Talk of extending ban on cell phones during flights has hopeful ring to it


A most gratifying news item in Sunday's Review-Journal was a brief in the travel section, proof that sometimes good news is buried: The ban on cell phone calls on airplanes might not be lifted after all.

Oh, joy!

I loathed the thought that when flying, I'd be barraged with cell phone conversations. Truly, it's one of the worst kinds of noise pollution. (The plane that just flew over my home is another, but that's another story.)

Flying is horrible these days. You're asked to shed clothes and shoes, and hope you haven't lost anything in the process. At Dulles International Airport in January, after I'd taken off my boots and coat, the security guy said my wool scarf had to be X-rayed. Whew. The scarf made it.

You celebrate if your baggage made it on the same flight. You celebrate if your flight made it on time. You celebrate if you nabbed a parking space in the garage.

Once on board the flight, the last thing I want to do is listen to somebody else's inane conversations. I have enough of those myself; I don't need anybody else's. I don't need to hear anyone else drone on and on. I want some peace.

When flying, I read. No music. Little conversation. Until the plane is about to land, that is; then I'm ready for some sparkling conversation to help keep my mind off my queasy stomach.

Noise pollution from cell phones is not something I want to endure.

It's not like I'm going to overhear Gov. Jim Gibbons plan his next vacation with a defense contractor, or hear Kirk Kerkorian say he's going to buy Chrysler, presuming any of them fly coach. Conversations you'd like to overhear aren't the kind you actually hear.

Noise pollution that might make passengers crazy, even violent, isn't the stated reason to keep cell phones forbidden during flights. That would make too much sense.

The reason given: Cell phones flying overhead might interfere with wireless communications down below, according to the telecommunications industry. It's all about them.

The suggestion to lift the cell phone ban was floated in 2004. But before cell phones can be used during flights, two government agencies must approve it, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said March 22 that the ban might not be lifted after all because of the potential interference on the ground on wireless networks.

Oh, please, let it be so.

Now let's see whether we can find a way to limit cell phone use in theaters.

Two friends of mine attended "Spamalot" recently. The man behind them left his phone on and had three calls during the performance. He actually took two of them, and from the sound of it, he had no idea who was on one of the calls. This wasn't his mama calling to say there had been an accident; this was someone he didn't know. And he kept talking. What a rube.

The twenty-something man got plenty of glares from people near him trying to watch the show. His idea of courtesy was not to turn off the phone, but to put it under his leg so the ring wasn't quite as loud. If "24's" Jack Bauer had been there, he might have shot the idiot in the leg just to shut him up. I'm starting to believe that's a reasonable reaction to people on cell phones in theaters.

Another peeve: when people check their text messages and e-mails during movies. Suddenly that bright light from their cell phone is all I can look at. My eyes are torn from the big silver screen to the little square of mostly meaningless communication. Unless the baby's arrival is imminent (in which case, why are you at the movies?) there's little that can't wait until the show is over.

Oh, yes. I'm grumpy this morning. The fourth plane just flew overhead, loud and proud.

But I'm grateful that the ban on cell phones during flights remains. Thank you, Mr. Martin, for giving that glimmer of hope for a reasonably peaceful flight the next time I'm leaving on a jet plane.

Jane Ann Morrison's column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call 383-0275.