Next time cell phone users abuse you, invoke Flesh Rule

janet's world

March 22, 2009|By Janet Gilbert | Janet Gilbert,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Have you forgotten the Flesh Rule?

It can happen, especially in a world where there are so many ways to be in contact with geographically distant people, thanks to cell phones, PDAs, e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.

The Flesh Rule states that when engaging in any social, business or leisure activity, you should always give the person who is physically present your full attention. In other words, the person in the flesh rules - not the person on your cell phone, your BlackBerry or your iChat.

It seems reasonable enough.

But recently, I've witnessed so many violations of the Flesh Rule, it makes my skin crawl. It seems that people who work behind counters and cash registers are more likely to be victimized. So are children under age 12, before they get the gumption to speak up - or worse - start imitating the rude behavior they see exhibited by their caregivers.

Some people break the Flesh Rule when they are at a party, concert or theater. But when you are among a large gathering of people, you are not excused from interacting collectively as an audience. That is what the Flesh Rule is about: connecting with present people, no matter what their numbers.

We in the public service department of the Janet's World humor column business would like to propose a fun solution to this daily effrontery. When we witness a violation of the Flesh Rule, we recommend shrieking "Flesh Rule!" and flinging a large cut of bloody red meat on the violator, making a dramatic and memorable point.

Oh, darn it all, some other activist group has already claimed this as its signature tactic. So let us go to the less theatrical, less messy alternative, wherein we simply say "Flesh Rule" and leave immediately. Because there is nothing like a swift departure from a conversation, dinner party or work station to underscore the importance of the Flesh Rule.

Let's revisit some of the scenes I've witnessed recently, to demonstrate how instructive and just plain entertaining it would be to remark "Flesh Rule" and make a stunning exit.

* You enter a fast-food restaurant. On your way to the counter, you notice a parent talking on a cell phone while distributing meals to two children under age 5. Fifteen minutes later, the parent is still on the phone, while the children sit there like potted plants, only the human kind with little brains that can process the fact that they are being marginalized. Flesh Rule!

* You are at a party with a friend, Constance, who constantly sends text and photo messages to another friend, Missy, who had to miss the party. Flesh Rule!

* You are behind a person in the deli line who is talking on a cell phone about her mother's medical condition while ordering luncheon meats. You overhear, "Mom's gall bladder was about to - hold on, could I have that shaved? So, yeah, it was inflamed and - wait, could you slice from the rare end?" Flesh Rule!

* You are at a restaurant with a large group, and the person sitting next to you is text messaging between courses. In this case you may wish to add "Bon appetit" to your standard "Flesh Rule."

* You're speaking to someone in a work setting, and his "instant messenger" beeps. He apologetically excuses himself to attend to it, but becomes increasingly involved with the electronic interchange, holding up a finger to indicate "one minute." Flesh Rule!

I think we can agree that it's high time we incorporated the "Flesh Rule" reminder into our daily lexicon. If it's not too much trouble, perhaps we can also resurrect "please" and "thank you." But remember: "Flesh Rule" is not an aggressive phrase. It should always be spoken as a gentle acknowledgment, not unlike "God bless you." Because it's definitely not about disconnecting.

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