WITHOUT doubt the most ubiquitous sign of the wave of technological advances that has swept across this country is the cellular telephone. It is pressed to ears everywhere you go.
In the grocery store, in the mall, in cars, on city streets. The cell phone has become a lifeline, at times literally a lifesaver, allowing people in desperate or dangerous situations the ability to call for assistance.
But just as it has been a boon, the cell phone has become a bane. We all have examples.
The guy in the movie theater who didn't turn off his phone, or at least put it on vibrate, and at a tense moment in the film, the phone rings.
That's bad enough, but then he answers it.
Or the person at the next table in your favorite restaurant who interrupts your entree by babbling on to an unseen confidante on the other end of the line.
In all this incessant chatter there has been at least one oasis of peace, an escape from too much conversation: " the passenger airliner ".
The use of cell phones aboard planes has been prohibited by the Federal Aviation Administration because, in terms that every flier knows by heart, it might interfere with navigation and communications systems.
But in a move that struck fear into the hearts of many a passenger, the Federal Communications Commission has been looking at the possibility of removing its ban on cell phones.
This week, however, to the relief of millions of fliers, the FCC decided not to allow cell phone use on board because of fears that it could interfere with communications.
Obviously, if there is the slightest risk, however remote, that use of phones between takeoff and landing could interfere with the safe operation of a plane, or ground communications, then the prohibition on their use must remain in effect.
But it isn't only because of safety that the FCC decision is so welcome. It also retains at least a modicum of peace and quiet in the air.
The prospect of a gaggle of cell-phone users creating an awful cacophony in the confines of the cabin would add one more intolerable layer of stress on passengers already frazzled from security checks, flights delays, and the myriad aggravations that accompany airline travel today.
But thanks to the FCC ruling, we can all relax a little, recline our seat backs, and enjoy the flight. Remembering to keep our seat belt fastened at all times, of course.
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