I'd long thought my annoyance with that type of call was connected to my general disdain for cell phones altogether, then I read about a study Cornell University recently conducted that says overhearing cell phone conversations can be dangerously distracting "because we are unable to predict the succession of speech. It requires more attention." This according to Lauren Emberson, co-author of the study.
Experiments showed that those hearing a "halfalogue," the term coined for hearing only half of a conversation, performed poorly on cognitive tasks that demanded the kind of attention we use while tending to our daily activities, far more than when we overhear both sides of a spoken or cell phone conversation, which caused no decrease in performance.
The study found halfalogues to be so distracting that those nearby often become irritable and experience impaired cognitive performance, even to the point where overhearing a passenger's cell phone conversation can be distracting enough to affect the driver's performance.
But there are ways to fight back. According to an article in Technology Review, it was while on a commuter train traveling from New York City to Boston a few years ago that, even though their car was designated as a quiet zone, where phone calls and loud conversations were forbidden, a female passenger began talking on her cell phone about the kind of intimate details that make strangers uncomfortable.
When the conductor asked the woman to end the call, she complied, but once he was gone, she placed another call and again began talking about her personal life in a way those around her couldn't easily tune out.
Fortunately, among those on board was a MIT grad student, Limor Fried, who discreetly pressed a button on a small gadget she'd designed. Her invention successfully jammed the woman's cell phone reception, causing the call to drop and repeated redial attempts to fail.
Because the Federal Communications Commission prohibits selling such units, Fried provides free online instructions for those tech-savvy enough to build their own Wave Bubble devices.
If my stink-eye quits working, I might give it a try.
Reach Karin Fuller at karinful...@gmail.com.