NEW YORK-At first glance, a bearded journalist in business-casual attire may seem an unlikely arbiter of good taste for minding your manners when using mobile telephony.
But just as a retired professional wrestler from Minnesota has informed political debate, so too has Peter Laufer, a former NBC News correspondent, provided useful insights about cellular civility.
“Common sense is the least common of all the senses,” Mark Twain, another newsman, once said.
Perhaps the same goes for common courtesy, which sometimes seems to be part of a 1990s’ trend, described by U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan as “defining deviancy down.”
Laufer’s new book, “Wireless Etiquette-A Guide to the Changing World of Instant Communications,” is an amusing excursion in search of those two rare commodities, common courtesy and common sense, in a wireless world of all talk, all the time.
For readers without impure thoughts, Laufer’s advice can be condensed into three cardinal rules, none contradictory, although they might seem so at first blush.
No. 1: Flesh comes first. Translated, this means the people you are with should take priority for your attention.
No. 2: Vibrators are a good idea when in the company of others. That is to say, they serve to alert you to an important incoming call and avoid irritating those around with a ringing bell.
No. 3: Abstinence also can be a virtue. In other words, take advantage of voice mail to get important messages you can respond to at an appropriate place or time.
Terry Phillips, an erstwhile reporter himself, said he conceived of the idea for a wireless etiquette booklet a few years ago when he became director of external affairs for personal communications services carrier Omnipoint Communications Services Inc., Cedar Knolls, N.J.
“I tried to write something. It wasn’t very good. I tried to get people at Omnipoint interested and couldn’t, so I dropped it and let it fester,” Phillips said.
Earlier this year, he talked about his idea with Laufer, who also does the Omnipoint Business Minute radio feature. It was Laufer’s idea to write a short book “intended to be lively and interesting,” Phillips said.
“Like every other bit of technology-telephones, radio, television-wireless communications are ahead of people’s ability to deal with them, and no one has told us what to do. We want, at least, to get the dialogue going instead of proceeding anarchically, which leads to regulation.”
Some of the rules, regulations and technologies to prohibit wireless telephone use in designated areas, including some restaurants and commuter trains, are highlighted in “Wireless Etiquette.”
The book also provides a colorful bit of wireless telecommunications history, examples of egregiously inconsiderate behavior, funny anecdotes and simple solutions for common courtesy.
Laufer explains in the book he has been using radio communications for decades, starting with a behemoth set-up in a Plymouth Valiant owned by a radio station he reported for during the late 1960s.
“Using wireless phones for so many years, and watching others use and abuse their own, allows me to appoint myself arbiter of wireless etiquette…
Plenty of my friends and colleagues laughed at the idea of me dictating etiquette; apparently my reputation is not that of the most polite guy on the block,” he writes.
“But in the spirit of Supreme Court Justice (Potter) Stewart, I know rudeness when I see it, and I’ve been lucky to receive help from many of those same friends and colleagues with this book.”
Omnipoint will sell the book, which has a $14.50 sticker price, in its own stores and “bundle it with product as a promotion,” Phillips said. The carrier also will sell the book at a discount for “bulk purchases, sales promotions, fund-raising or educational purposes,” according to the book jacket.
“My fantasy is that we’ll sell foreign rights to it,” Phillips said.