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But sometimes people are louder. Etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore calls it “cell yell.” If you have to take a call in public, she offers two suggestions: Keep your voice to a low conversational tone and don’t talk about private matters.
“I once overheard a conversation of an attorney talking to a client,” she said. “I didn’t know the attorney, but what if I knew that person? It violates privacy.”
Even seemingly innocuous conversations can make those within earshot squirm, especially when they can’t get away.
“That is probably one of the most common complaints we get,” said Robin Selvig, customer service manager for Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, the south metro bus service.
SouthWest Transit, another bus line, established “quiet zones” on its buses about five years ago at the suggestion of cellphone-weary riders.
“It’s the fellow passengers who will enforce it,” said Len Simich, SouthWest Transit’s CEO. “If someone’s on the phone they may tap them on the shoulder and point to the sign.”
SouthWest Transit’s spring survey found that 95 percent of its riders appreciated the quiet zone on the buses.
Dan Wilczek, a rider who’s also on the SouthWest Transit board, said he was skeptical of the policy at first, worried it would lead to conflict between riders. But now he relishes the half-hour of silence.
“In our lives and work, there aren’t many quiet times that are available to you anymore where the phone isn’t ringing and people aren’t jabbering,” he said.
Except his bus — and airplanes overhead.
Katie Humphrey • 612-673-4758