Reach Out And Touch....Or Not


Okay, just a quick refresher about communications devices. 

Beepers are so…early 90s.  But some days, cellies don’t seem like such a huge improvement.  At least with beepers, the doctor/drug dealer/whoever had to step out of the room, find a phone and return the call.

Think about it: how many times have you been somewhere where silence should have prevailed and was invaded by somebody else’s business?  So let’s don’t do any of these:

Forget to turn off our cells at a concert, recital, play or other performance where all the action is supposed to be on-stage;

Give a blow-by-blow of a funeral or wedding while said ceremony is in progress.  (“Girl, she’s dressed like a first-time bride and you know this if her fourth wedding!” can wait till later.  Take notes and fill a sista in after the last handful of rice or bird seed has been thrown.)


Sit in the doctor’s waiting room and return all your calls.  Yes, sometimes the wait is longer than it should be (ahem: doctors, are you listening?), and yes, you want to make good use of your time.  But your fellow waiting-room inmates won’t love you for it.  If you have to stay in touch with work while you wait for your physical, think about a smart phone that will let you text.

Which brings us to…the CrackBerry.

Yes, I said it, ‘cause it’s true.  Some people carry them for work.  Some people just carry them.  Whatever.  Blackberries and their ilk can be good and useful tools—when used in moderation.  And with discretion.  You know when to pull them out. 

And when not to:

*At dinner—at home or out—when there are other people at the table.  Using your Blackberry while there are flesh and blood people around sends a pretty clear message:

“I’m not as interested in you as I am the person I’m talking to on my little thingie.”


*At performances, as mentioned above, when the room is dark and your screen will disturb others, even if you aren’t talking.

We don’t have to say “don’t check your e-mails at funerals, weddings, baptisms, etc” do we? 


*And if you text while driving, you not only might hurt yourself, but lots of other people, too.  So don’t.  (In some states, it’s illegal.)

On the other hand, feel free to click away:

*When you’re in that big holding room, waiting to be called for jury duty.

*When you’re in the waiting room of your doctor, lawyer, accountant, etc..

*At the salon or barber shop—as long as you’re not in the chair with the stylist.  (Then you should pay attention to him unless he asks you to let him concentrate on the cut.)


*On public transportation—planes (on the runway, when it’s permissible), trains, taxis, etc.

*Standing in long lines, like the one at the grocery check-out—as long as you move up when you’re supposed to.


And needless to say, in true emergencies your phone or Blackberry can be a lifesaver.  But true emergencies only.  Calling your girlfriend to tell her you’ve just discovered that she shares a gynecologist with her ex’s current flame is interesting—but it’s not an emergency.


Questions, comments, corrections?  Hit me at  And remember: your letter might be published.


Karen Grigsby Bates is a LA-based correspondent for NPR News, and the co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).

is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).

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