Recently, the House of Representatives' Transportation and Infrastructure Committee advanced a bill that will permanently ban cell-phone use on planes. The bill, which was approved in committee with bipartisan support, will now move to the full House and potentially become law.
Currently, there is a temporary ban on cell-phone calls while airborne. On July 31, the House committee revisited the issue to determine whether to lift the temporary ban. Hence the HANG UP Act (Halting Airplane Noise to Give Us Peace) which, if passed, will fortify the existing airborne ban and extend it to when the plane is on the ground because, according to the committee, cell calls on planes are “unsafe and annoying to passengers.”
And Congress would know. Who flies more than politicians? Before the bill came to vote, committee members conveyed their personal cell-phone-on-airplane horror stories, such as the congressman who testified that he was forced to endure a nearby passenger discussing her sex life on the phone (oh, the travesty!). Another conveyed a harrowing tale of a man who was on a mobile phone trying to save his marriage before the plane took off. “It was embarrassing having to listen to all that sobbing and pleading,” said the congressman. (Sorry if my unraveling existence is making you uncomfortable, Mr. Representative). And, naturally, the terrorism card was played when yet another member claimed she saw somebody using a cell phone to take pictures of “sensitive areas” of the plane's interior.
There are so many things that are wack about this bill, let's examine them one at a time.
1. Selfish Congress: Ever notice, when members of the House address a problem that offends their personal bubbles of comfort, they get all gung-ho and bipartisan about it. Even the name of the act has an air of selfishness: Halting Airplane Noise to Give Us Peace. Notice it doesn't say, “to Give The People Peace” or “Give Passengers Peace.” Rather, it gives Us peace, as in, we, the big important leader-types, need sanctuary from you, the peons.
2. Inconsistent Logic: What's the difference between sitting next to somebody who's speaking on the phone loudly and sitting next to two people having a loud face-to-face conversation? Seems to me the problem is volume and that the ban—if one must be imposed—should be on loud talking, whether on a phone or not.
3. Terrorist Photography: The anecdote about the passenger (read: terrorist) taking pictures of the plane's interior is fear-mongering personified. I'm quite certain the terrorists know what the insides of planes look like by now. Or do they?
Somewhere, in a cave in Afghanistan:
Terrorist: “I have returned from my mission, Osama.”
Osama Bin Laden: “Excellent! Did you take photos of the inside of a plane?”
Terrorist: “Yes, Mr. Laden. Americans are stupid as Siberian dung rats. Look at these sensitive pictures they let me take: Here is a picture of a head rest, and here is one of a window, and this thing here is called a bathroom. Note the ingenious technology. Apparently this latch can alternate between displaying ‘Occupied' and ‘Unoccupied.' I believe we can disassemble this device.”
OBL: “Good work, my little jihadist! Did you take pictures of overhead compartments?”
Terrorist: “Oh crap, I forgot.”
OBL: “You are dumb as a Kashmir cave bat! Go back and take more.”
Terrorist: “But, B.L., the Americans have just passed law. We cannot use cell phones, even when plane is on ground.”
OBL: “Then use a digital camera, ye who is dense as hoof of goat.”
Terrorist: “Hmm, a camera? Of course! Cameras are still totally legal—stupid Americans!”
4. Eavesdropping Gold Mine: Being one of the world's most prolific and blatant eavesdroppers, I, for one, would be stoked to overhear somebody talking about their sex life. Just picture it. You've been flying for half a day, bored to convulsions, the flight attendant cut you off hours ago, the only thing to look at is the male pattern bald spot of the guy sitting in front of you and the in-flight movie is Garfield 2: A Tail of Two Kitties. All I'm saying is, if the woman sitting next to me started talking about how she and her boyfriend invited a team of midget rodeo clowns into their bed the night before, I would get on my knees and thank the deity for such a great and glorious gift as that.
5. Be Careful What You Ask For: Which is worse, overhearing a stranger's personal conversation or being involved in a personal conversation with that stranger? Personally, I would rather listen to a woman describing the scabies infection on her husband's nutsack for an entire flight than have to tolerate her, What-do-you-do-where-are-you-from small-talk interrogation.
6. Safety Hazard: Unless you accidentally drop your talker directly down someone's esophagus, causing him to choke to death, there is no cell-phone safety issue when the plane is grounded. There's no safety issue when the plane is airborne, either. Cell phones operate on an entirely different frequency range than the navigation equipment. That's why the European Commission approved cell-phone use in European airspace. They use rational thought, not fear mongering, to compose laws.
Honestly, Congress, you simply must ban this tendency of yours to ban everything that annoys you or that you think annoys us. How about, instead, we all just deal with these minor social inconveniences our own damn selves? Is that woman who's chatting all sexy-sexy on the phone flustering you? Well, just start rubbing yourself and breathing heavy while she talks. Gaze lasciviously at her breasts and whisper, “Hey, lady, could you repeat the part about the midget clowns again?” Isn't that a far more original and effective way to handle life's minor annoyances than to be yet another predictable lummox whose answer for every problem is to ban, banish, blackball, bash or bomb it right out of existence?