Urban Etiquette: Street Smarts vs. Smartphones

by Borderstan.com September 27, 2011 at 1:00 pm 1,290 5 Comments

"Borderstan" "Smartphones" "Corcoran Street NW"

How smart are you with your smartphone? (Luis Gomez Photos)

Urban Etiquette runs biweekly with Borderstan contributor Mike Kohn writing about some common-sense rules of etiquette with an urban twist. We welcome your ideas for future columns.

From Mike Kohn. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @mike_kohn.

Back in May, I finally gave in to temptation and retired my old flip phone (that I swear I got in 2009, even though walking around DC made me feel like it was as antiquated as the typewriter) and traded in for an iPhone. Yes, I’m obsessed with it. Who doesn’t love their smartphone?

In response, I can safely say that there isn’t a single person who doesn’t love their phone. Every person who owns a smartphone is so obsessed, in fact, that they cannot bear to put it down, no matter what they’re doing. Driving was hazardous enough as it was, but talking while driving caused accident rates to go up, and then texting and using apps while on the road just made it a whole lot worse. A slew of states have taken it upon themselves to pass laws about the use of phones while in the driver’s side.

Bringing it close to home, I’ve watched phone usage interfere with so many things in my day-to-day life. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of annoying times that I’ve noticed people who are consumed by the non-calling features of their phone:

  • Walking in the middle of the sidewalk without paying attention to other pedestrians. We’ve already gone over my feelings about this.
  • Stopping in the middle of the sidewalk or even the road (!) in order to make their Words with Friends move. I’m waiting for someone to get run over.
  • Texting at Safeway and not realizing that the next self-service checkout line is available even though everyone is telling them to go.
  • Taking up space on the escalator and not letting anyone else by. I’ve set it before and I’ll say it again — get out of my way or I will run you over.

Many of these things aren’t limited to smartphones, but because of their versatility, they present more opportunities to get lost in their amazingness. I’ll fully admit that I’m guilty of it — my punishment was running into a tree on 15th Street NW while responding to a text. So I will a little be that pot to you kettles out there and ask that you do a better job of noticing what else is going on.

If you have to stop to use your phone (and good for you for realizing you can’t type and walk straight!), pull over to the side of the sidewalk or at least finish crossing the street. It’s unrealistic to ask you to put your phone away (I know I can’t), but at least watch your surroundings and be ready to react.

Be smarter than your smartphone. I know you’ve got it in you.

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