Bring! bring!

Sorry for the title. I thought maybe I could annoy people with my cheesiness, just as sometimes people annoy me with their cell phones in the Writing Center. Of course we have polite signs strategically placed around the Center whispering "If you need to use your cell phone, please do so in the hallway" and "Please turn off your cell phone during consultations--Thank you." But of course, just like in class, at the movies, and in traffic court, cell phones continue to ring--and sometimes, continue to be answered.

What's the best thing to do when a writer answers a phone during a consultation? We've talked a bit in our Peer Consulting class about how we would react to such an affront. Responses vary from reading through and making notes for discussion on the draft while the writer is 'engaged' to quitting involvement in the session completely.

Yesterday, I had just shown a writer to a consulting table and given her forms to fill out. I left the table to get her a cup of water while she filled out the forms . While I was away from the table, her phone rang and she started chatting. What to do? Should I respect her privacy by waiting until she was finished with her phone call to sit back down at the table? Or might she feel she could talk on the phone until I returned, in which case if I stayed away from the table, she would stay on the phone indefinitely? But what if I returned to the table, and she didn't get off the phone? Awkward! I decided to sit down at the table, and she did get off the phone, and all was well.

Has anyone had any nightmarish situations involving cell phones during consultations? Does anyone have any fun strategies or ideas on how to chastise cellphone use with proper etiquette?


  1. This is something that I've delt with a few times. Just yesterday, as a matter of fact, this happened to me. I stepped away from the consultation to get an MLA manual, and when I returned, the writer was chatting away on his cell phone.

    I sat down at the table before I realized that he was talking on his phone. It was awkward. I'd already sat down, so I was forced to just sit there and listen to the conversation. I did feel like was invading his privacy, but I felt a little slighted, too.

    The consultation was going great, up to that point. We were talking about productive things and discussing things that he wanted to know about.

    After sitting there--flipping through the manual pretending NOT to hear the whole conversation--for a minute or two, trying to resume the consultation, from where we left off, was difficult.

    The way I see it: If a writer really wants to talk on his or her cellphone during a consultation, so be it. It's rude and awkward for us, and it also interfers with their learning. Chances are, if they talk on their phone more than they do with their consultants, they'll feel the repercussions of it.

    We could always open a kiosk by the front door that says: Please check all phones, knives, and bad puns here..


  2. good points, Alisha--their loss is probably worse than us having a few moments to catch up on handy formatting tips. But please don't make them check their bad puns--I thrive on bad puns!

  3. Wow, Elizabeth, now that I think about it, this has happened to me during exactly HALF of the consultations I've had so far this semester--a consultee's phone vibrates and he/she decides to answer. I tell him/her I don't mind--that this is his/her time. THEN I look at the clock and their paper, shrug and kick back. Hmm, maybe that's (accidentally) passive aggressive?

  4. Anonymous8:03 AM

    If we had to drop the bad puns, i wouldn't be able to tutor!

    I've never had any nightmare cell phone sessions (although I think ALL cell phones are nightmares; admit it, new phones defy Occham's Razor).

    I've had a few cell phones ring, usually the students just shut them off, or answer and quickly dismiss the call. I usually just whisper that I can step out if they like; my little passive-aggressive guilt trip.

  5. As a writing center new consultant, this was a concern of mine as well. I like what Alisha said about the student feeling the repercussions of spending time on his cell phone.

    They are allotted a certain amount of time, and if they choose to use up 30 minutes of their 45 minutes to talk on the phone, then they only get 15 minutes left and will have to make another appointment for more time. Maybe then, they'll get the "hint." Or, do they ever?

  6. Hi Elizabeth-
    I think you handled it correctly. You should've gone back to the table and seen if that triggered the student to end the call.

    As for me, I think if a student interrupts the session to take a call and I know the main point of the session, I'll work independently until the writer returns. If I have to chase the writer down, I'll do that with 5 minutes to go in the session so I can review "my thoughts" and recommend for the writer to come back again.

    If I'm being naive or if the cellphone interruption becomes an epidemic, maybe I'll take my cellphone out and make a "show" of turning my own one off and asking the writer to do the same, thereby saying "this time is important for both of us." I've been in graduate literature and creative writing classes where the professors have done that and it was effective without being insulting. I thought anyways...

  7. OoOoh, Bruce...I like the idea of turning of the your cell phone and then having the student turn off theirs. That seems like a great, non-intrusive way to handle it, proactively.

    And, the only bad puns that shall be checked at the desk are mine.

    Everyone else, bring as many as you wish. I am a sucker for bad puns, too!

  8. I worked at Albertson's as a manager for five years. One piece of advice that I took to heart about cell phones was to ignore their use. If someone is going to take the time out of an appointment they made with ME (or in Albertson's case, deny themselves customer service) to talk on the phone about whatever, I guess it's pretty important. Even if it doesn't seem to be so to us.

    I've heard all kinds of things: from one woman's ugly divorce over the course of a few visits to things I just really wish I hadn't heard. I figure if they're going to talk about whatever in public, it's themselves who should be humiliated after they realize they spoke about dirty laundry that shouldn't be aired in public in front of a complete stranger. But then again, it doesn't' seem to matter these days.

    Overall, I've got to agree with Alisha's advice about phone etiquette.

  9. Bruce has the right idea!
    My Communications Prof last year would walk to the front of the class room move the tables around, pull out her roll book, and always without fail take her cell phone out and turn it off. Her red Chocolate phone from Verizon would make the "powering down" chime that Verizon phones make and I would remember to turn my off everyday. She was a comm prof, so I know she was doing it on purpose.
    --But hey, it totally worked. I think at the beginning of a consultation we should pull out our phone and turn it off. (If there's time and what not) Then the writer would get the right idea.
    Or maybe, come to think of it, we don't have to whip out our cellies every time... maybe if a writer walks in texting or on the phone we could make an example by making it known we're turning ours off.
    Those are just the thoughts running through my head... I think I would cry if someone answered their phone in the middle of my consultation. Just be aware not everyone. :) haha.


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