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Plane Speaking

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Life in the Boomer Lane, having just returned from Florida, came back to disturbing accounts of the invasion of a new breed of cold weather-loving cockroach in New York, a 28% rise in Amazon forest deforestation, and US 15-year-olds receiving a C grade in reading and a below average grade in math (overall, slotted between the Slovak Republic and Lithuania) when compared to 64 other countries.

Possibly the worst of all news was the consideration of the FCC to allow cell phone use during air travel. LBL has not been living in a storm cellar in Kansas for the last five years. She fully understands that humanoids and cell phones have become genetically bonded. She knows that without cell phones, it isn’t possible to post a moment-by-moment account (including photos) of one’s labor and delivery on Facebook. She is aware that without cell phones, the restaurant experience might demand communication with the person seated across the table. She is also aware that babies are now being born with thumbs that fit neatly onto cell keys (unlike hers) and that have an extra joint that allows them to seamlessly swivel from one key to the other.

Although cell phone use, at least at first, would probably not allow voice communication, LBL knows very well that people will figure out ways to get around the restriction. And she sees a time when, eventually, that final frontier will be breached. That said, there are several issues inherent in allowing cell phone use on airplanes.

Let us talk first about the passengers who man the exit doors of the plane. LBL always scrutinizes them carefully, to make sure they are up to the task of saving her life. Do they appear strong? Healthy? Emotionally well-balanced? Would they stay calm and focused in the face of a of a small post-menopausal woman who would, most assuredly, become completely hysterical during any kind of life-threatening emergency? Would they be capable of saving the life of said woman without messing up her hair or clothing?

If these people are on phones, either talking or texting, and an emergency situation occurs, it’s a slam dunk that they will be too distracted to help LBL. Her horror is that she will, in her hysterical state, be clawing at the exit door (while careful to preserve her gel polish manicure) while they are all giving detailed descriptions of what is happening to whoever is on the other end of their phones.

Until now, LBL’s greatest fear has been that the person sitting next to her will be a large man who will immediately appropriates the arm rest between their seats, and, like the EXXON oil spill, will blob out into part of her seat as well, causing her to lean in the opposite direction. That opposite direction usually involves Now Husband, whose sleep mechanism has set in the minute the hatch door is closed. By leaning into him, LBL is now in the direct line of fire of his happy, open-mouthed air travel snoring.

But the biggest problem is that we, as a species, now use cell phones differently. Boomer spawn rarely speak on their cell phones. They text. Older boomers, hampered by arthritic fingers and lack of digital flexibility in general, still speak into their phones. And some boomers reveal their basic distrust of cell phone technology by speaking at decibel levels that are so high that one would think they were trying to communicate with a non-English speaking person. A plane packed with boomers, all speaking at once on their cell phones, would be a frightening (and deafening) experience, indeed.

LBL doesn’t know if a relaxation of cell phone verbal communication usage would involve caveats like “only for speaking softly” or “only for having conversations that are intelligent and of short duration and involve either life-threatening situations or national security issues.” Conversations like “Oy vey, I ate so much crap on the trip, my IBS is causing my bowels to have the shpilkes” would be frowned upon. Clearly, some kind of rules would have to be in place, even though LBL is well aware that some passengers would lock themselves in the bathrooms for the entire flight, in order to be able to talk on their phones with no restrictions.

The bottom line is that we are in danger of losing the only sacred space we have had that doesn’t allow cell phone use. Pandora’s box has been opened. One wonders if, when people come to expect full communication during air travel, they will be willing to exit the plane in an attempt to improve reception.

Can you hear me now?

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