the time in the world to kill until their flight. Thus, the airport phone conversation is a long one. It’s endless, really. Even the person on the other end is bored and trying to get off. Heck, Jim and Carol don’t even like this man and don’t pick up half the time.
But, luckily for me, my plane is boarding right now. And so, adieu, airport cell phone talker. Good riddance.