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by Abigail Van Buren

Rude Users of Cell Phones Inspire Creative Response

DEAR ABBY: I had to laugh when I read the letter from the cashier who got even with rude customers using cell phones by "misplacing" their merchandise. Her actions were wrong, of course, but I understand her frustration.

I manage a store and frequently work behind the cash register. Believe me, the cell phone problem is epidemic. When my employees complain about rude customers, I advise them to pretend the phone doesn't exist. Little did I know that one of my employees would come up with a solution to the problem:

One Sunday morning when the employee was in church, somebody's cell phone rang. Every head in church turned to see "whodunit." The pastor stopped in the middle of his sermon and announced, "Go ahead. We'll wait -- who is it?" The pastor's expression showed he wasn't angry -- nevertheless, his point was clearly made. The congregation howled with laughter.

Now, when one of my employees uses this tactic, the result is the same. And not one person has ever come into the store a second time babbling away on the airwaves. -- FOUND A BETTER WAY IN NASHVILLE

DEAR FOUND A BETTER WAY: Which proves you get better results with humor than with rancor. Bravo. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I suspect that some people use cell phones as a psychological barrier to help them avoid interacting with strangers. After all, interrupting people while they're on a cell phone is something most of us instinctively avoid. My theory is that while immersed in private conversation, the callers feel shielded from the outside world.

I've heard snippets of chatter so inane I can't believe my ears. Don't get me wrong; I'm not eavesdropping. However, sometimes it's impossible not to listen when someone brushes past me or talks incessantly while waiting in line behind me.

Sometimes I suspect that people only pretend to be on their cell phone. They think it makes them appear more important than they really are. It's a snobbish affectation, but they actually believe they're somehow earning respect from those who observe them.

Thanks for letting me vent. Sign me ... FINGERS IN MY EARS

DEAR FINGERS: Those are interesting theories. Technologies may change, but people remain the same. There was a famous hotel here in Los Angeles that was frequented years ago by celebrities. The reservation list in the famous "lounge" was a veritable Who's Who of actors, directors, producers and agents. This was long before the invention of cell phones. People who wanted to draw attention to themselves would arrange to be paged. A uniformed bellman -- who had previously starred in the "Call for Philip Morris" cigarette commercials -- would stride through the hotel lobby and restaurant calling out, "Telephone call for Mister (blank)!" I suspect it was done more often by people between jobs than people who actually had urgent business.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

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