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Danehy

Fighting rogue cell-phone use, one waiting room at a time

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Ah, June, with its triple-digit temperatures, its clear-blue skies with neither clouds nor haze in sight, and, best of all, its orange dream as flavor of the month at eegee's. The only way things could be any better is if it were late October, with temperatures in the 70s, football in full swing, basketball just on the horizon and orange dream somehow again the flavor of the month. This stuff is scary good. Perhaps it's best (for me, anyway) that it's only around for 8.2 percent of the year.

Anyway, I was in a doctor's office waiting room the other day. My wife was undergoing a minor medical procedure that required some sedation, so I was there to drive her home. Actually, I accompany her to all of her appointments, because, you know, I should.

So, I was sitting in the waiting room. There are probably 20 chairs in the room, and all but one or two were taken. This 40-something couple came in; the guy went to the front desk while the woman sat down right next to me. She immediately pulled out her cell phone, dialed a number and started talking. This, despite the fact that she was about 5 feet from a sign that reads: "Please, No Cell Phone Use In Lobby."

Up to that point, I had been reading the Einstein biography by Walter Isaacson. (Mini-book review: It's OK, but not great. Apparently, Isaacson has read every letter Einstein ever wrote or received, and now Isaacson wants me to do the same. It's like the student who does research for a term paper and then crams in every single fact he learned. Personally, I'd like a little bit more on the photoelectric effect and a little bit less on how Einstein expressed, in writing, that he had the warm, trembling thighs for his cousin. But that's just me.)

I figure I'd give this woman the benefit of the doubt that she hasn't seen the sign, so I pointed it out to her. She gave me this shriveled-up face look, like she had just caught a whiff of her own perfume--which was nasty--and then went back to talking.

The other poor souls, obviously brought up in a genteel society and therefore limited by the bounds thereof, sat silently and fumed as this woman hung up, then made a second call. As has happened in the past, I became my alter ego of Manners Vigilante. I began reading from the book out loud.

Suddenly, the other people in the room not only knew about Cell Phone Woman's shopping list, but also about how Einstein offered his first wife all of the money from the Nobel Prize he was planning on winning (but hadn't yet won) if she would grant him a divorce so he could marry the aforementioned cousin.

The woman turned and glared at me with an even harsher face, like maybe she had started to smell her underarms or something. I kept right on reading. Like Tupac, all eyes were on me (except I spell "eyes" right), most in silent approval. The woman at the front desk noticed the commotion and looked up. She was about to say something, noticed what I was doing and just smiled.

Cell Phone Woman talked a little louder. I saw her "louder" and raised an "even louder." After a couple rounds of that, she realized that I was willing to go all in, so she turned and said, "Do you mind?"

I said, "Obviously, I mind. Everybody in this room minds. You're being rude. There's a sign there that says no cell phones. I'll read it to you if you'd like. I've already proven that I can read. If you want to keep talking, you need to go outside with the smokers."

Finally, her wussy-ass husband got up from his seat across the room and said, "That's uncalled for."

I said, "What, is that like a play on words?"

He didn't get it.

So then I said, "Dude, some people have manners, and other people have cell phones."

She got up and went into the bathroom so she could talk on the phone. Not long after, a guy went and knocked on the bathroom door and said he needed the room. I'm hoping that he didn't need to go, but rather was just messing with her. She eventually left, leaving her husband behind.

When it was my time to leave, an older woman sitting near the door grabbed my arm and said, "That was wonderful. Next time, I'm bringing a book."

Changing the world, one emboldened out-loud reader at a time.

As I mentioned, that wasn't the first time I pulled that stunt. A few years ago, I was sitting in the waiting room of my wife's gynecologist, enduring an in-depth monologue about the trouble the woman sitting next to me was having with her internal plumbing. The inspiration hit me, and I started reading out loud. The woman ended up complaining, first to me and then to the woman at the front desk.

The woman at the desk, correctly concluding that I wasn't a paying customer, asked me to leave. I'm hoping that last week's much-different outcome signals that the tide is turning.

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