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Are You Hung Up on a Cell Phone?

With cell phone use so widespread--one in four people own one--issues have arisen regarding how annoying the phones can be to those around them. Several restaurants in Los Angeles and New York, responding to complaints from diners have banned the devices. RACHEL FISCHER spoke with two area residents with differeing views.

NADINE LEWIS

Real estate broker

Real estate is a service industry and that means returning clients’ calls. I need to be in constant contact and checking my messages frequently. I’m on the phone all the time in the car; when I’m in mountain areas here in the Pacific Palisades and my phone reception is blocked, I feel like I’m wasting my time.

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It’s really crippling for me to be without my cell phone. People in my business say that the first agent that calls on a property is the one who gets the deal, so can you imagine how I’d do without my cell phone?

However, I do try to be polite about its use. For instance, when the phone rang the other day in the middle of the movie “Austin Powers,” I went to the lobby immediately. My clients don’t care that I’m in the middle of a movie, and I also want to be available for my 2-year-old daughter, so I leave the ringer on.

Being able to accomplish two things or more at the same time is the secret to being a happy working mom, so I rely on that phone. I don’t use the phone when I go to “Mommy and Me” class with my daughter. It’s our sacred time together; but, of course, on the way back home, I can’t resist checking my messages. That and when I go to sleep at night are the only times the cell phone is off.

My husband courted me on a cell phone. We were driving down San Vicente Boulevard in different cars, talking on our cell phones and looking at each other from our respective lanes.

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Technology is an intrusion into what used to be private time, but it’s also made life more convenient. And as for my phone use disturbing others, well, it’s not like I’m lighting up a cigarette and killing them. Yes, I do talk on my cell phone when I’m walking down the street, but how is that different than walking down the street and talking with your friend next to you?

I do think about the safety factor while I’m driving. So now I dial only while I’m stopped at red lights. But it’s true that you can get engrossed in the conversation instead of focusing on the road.

As for restaurants that don’t allow cell phone use, well, I won’t be going to them. In fact, I returned the call to participate in this column from the dining room of the Broadway Deli in Santa Monica, right in the middle of dinner with my mother, who was only in town for 24 hours. I was definitely being rude to her, but I’ve got a lot of things cooking here.

I have a family and responsibilities, and that phone is essential for business. Those clients who called me in the middle of the movie appreciated the fact that I was right there for them, and now we’re making an offer on something.

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PETER KNAUST

General manager of the Cheesecake Factory in Marina del Rey, which bans cell phone use in its dining area

Iwas walking through IKEA recently and there was this man, blabbering away on his cell phone. You know how there’s a path that you wind around to see all the different furniture at that store? Well, this guy is going through the place at the same pace as me, so I had to hear his heated business conversation the entire time I was there.

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These days, it’s harder and harder to find quiet. I thought pagers were bad enough. Somewhere, somebody got the impression that talking on a cell phone in public makes you look cool, and now my shopping experience has changed for the worse.

How many people really need a cell phone? The surgeon on duty, the cop on patrol, OK. But, in general, unless you’re a chief of state or something, give it a rest for an hour. Your loud conversation is simply not interesting to other people around you.

Business things should stay in a business environment, and stores and restaurants are not your place of business. The use of cell phones makes that store or restaurant lose the feeling of being a special place that you can go to to get away from your office in the first place. That’s why the founder of our restaurant has requested that people refrain from using their cell phones while in our dining rooms. We put this on the menu, and most people are respectful.

If someone does pull out a cell phone, I’ll wait until it seems to be annoying another customer. Then I’ll ask the cell phone user to step out to the patio, where there’s more privacy, anyway. We want people to come here to enjoy our view of the marina and to feel taken care of, not to think they’re still at their desk in the middle of their “power job.”

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Years ago, I had a fairly long commute--50 miles each way. I actually liked it because it was my quiet space, away from my job, my kids, everything. Now, we all have phones in the car. Although I now have one too--for emergencies--I resent it. There’s nowhere you can escape to anymore; even on the beach, people have phones.

There just has to be a time during the day when things are still a little more civil, when you’re not disturbed by all these trappings of modern life.


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