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Scene, Sunday, September 23, 2007

When we lived in San Diego, I made a habit of calling my brother, Jack, to tell him how much fun I was having at the beach while he was busy at work on the East Coast.

I put up with a lot of teasing while growing up and felt it was payback time. Instead of hanging up on me, he listened while I described the waves and complained about only one thing: how loud my voice was in his ear.

“You don’t have to talk so loud, Pam; I can hear you just fine, and so can everyone else in the office,” he told me.

That’s when I realized that not only was I using my “loud, cell-phone voice,” but also trying to be heard over the waves crashing in my (but not his) ears.

Now that I’m back on the East Coast and more accustomed to using a cell phone, I hope my manners have gotten a little better. Not everyone is willing to put up with that kind of behavior.

Unlike every other piece of advice my brother’s ever given me, I’ve tried to follow Jack’s instructions to lower my voice when I’m talking on my cell phone.

Yelling at the person on the other end of the line isn’t going to improve the signal any, and besides — do I really want everyone else to hear what I’m saying?

A lot of people have obviously overlooked that question as technology allows us to talk to our closest companions while doing virtually anything.

For example, the last time I went to a “Dining In” with Ron, there was a young woman in the restroom who decided to share her version of the evening with a friend … and everyone else within hearing range.

Those of you who have never attended a “Dining In” will have to take my word for it when I say that it is a formal meal involving all sorts of weird rules everyone has to follow.

For example, that particular evening, the base mascot, a bulldog, was given the opportunity to sample the main course before the commanding general declared it to be, “Fit for human consumption.”

If Ron had taken me to such an event for our first date, I probably would have fled the scene at the first bathroom break. Instead of doing that, the woman I referred to decided to call a friend for support.

While the rest of us waited for our turn, we were entertained by her very colorful version of the evening’s events. Even though I was already an “old Marine wife” by that point, I could understand her dismay and appreciated her need to share the bizarre story.

More recently, we were all eating at a fast food restaurant when a nearby diner decided to share the news of his Uncle Harry’s untimely death … every last detail from how he died to when the funeral was being held.

My indigestion later that day couldn’t be blamed on the fries as much as the fact that I had heard about poor Uncle Harry while eating them.

I have tried to make sure that there was some lesson to be found in all of us getting the scoop on what happened to that clueless cell phone user’s uncle.

A public place remains a public place even when the phone rings. And talking loud doesn’t make the signal any stronger; it just ensures that everyone around you will hear what you’re saying, whether they want to or not.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 16 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or find the Zichs online at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.

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