“The Rules Obviously Don’t Apply to Me” Syndrome

Incidents of customer misconduct on airplanes increased for the third year in a row, reaching more than 1300 in 2011, according to the Wall Street Journal. Flight attendants say the refusal to turn off electronic devices, such as Blackberries or iPhones, is the top cause.

In December 2011, Alec Baldwin got into an altercation with American Airlines staff over his refusal to end a game of Words With Friends. I’m not an Alec Baldwin fan, but I can understand his addiction to WWF. However, Baldwin escalated the tension, tweeting about the incident, and in retaliation, American released a statement saying that Baldwin refused to follow FAA regulations, adding “The passenger was extremely rude to the crew, calling them inappropriate names and using offensive language.” (Who, Alec Baldwin, the charmer? No!) Meanwhile, other passengers sat in their seats tweeting away about the altercation, but no one else was asked to leave the plane, prompting his publicist, Matthew Hiltzik, to tweet, “hey @American_AA: How come ok 4 other 1st class passengers 2 tweet while @alecbaldwin asked to leave while using his device? #hypocrisy.” He later issued an apology.

In December 2010, Josh Duhamel was asked three times to turn off his cell phone. When he refused, the pilot turned the plane around and took it back to the gate where the actor was escorted off the plane by two officers. He later said, “I learned that it’s best to always turn them off. Not my favorite moment.” At least he had the grace to be embarrassed.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there is a good reason for the ban. The 800 MHz frequency most cell phones and wireless devices use could potentially disrupt onboard instruments. The science of the so-called cell phone ban is, at best, divided; we all know someone who has ignored the repeated calls to turn off our gadgets without causing the flight to fall from the sky.

Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study in 2006 and found cell phone signals used in flight could interfere with GPS systems. Flight crews have reported everything from radio static to false alarms on collision-avoidance systems, but these effects could not be duplicated in controlled lab testing.

Just follow the rules and turn your devices off. The Internet will still be there once you land.

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13 thoughts on ““The Rules Obviously Don’t Apply to Me” Syndrome

  1. Robin Helm

    Can I get an amen! People who can’t unhook themselves from their cell phones while they’re around other people get on my nerves.

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  2. Robin Helm

    That’s wonderful, Gayle! I hope you enjoy the books, and I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts about them.

    Welcome to the blog. We’re so glad to have you here!

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  3. Susan Kaye

    I heard it suggested that all people unwilling to turn off their cell phone take the first flight on which no one turns off their devices. Since there is not definitive opinion on what may happen, things might go just fine, then again …

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  4. LucyParker

    As someone who was taken aside by TSA for carrying peanut butter in my backpack, I now obey all the rules. Even the rumor of rules, as I don’t fly much and the rules seem to abstractly change.

    I would be mortified if the plane had to turn around because of my behavior. *shudder*

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  5. Robin Helm

    That’s a proper reaction, Terry. Alec Baldwin is a jerk. He causes all that trouble, and then blames the airline. Duhamel was embarrassed by his own behavior, as I would have been.

    The poor flight attendants don’t make the rules. They just have to enforce them (like teachers).

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  6. Laura Hile

    Okay, so what’s the deal? Am I to be surrounded by middle schoolers always?

    In the classroom, sure, I signed on for that. But in airports? Parks? The mall? Movie theaters? ON THE FREEWAY …

    “Me-me-me! It’s all about me-me-me.”

    I recall reading a story awhile back about firefighters in New York City. They had trouble communicating with the turntable ladder operator (the long telescopic ladder for high-rise fires) because of so much cell phone traffic in the neighborhood.

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  7. Stephanie L

    Yeah and I’m that one that gets on the plane and gets excited to have an excuse to turn off the phone. Then when I get the “I called you 3 times and texted twice, where were you?” I can say, OH I was on a plane! =D *sigh* We’re definitely a me me me society. What did we all do before constant access to each other and the rest of the world? Really.

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  8. Robin Helm

    I hate talking on the phone, Stephanie, so I can relate. Suddenly, everyone can intrude on whatever you’re doing at any time, and you’re supposed to stop everything and talk. Makes me miss “morning calls,” those Regency dinosaurs that took place at a certain time each day.

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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