Because this is a free country.
People do all kinds of annoying things, all the time, every day. It’s not the federal government’s job to use the force of law to stop people from being annoying.
Talking on your cell phone in a restaurant is widely agreed to be a rude, annoying behaviour. Should we have a federal law against talking on the phone in restaurants? Of course not. The problem of cell phone chatter in restaurants is one that can be adequately addressed by restaurant owners deciding what to allow, and restaurant patrons deciding where to eat.
And yet, with the FAA finally realising that cell phones don’t cause plane crashes, Congress is considering bipartisan proposals to ban in-flight phone conversations solely on grounds of annoyingness. CNN interviewed one of the sponsors of such a bill, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.):
Rep. Shuster told CNN that crying babies and snoozing adults cause enough commotion on flights, and cell phone calls will only make matters worse. “Tap, don’t talk,” Shuster said.
Aren’t Republicans supposed to be against the government making those sorts of decisions? Perhaps, after this pressing issue is resolved, Rep. Shuster will turn his legislative attention to the issue of people texting in movie theatres.
If the flying public hates phone calls so much, airlines can be expected to prohibit them. The government does not need to get involved. But I think what’s going on here is that the phone-opponents realise they’re outnumbered among the flying public. They fear airlines will allow phone conversations because, secretly, flyers care more about being able to talk than about not hearing other people talk.
People tell pollsters they want phone conversations banned on aeroplanes. And yet, look at Amtrak’s Acela train service. These express trains have four business class cars, one of which is the “quiet car” where you can’t talk on the phone. The quiet car is lovely. I always ride in the quiet car. I do so partly because I like quiet, and partly because it tends to be the least crowded car on the train. Most riders are picking the loud cars, because they care more about the ability to be loud than about their neighbours being quiet.
We’re a loud country. Given the option, we’re likely to have loud phone conversations on aeroplanes. It’s unfortunate. But it’s not Congress’ job to fix. It’s ours.
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