Silence Still Golden

No two ways about it; cellphones are a great way to connect. And, increasingly, a great way to annoy.

That wonder of modern technology should be forcing a long-needed public debate: Just what are the boundaries around their (increasingly ubiquitous) use?

In New York City Tuesday, a singularly cell-outraged councilman begins hearings on legislation that would put cellphone use off limits in movies, theaters, museums, and libraries – and force violators to pay a fine.

Of course, irritating, distracting rings in a movie theater, or "cell yells" (loud, usually personal, and usually inconsequential conversation that can be overheard by everybody within earshot) exceed the bounds of good taste. And those who would yak (often multitasking) their way through the day in this way do a disservice by making private conversations unnecessarily public.

But cellphone users have other technology at hand: They can set phones to "silent" or "vibrate," and use voice mail. Or they can just get up and talk in a private area.

And some good news: a recent survey found less than half of Americans willing to use their cellphones in public places. Now they can call on the other half to discover a better public sensibility, without calling the police.

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