Still, with the cell phone debate? The conversation has been had for years, but like an urban myth or zombies, it simply refuses to die. There’s a staunch minority out there who seem to confuse traveling a lot with being an expert on airplanes and/or electronics. “I’ve never seen it”, “I’ve never seen it”…it’s the defiant refrain I hear a lot. Apparently they’re not scientists either because they forget you can’t prove a negative (certainly not with anecdote).
I find this particularly frustrating because it often comes down to accusations against the Flight Attendants, such as Technorati’s Kaleel Sakakeeny claiming that F/As are “brainwashed when it comes to using cell phones in the air” (Erm…nope. It’s an FAA regulation. It’s my duty by law, not a personal mission.) or Budget Travel magazine thinking that being asked to power down devises during take-off and landing is something new. (Nope. Always been the rule. It’s the stand-by button and airplane mode that are relatively new.)
The people who refuse to turn them off can be so smug (just read the comments under any relevant article). They’re so sure they know better because they’ve seen cell phones left on, yet no effect on the safety of their flights. How do they not understand that there is a difference in having one or two or five phones’ interferance…and having 200? It’s like saying that rain couldn’t possibly lead to flooding because we don’t drown after every storm.
I admit that interference is rare, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. How am I so sure? Because I’ve seen it. I was traveling on a regional jet, and after being on the runway a few minutes we taxied off to the side. A pilot came on the PA and said they were receiving interference, would we all please check that our phones were off? Sure enough, inside my bag in the overhead bin was my cell phone, accidentally on. Further incriminating me, it had been ringing. (Never mind the extra embarrassment of being in uniform as we all discovered my guilt.) Apparently, on a 30-seater plane, one phone can make a difference, and other F/As have told me similar stories. Please don’t force us to find out how many fleas an elephant-sized plane can handle before it notices.
A few other things the Smugsters should note:
• “All” electronic devices are not the same as cell phones in this fight. The latter is about emitting radio waves. Your arguments should reflect this fact if you want to look like you know what you’re talking about.
• I admit that turning off other electronic devises is probably about you paying attention on take-off and landing. (Thus, they are allowed in flight.) I don’t see much danger in an iPod besides you not hearing if there is trouble. Still, that’s important.
• I have a smart phone, too. When I ask you to turn it off and you innocently click the stand-by button and insist that it is off, or that it “doesn’t turn off” (etc.), well, I know how it works.
• Yes, often I know you’re “hiding” the fact that it’s still on. It’s just that I draw the line at wrestling you for it.
Mostly, I just ask the Smugsters to consider other angles besides everyone else being stupid or the airlines conspiring against us. Do they know how the FCC feels about the issue? How about the obviousness if a terrorist were to attempt phone detonation? Then there’s the fact that surveys have shown over and over that most passengers don’t want people talking in flight. There are lots of reasons why “I’ve never seen it” isn’t the end of the story. Most of all, I ask them to remember that their cellphone addiction is not more important than every other consideration. Shocking, but true.