Wednesday, 07 March, 2001

Unintended Consequences of Mobile Phones

The widespread availability of mobile telephones has had some interesting unintended consequences.  Public pay telephones, for example, never a huge money maker but usually profitable, are no longer cost effective.  Phone companies are scrambling to unload their pay telephone systems, and are finding few takers.  I wouldn't be surprised if the companies end up giving the infrastructure away just to be rid of it.  I suspect that the only thing preventing Baby Bells from eliminating all public pay phone service is legislation.

It seems like every airline traveler has a mobile phone.  Sitting in the departure lounge, you can't help but overhear dozens of phone conversations, most of which are just chatting.  Now that telephone communication is essentially free (pay a monthly fee, talk all you want), people use the phone whenever they're alone.  Every trip, I notice a handful of people who talk on the telephone from the moment they arrive at the departure lounge until they get on the plane and the flight attendant instructs us to turn off all portable electronic devices.  And as soon as the airplane arrives at the destination and we're parked at the gate, the phone goes on and they start talking again.  And they're not shy about it!  I've overheard some very private conversations.  And why is it that people talk so loudly on their mobile phones?  I wonder if these people realize that anybody within 50 feet can hear them, and we not at all interested in their latest gossip.  

It used to be that people went to phone booths and closed the doors so they could have their conversations in private.  I'm looking forward to anti-phone booths, where I can go to get away from the inane conversations that I can't help but overhear.