Cellphone calls on airplanes in flight are not only unsafe, they are obnoxious and they should be permanently banned, according to some members of the U.S. Congress.
Members of the House of Representatives, most of whom board airplanes almost every week, traded horror stories Thursday about their worst experiences with annoying fellow passengers who talk loudly on cellphones before takeoff and after landing. One lawmaker said his wife sat next to a woman who loudly discussed her sex life on the phone.
Another House member topped that with the passenger sitting him behind on one flight who got a "dear John" phone call from either his wife or sweetheart just before takeoff. The begging and pleading was just terrible to listen to, he said. Finally, with the plane ready to take off, a flight attendant had to threaten to have U.S. Marshals drag the man off the plane before he finally put his phone away.
A third House member raised the specter of national security, saying she had witnessed one man use his cellphone camera to take pictures of sensitive parts of the airplane.
With that, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved by voice vote a bill that would make the current Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Communication Commission ban on cellphone use during flight permanent.
The committee's action comes as the European Union is moving to allow airline passengers to talk on their cellphones during flight. Some U.S. airlines are experimenting with in-flight Internet access. And some lawmakers worry that domestic airlines might try to get the cellphone ban lifted so they can charge passengers extra to sit in no-phone sections.
"I do believe this is important that we don't make what is already a crowded and difficult environment for the traveling public and flight attendants" worse by allowing cellphone use in-flight, said Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat and sponsor of the Halting Airplane Noise to Give Us Peace (HANG UP) Act.
But Rep. John Mica, a Republican, said there are a lot of annoying things on airplanes, including children with dirty diapers and noisy MP3 players, but that does not mean they should be banned.
"You are trying to legislate courtesy, folks, and that just doesn't work," Mica said.
Congressman Mica, I salute you! These lawmakers who don't want to be bothered should not be using their voting powers to try and legislate manners. I try not to use my cell phone in public settings, but when others choose to use theirs, I'm usually successful in tuning them out.
This is another one of those cases where Americans have to realize they have rights... If someone can make the case that the use of cell phones on planes is unsafe, that's one thing. But otherwise, give me a break. Banning public cell phone use goes in the same category as breastfeeding, chewing gum loudly, playing the radio as a high volume when the car windows are down, gunning a car's engine and many other social moronic activities. You may not like any of those things, but none of them rise above the level of annoying... and the bar on legislation should be set higher than annoying.
There are a lot of things that Congress does that annoys me, too... but I'm not holding my breath waiting for them to fix their behavior.
How about banning political robocalls? How about saving some trees and some postage and banning Congressional newsletters sent to my home? How about passing a law making it illegal to adjourn Congress at budget time without the budget being passed?
Don't hold your breath. Life's too short as it is.