Turn off your cell phone!
By Minauti Dave

Picture this: You're in a theater watching the latest blockbuster movie. Just as the plot begins to thicken... A piercing ring cuts through the actor's lines. It's the all too familiar sound of a certain gadget we love to hate. The cell phone.

If you're stoked over this scenario, you're not alone. Movie-goers nationwide are fed up with cell phones breaking the silence in theaters. In this decade, the information age, some people are not willing to put up with the annoying ring of a cellular phone at meetings, food joints and especially movie theaters. And now they may not have to.

Star Theaters, an affiliate of Loews Cineplex Theaters and Entertainment, recently declared "phone free zones" in at least ten of their theaters in the state of Michigan. Moviegoers are warned of the implications of pulling out their phone in the theater as soon as they buy their movie ticket. They get a coupon that says: "phone free zones -- please turn off your phone while in the auditorium."

Guests are again reminded via a sign at the entrance of each theater. Those who are caught with their cell phones ringing or their beepers beeping, are approached by a theater attendant who hands them an attention-getting, glow-in the-dark card asking them to switch off their gadget.

Because the number of complaints about cell phone use in theaters is increasing, Krys Bylund, President of Star Theaters, says the company decided to "nip it in the bud" by mandating a set of rules and regulations. Bylund says nearly all the customers she's talked with are 100 percent behind the company's new policy. In the future, "you'll probably see theaters around the country (taking) a more aggressive stance," she says.

The bothersome sound of a cell phone and disruptive behavior of its owner is not just a problem exclusive to movie theaters. Some restaurant owners are also growing more and more ticked off.

"People are no longer considerate," says Russell Gravatt, manager of Sushi Ko, a Washington, D.C. restaurant. "They only attend to their own needs and are not aware of other people around them." In response, a sign is posted in Sushi Ko that reads: "In consideration of our fellow guests, we ask that you refrain from using cell phones in the restaurant." The sign works about 85 percent of the time, according to Gravatt, who adds that the remaining customers simply choose to ignore it.

College campuses across the country are also experiencing the unpleasant cell phone phenomenon. Many university staff and faculty are growing tired of the disruptive rings in classes, hallways and throughout the grounds.

"There are many times you may be in meetings with student leaders and you may be in the middle of an important topic and the cell phone may go off. And quite honestly it is a distraction," says Michael Gargano, Assistant Vice President of Student and Academic Support Services at George Washington University.

Gargano says it might not be a bad idea to create a one-hour session about cell phone etiquette on campus. He adds, "Part of it has to do with respect and common courtesy."