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Kirby: Hang up on cellphones on airplanes

Published November 24, 2013 8:44 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I flew to Los Angeles and back last weekend. My wife was in the seat next to me, which explains why I'm not writing this in federal custody.

I don't like flying. It has almost nothing to do with the mugging process of security, being 30,000 feet off the ground, traveling 600 mph or being crammed into a seat that feels like a high chair.

Lots of things are irritating about flying — cramped space, carry-on bags, human odors and in-flight meals advertised as delicious but that in reality are less appetizing than military rations.

You have to put up with some of that because of the nature of the air-travel beast. It's impossible to pack that much self-important meat into a high velocity metal container and expect the experience to be utterly blissful.

All these things are annoying but they're nowhere near the top of my "Why I Wish The Plane Would Crash List."

In the No. 1 spot are noise-hole passengers.

Note: I have no idea what flight attendants get paid, but I wouldn't do their job for less than six figures, a Taser and a pre-signed presidential pardon for any crime short of actual murder.

Last weekend, I was forced to listen to a guy in the seat just ahead of mine talk about himself for an hour. And because his intended audience was two seats away, everyone nearby learned about him entirely against their will.

After 45 minutes of this, my wife saw my eyes start to gleam. She took an emergency roll of duct tape from her purse and began tying my arms to the seat.

Even so, we were lucky. At least the guy couldn't talk on a cellphone during the flight. That soon may change. The already unfriendly skies are about to get noisier.

According to a recent story, the Federal Communications Commission is considering lifting its longtime prohibition on making cellphone calls on airplanes, saying it is time to review outdated rules.

Great. No leg room, no food, no Internet, no pillows, no luggage and now no peace and quiet. Cellphone gabbers are among the most inconsiderate and least socially aware people on the planet.

I would be OK with cellphone use on planes if all of the inconvenience were placed squarely on the users. The rest of us shouldn't have to listen to some business guy blather on about his sales trip or endure some monosyllabic teenager gush for five hours.

If the airlines permit cellphone usage, it should be restricted to a specific area, and I don't mean the restroom. I mean inside a bag (provided by the airline for an additional $25 charge).

Out of consideration for other passengers, anyone wanting to make a call aboard an aircraft should have to do it with a noise bag over his or her head and fastened at the waist.

The genius here is that not only would noise not get out of the bag, oxygen wouldn't be able to get into it. This would have the added benefit of dramatically reducing the length of a call. Pass out or hang up. Your choice.

Furthermore, like the smoke detector in the restroom, other passengers would be prohibited by federal law from tampering with someone's noise bag even if they stopped talking and started to twitch.

Assuming that you survive your phone rant, you would be able to take the bag with you for use on future flights. If you don't, flight attendants could use the bag to carry you away while preparing the cabin for landing.

I'm not sure what to do about screaming babies on flights. I certainly don't think we should be allowed to eat them, but something needs to be done. Maybe smaller bags.

Just kidding about the babies.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.






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