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Cell-Phone Nattering at 30,000 Feet

The airlines are now seeking regulatory approval for new technology that will let the noisy ones natter into their cell phones clear across the country.
 
 
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Buckle your seat belts, buckaroos! Apparently, the airlines feel they've not done enough to make air travel a stress-filled and downright irritating experience – so now they're pushing a plan to let some cell-phone jerk sit in the seat next to you and yammer non-stop at high volume about nothing for two or three hours as you wing across the country. That's a definition of hell ... and it's a sure-fire set-up for some serious air rage at 30,000 feet.

On practically every flight these days you'll encounter cell-phone maniacs, barking self-importantly into their little chunks of plastic. These callers seem to think that the rest of us will consider them hot shots for calling from a plane. It's pathetic, and the more pathetic they are, the louder they talk, annoying passengers for several rows around. I've seen passengers come close to blows with those pretentious prattlers.

The saving grace has been that the noise ceases once the plane takes off, for cell phones can interfere with the pilot's communications and must be shut off during flight. But the airlines are now seeking regulatory approval for new technology that will let the noisy ones natter into their cell phones clear across the country. "Bob, this is Jack. I'm on the plane to Portland, so this is a good time to go over our third-quarter sales figures." "Beatrice? Hi, it's Nancy. I'm in the air, can you believe it? Have I told you about my bladder condition? What ... you can't hear me? OK, I'll speak louder."

It's going to get ugly up there if this thing goes through. Yet the airlines see it as a money-maker, so the Bushites are pushing to OK the change, freeing the airlines to make a buck on air rage.

I could be one of those ragers! A few hours of flight time is one of the last sanctuaries of cell-phone silence in our harried world. Must we fill it with infuriating noise-makers just because it's technologically possible? To oppose this intrusion, contact the FCC's Public Comments page at www.fcc.gov.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of "Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush," from Viking Press. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.