SMART PHONES IN A NOT-SO-SMART SOCIETY
A GUIDE TO CELL PHONE CIVILITY IN MEXICO
(All incidents are based on personal observation or reliable informants).
Amazing as it may seem, cell phones are now more ubiquitous in Mexico than tortillas! People cannot take a walk, ride a bus, work out in the gym, or even take a leak without them. So if you are a tourist or new resident of Mexico and you have your cell phone in hand, it behooves you to learn the national etiquette for this omnipresent apparatus.
First off, be sure to carry the device with you no matter where you are going. Don’t think for a minute that you can go even a half hour without checking for calls, texts, or messages. If you are meeting friends in a restaurant, immediately place the phone on the table the way smokers used to immediately place their pack of cigarettes along side the knife, perhaps symbolic of this cutting-edge activity. If you have tactlessly omitted your usual mail check while driving to the restaurant, by all means do that immediately before the waiter brings the menu. Your table mates are accustomed to this behavior and are probably doing it too.
If you are dining with a long-time spouse or with someone you have dated for too long, use the phone periodically to relieve the likely boredom. If you are in a prestigious dining room that might make your friends envious, give them a quick call to gloat with an imperative “guess where I am!” If you are a spouse or dating this compulsive caller, be sure to have your own phone with you and make your own calls simultaneously to flaunt equality of connectivity. If reception is bad, no problem going outside seeking a better signal. You can leave companions alone at the table for quite some time without taxing their patience.
While dining, be sure not to turn off your phone because you may get a call from a friend who hasn’t phoned in over an hour. If you don’t answer the friend will think you are anti-social, and your tablemates will understand completely since they are likely to be calling or texting at the same time. And be sure to take the phone with you to the washroom when duty calls. Of course it’s easier for women to chat while sitting, but masterful males can manage at a urinal one-handed, or even no-hands, and if one dribbles a bit on his pants that’s a small price to pay for connectivity.
While driving any distance, be sure to have the phone handy so you don’t miss a call. How well you can do this while weaving in heavy traffic is a tribute to your skill even if you scare the bejesus out of your passengers. Just be sure to slow to a crawl while talking and making turns. The impatient person honking behind you is just an antiquated technophobe.
While shopping, you don’t need to bring a list. You can always call home and chat about what you are doing there and how much the cost of eggs has surged. At the cashier, don’t worry about taking a call while checking out. The line of people behind you know the cashiers are notoriously slow. Besides, you have already waited interminably for people to pay their bills, cash in their coupons, add minutes to their cell phone, or insist on a price check. No one expects checkout to be quick, so nothing is lost if you are talking instead of paying the bill. The cashier will wait until you finish.
When walking on Mexican sidewalks, it is too boring an activity not to be chatting on the phone at the same time. Given that huge gaps in the pavement and even open sewers can swallow you up if you aren’t careful, at least you have your phone to dial emergency services. And if the guy texting while driving runs you over, you can phone to report him if you are still conscious.
While at the gym, you might burn more calories if you could turn the phone off for an hour, but that would be so tedious. And the gym should really be a social occasion, so don’t sweat it. Anyone with experience can spin on the bike and trod on the treadmill while texting or talking. While taking a rest, make yourself comfortable by lying down on the inclined sit-up bench. People waiting to use it will be patient and understanding as long as you don’t talk for more than ten minutes, and they can use the extra time to make a call.
When in church, etiquette reportedly varies with denomination. Catholics can request a papal dispensation to text if the sermon is boring. Evangelicals are out of luck since they have to keep their arms waving and must wait until the spirit subsides. Members of other denominations need to check individually with their celestial counselors since there are almost as many churches as cell phone distributors.
When on a plane, waiting for takeoff and before the inconsiderate announcement to shut off all electronic devices, be sure to get in as much conversation as possible and as loudly as possible since you are going to have a long spell of abstention. On landing, pull out the phone as fast as possible and start gabbing so that everyone knows how wired you are and how important. The sign in baggage retrieval says cell phone usage is forbidden, but that is typical government intrusion on your rights and no one is likely to bother you if you disobey.
To flesh this out further, while making love, don’t miss a potentially important call. If it’s not urgent, males can just tell the caller something big has come up and you will call right back. Women are probably used to this kind of distraction and might even be grateful for the break, or they can set their phone on vibrate for compensatory satisfaction. At any rate it’s a post-modern form of coitus interruptus and inexpensive family planning. Of course, a man will probably want to avoid taking a call if he is having his semi-annual erection, or his annual semi-erection, although that should not be an issue now than Mexican pharmacies sell generic viagra for a pittance. So use it to keep up your calling frequency too. Given the lack of romance among cell phone abusers, many partners have learned to be self-sufficient.
Prostitutes servicing a man may answer the phone a few times to avoid losing a potential john. A man may object after the second call but she is likely to respond that she didn’t expect you to take so long. And don’t begrudge her wanting to kill two birds with one stone or, better said, two johns with one phone
If you are planning a visit to Mexico and don’t own a cell phone, unlikely as that may be, you should now understand the ubiquity of the device and its indispensable significance in social behavior. Be sure to own at least one and don’t risk packing it in checked luggage. It’s the first thing you will pull out if you want to blend in with the local population and not look altogether alien. Just be careful in the airport lobby with the hundreds of people meandering about, obliviously absorbed in their contraptions. You wouldn’t want to bump into one and appear to be rude would you?