I See It Now and I Agree -- We REALLY Need to Bring Back Phone Booths

phone blog1

Reagan National Airport, Washington DC 9:35am; US Airways Lounge:

“Let’s go to the next slide. We have to get to the contracting officer.”
“Mike, you’re in Arizona?... What the hell?”
“Ha, ha, ha …Vicky calls me on this!”
I know it’s meaningless. It’s a meaningless term, but the statute says…”
Actually, it’s a working model. Who has a copy? No one can find it.”
“Five to ten times. Keep at it. Thanks, George.”

Welcome to what passes for peace in an airport lounge, the place you go to escape the bustle and press of the terminal. The quotes above are taken from a 7-minute window of time in the US Airways lounge. I was seated in an area that was 100 square feet. I had no problem hearing these conversations.

I retired as an Army Officer in 2009 and have been on the road since then. Speaking, executive coaching, teaching, consulting, and serving on boards take up my time. I enjoy the work and the people I meet. And I get the chance to interact and observe a lot.

One of my observations is that we are either getting pretty thoughtless about our conversation volume, or we think everyone wants to hear our conversations.

I’m weighing in on the thoughtless side of the scale. When I walked up to a gentleman (I’m loose with the term) who was having the contracting discussion above, I asked if he would please quiet down. He smirked, turned his back, and said into the phone, “Next slide.” The volume, if anything, went up.

He wasn’t alone.

I would leave two points to ponder:

  1. Last year USA TODAY ran an article stating that we need to bring back phone booths in public places. No need to have phones in them, just a place where you can go and I don’t have to hear about contracting officers, Mike in Arizona, Vicky, “meaningless statutes,” or whatever else is so critical that you think I want to hear it. That’s an airport fee I’d pay for.
  2. I have audiences ask, “How do I connect with this younger, tech-driven generation? All they do is sit and text.” If their rude behavior concerns you, ask yourself whom they learned it from. Last week I was in an upscale hotel gym/spa. Signs on the wall in front of me stated, “Please refrain from cell phone use.” On either side of my elliptical trainer, two talkers engaged in extended conversations (over 10 minutes). When I finally couldn’t hear the elliptical trainer TV through my earphones, I asked them to quiet down. Again, the stink-face response. Maybe these youngsters are all about themselves because they see you are all about yourself.

The best boss I ever had in 33 years in the Army told me the thing that bothered him the most about people was when they were “thoughtless.”

I’m seeing (and hearing) a lot of thoughtlessness in our behavior in this airport “phone lounge.” Lighten the frowns, lessen the volume, and let’s not get to the stage where we need airport phone boots.

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