Putting a muzzle on cell tones
Back in 2004 the number of cell phone users passed the number of land-line phones in Maine, and the ring tones haven’t stopped since. Restaurant meals, plays, and even the quietude atop Mount Katahdin can be interrupted at any time by someone’s cell phone sounding the “Ride of the Valkyries” or “Born to be Wild.”
Bangor City Council meetings weren’t immune to the problem, with cell phones burbling and beeping often during council meetings despite signs and verbal admonitions to silence them. Even the councilors themselves weren’t innocent. When Susan Hawes took over as chairwoman of the council last November, she gave the prohibition some playful teeth by placing a “fine jar” on the council table. Any councilor, city employee, or member of the media whose ring tone interrupts a meeting has to throw a fiver into the jar, with the money going to charity.
And it worked. Since November the jar (well, usually a paper coffee cup) has collected only two fines, both from a councilor whom Hawes declined to name in the Bangor Daily News article about her cell silencing campaign.
Now this is an archetypal Maine solution to a problem — practical yet amusing, effective without being burdensome. It’s an idea that deserves to spread. Symphony performances, restaurants (I’ll give the fast-found joints a pass, but anyplace with a waitstaff …), the fire tower at the top of Mount Kineo — all need fine jars. Silence can be golden, and it helps if noisy is expensive.