If cellphones really don't interfere with the operation of an aircraft, then why not allow people to use them on flights? I might have answered that question differently before this past summer, when I went to Disneyworld to watch my niece perform with her dance troupe.
There are four main parks in the Disney complex, and just one of them – the Magic Kingdom – does not serve alcohol. Why is that, I wondered. It seems to me that of all the parks, the one that is most crowded with small children, the one most chock-full of princesses and cartoon mice and the one most deafeningly loud with race car sounds and video game-like attractions – surely, that is the one where parents most might want a drink to deal with the stress.
Then I realized that was actually the point – add alcohol to a scene with whining children, smeared chocolate ice cream and long lines at rides, and there will be an explosion of infanticide. Spend a few hours at the Magic Kingdom, and you will understand that some otherwise patient and loving parents are just two beers away from actually killing their children.
That's the same dynamic on planes. Already, they are more crowded, as airlines overbook and make the space between seats smaller and smaller. You're not allowed to get up and move around, or even "congregate" by the bathroom. (Which is always a trick, since how is someone supposed to get in line for the bathroom if you're not allowed to leave your seat until there's no line?)
The only saving grace now with flying is that it is actually one of the rare times a person can get away from ringing phones – not to mention other people's mindless conversations. You know that annoying man who is very, very important and refuses to hang up his phone when the flight attendant orders him to? Multiply that by a planeload, and that's what we'll have if the Federal Communications Commission, which is considering lifting the ban on cellphone use, allows it.
It's bad enough that people think it's perfectly OK to talk on phones in restaurants or text at the movies (or while driving!), or to check email and accept phone calls while in a social situation with someone else. I was raised in a household where the rule was that if the phone rang during dinner, it was not answered. And this was before voicemail. It was not considered rude not to answer it; it was actually considered rude to call during dinnertime. The fact that the technology now exists to play with one's smartphone while others are talking, traveling or enjoying a performance doesn't mean it's good manners to do so.
That moment when the Annoying Important Man finally hangs up his damn phone is a great moment of relief for fellow fliers. And if people are allowed to yammer during the entire flight? There aren't enough miniature bottles of alcohol in the world to calm the cramped crowd on the flight.