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Airport Etiquette : Doing Laps With Your Mobile Phone

Web: www.stevenfrischling.com — E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

29/05/2008 – Airport Etiquette : Doing Laps With Your Mobile Phone

I’m not sure when the practice of ‘exercising with your mobile phone’ in the airline lounge or at the gate started, but I’m sure it was by an insecure person who wanted to seem important.

At every airport I am in I always see ‘this person,’ or at times large numbers of ‘these people.’ You know who these people are, they have their phone glued to their ear, or they hold their phone outright at a 90° angle with their Bluetooth headset in their ear, and walk in the path of as many people as they can while discussing nothing.

I’m not sure what causes someone, who’d normally have certain conversations behind closed doors, or in a low tone at home, to stand up and blast their personal information through a large unsecured area. Not only is this unsafe, as I have heard people mention their names, travel information and credit card information more than once, but it is most importantly rude. No one wants you to wander through their personal space while you discuss whatever it is you are discussing.

Last week while sitting in Alitalia’s Michelangelo Lounge, at New York’s JFK Int’l Airport I encountered the first of two irritating people with mobile phones for my journey (the next person would be approximately 6,800 miles away, on the other side of the world). The wandering mobile phone user, in the Alitalia Lounge, seemed to find his way into the two-foot gap between the couch I was sitting on and the window behind it. From this gap the man on the phone wandered up and back between other couches speaking at a volume you’d use to talk to someone next to you should you be in the middle of a large stadium concert.

Quietly sitting on the couch in the lounge, trying to read my e-mail, drink a Coke and eat a small sandwich, I’d find myself not caring that this person was upset that they were booked in Alitalia’s business class rather than Air France’s business class (while I fully agree with his sentiments on Alitalia vs Air France, I was about to take a long-haul flight in economy class); the more this man wandered and spoke at maximum volume I found myself caring even less that he had parked his car in a long term lot that offered car detailing; and I had no interest or tolerance for his long winded discussion on his Chevy Tahoe lease being up and his interest in a new Ford Excursion (and at current fuel prices shouldn’t a guy who has no kids, or so I gathered from his rambling right behind me, look for a smaller car?).

A few days after hearing the details of this gentleman’s life, which I didn’t care about, I found myself sitting briefly in the Air China Business Lounge, in Beijing (PEK). The lounge was fairly empty, but I found a spot near a cluster of seats overlooking the window in a quiet corner. Having just sat down, and begun the process of cruising through my e-mail, an Englishman on his way back to London parked himself in the middle of this small cluster of tables (in an otherwise empty lounge). After a moment of taking off his jacket, opening his laptop and setting his day planner on the table he pulled out his mobile phone and proceeded to have an extremely loud conversation.

I’m not sure what possesses these people, but the Englishman got up and walked four or five circles around those of us who were sitting quietly in our little cluster of tables. The glances back and forth between those of us sitting there quietly indicated that none of us cared about this man’s ‘busy schedule.’ While packing my backpack up I did learn a few interesting things, I learned that this Englishman deals in foreign real-estate, I found out that this guy really hates his brother-in-law and for some reason I managed to be informed that he has dermatologist appointment coming up for a growth of some sort on his right shoulder.

Now I ask you this…………if you were either of these two people, would you want the world knowing any of this? Do you need to walk around me, in front of me, behind me, sit next to me and speak in your ‘stadium concert’ voice?

Next time you have the urge to call your boss, your client, your Mom at the airport, please be courteous, stay in one place and use your normal office phone voice.

Thank you!

Happy Flying!


  1. I completely empathize with you Fish. Recently on a flight to Seattle (SEA) through Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), I wandered over to the E terminal for my next flight and decided a nice Starbucks coffee could do the trick during my layover. When I settled into the Sony lounge next door (full of outlets for laptops), Starbucks was conducting a training for airport employees IN THE LOUNGE, run by a completely incompetent man that decided to yell all of his stories and “tips” to the newbies. The looks of travelers within the lounge were of annoyance and relief that he probably was not training the greater Dallas area given his poor performance in this lounge.

  2. Fish!

    I am most certainly guilty of “Doing laps with (my) mobile phone.” Once I am on the phone, the engines (legs) begin and the race is on!

    It is automatic! I don’t even notice it! Sometimes I find myself two blocks away from where the call began for no discernible reason! It’s probably like what happens with the folks who take Ambien & sleep-walk/cook/talk.

    Flying 120k mi/year (down from 200) ((and also a photographer)), I am ACUTELY aware of the lack of privacy, the need for respect, and the desire for quiet in a public place.

    Due to the need to watch my bags, pacing is curbed severely and frequently eliminated while at an airport or other place of transit. Pacing isn’t so automatic with a phone, rollerbag, and laptop case in hand.

    I, too, am amazed at folks cavalier approach towards privacy and quiet. All too often I hear the details of angry, private, intimate, annoying, and just plain boring calls broadcasted from the mouth of a walking megaphone.

    One thing that always amuses me if the hand-over-mouth-so-people-don’t-hear-too-much method that is employed by many travelers. While I have done the hand-over-mouth, I’ve done it to help funnel my voice in to the mic while limiting outside noise in certain environments.
    I just love hearing every word being yelled by someone hand-over-mouthing.

    I’ll wrap this up with a line from a Budweiser commercial celebrating Mr. Really Loud Cell Phone Talker Guy:
    “Because nothing screams I’m important! like a man screaming ‘I’m Important!’ into his cell phone.”

    Nice post!

    Will Hawkins

    Will Hawkins Photography

  3. Elegant theme used. This blog tells a story about man .How he passes his time at airport, what all activities he does to pass his time & much more. It sounds really hilarious comedy….

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