Psst, your boss needs lessons in cellphone etiquette

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Debby, I don't know who you are. We've never met and probably never will, but I have to try to let you know: Your boss has it in for you.

How do I know? I was seated in an airplane with my wife at Dallas-Fort Worth airport waiting to take off to Charlotte, N.C., and your boss - let's call him "Tom" - was seated in the row behind us.

I looked around when I heard him blabbing away on his cellphone. My wife and I were appalled that he was unthinkingly blurting out what most people would consider private information about another person - you. And that his company's business was no more sacrosanct.

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Tom's behavior was not unusual, though still inexcusable. Cellphone users seem to think they have a mystic "zone of privacy" around them when they talk on their phones in public. They should realize that they don't.

It started before the plane pushed away from the gate. Whoever was on the other end was obviously another subordinate. Your boss said that he knew it was the guy's day off, but he wanted to "update him."

It's not as if we could avoid hearing. He was talking so loudly my wife and I couldn't read or talk to each other without his voice interrupting us jarringly.

I'll tell you, Debby, he says you have no authority to do what you did about the security at your company. He pompously pronounced, "I have the sole authority." You, our entire section of the plane learned, have been "dropping the ball."

I'm pretty sure it was computer security. By his appearance, Tom was definitely more computer nerd than macho man. Of course, a guy who claims "sole authority" would try to make it sound as though his security issues were more important than homeland security.

I don't know if he impressed the poor guy on the other end, but he certainly impressed us with his lack of discretion.

I can also tell you that your boss was on his way back from, of all things, "Leadership Assessment," and bragged about how well he was "assessed." Apparently the criteria did not include proper cellphone behavior.

The only privacy he gave you was not to mention your last name. Sadly, that may have been because he and the fellow on the other end spoke of you familiarly rather than formally. I'm convinced that if I had asked, he would have given me your name without a second thought.

You probably find it ironic that Tom is in charge of security. But please be careful. He'll sacrifice you to the corporate gods in a heartbeat.

Debby - I apologize for hearing about your problems when it was none of my business. Believe me, I respect your privacy more than Tommy boy. Are you one of those who has privacy concerns about the Patriot Act? They are nothing compared with the privacy we are losing thanks to cellphone users who aren't considerate enough to keep us out of their conversations in public.

They should realize that they have no right to privacy when they choose to stand in grocery store lines or sit in restaurants, hotel lobbies, and other public places and reveal private information. I've even had to silence a guy blabbing on a cellphone during a movie. And he had the gall to be insulted by the invasion of his "privacy."

And Tom - if you were trying to impress us, you did. We wouldn't do business with your company on a bet. My wife, once a schoolteacher, attributes your cellphone compulsiveness to a lack of appreciation for reading. But then, she's a lot sweeter than I am.

James A. Marshall is a freelance writer and an attorney in the Dallas area.

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