Walking, Talking and Lying

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Cell phones provide freedom of movement, which apparently allows plenty of room to stretch the truth.

How often have you stood on a street corner next to someone shouting an excuse into their cellular about why they are late — seemingly unfazed that countless strangers are witnessing them in their moment of mobile make-believe?

"I'm in the car right now!" Uh, no, you are standing in front of a bar.

"Technology has made it easier to lie, as people are more reachable now than they have ever have been," said Lesley Carlin, co-author of the etiquette guide, Things You Need to Be Told.

One man has vented his cell phone frustrations by creating the mockumentary called  YAKKERS: One Man's War Against Cell Phone Abuse, which premiered at the Anchorage Film Festival in December.

Bruce Weinstein, who has authored four books on ethics, said he produced the film because he was "sick and tired of having to listen to the outrageous things people were saying publicly on their cell phones, many of which were lies."

In one instance of brazen fibbing, Weinstein said, "I heard a man tell his girlfriend that he had to cancel a date because his mother was ill. Then he hung up and started kissing the woman he was with and explaining that he was 'off the hook.'"

Peter Shankman, CEO of a New York City-based public relations firm, was also caught off guard by some overheard digital deception, in this case in a public bus.

"I watched a guy sitting next to me in the window seat open up the window and stick his head out while talking on his mobile, 'Yeah, the wind is really bad here. You can hear it. I practically have to scream. I'll be in the office as soon as possible. Even walking is tough!'" Shankman explained in an e-mail interview.

Shankman, dumbfounded, stared at the man who said, "'Oh, my boss is in Los Angeles. I'm here on business. I slept in after a late night out and needed an excuse as to why I'm running late to a sales meeting.'"

Weinstein speculated that the wind-blown liar wanted to be forgiven for his public deception. But Weinstein thinks people should remind each other it's not OK to lie, and suggests shaking your head at cell phone con artists.

"To be shamed by anyone is one of the worst things that can happen to you in some cultures," he said. "I think we've lost that."

Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, Fla., which offers business etiquette classes, said demand was so great for knowledge about communicating in a digital world she now teaches "Techno-Etiquette for Today."

"People in general are totally inundated with business, wearing many hats and juggling many activities at once," said Whitmore, who is also the wireless phone etiquette spokesperson for Sprint PCS.

Lying and making excuses probably happened when portable phones weren't as prolific, she said.

"[Technology] makes it a little bit easier but, I don't think it's the catalyst for it," she said.

The "tech imperative," as Weinstein calls it, makes people feel free to do whatever they want whenever they want simply because they can. But people should think before they speak, especially when the cell phone yakkers reveal other people's personal information, he said.

Standing in line at a coffee shop, Weinstein once heard a physician call in a prescription for Viagra and mention the patient's full name.

"What about patients rights?" he asked.

Overhearing deceit is a type of pollution Weinstein said, and something needs to be done to clear the air. "If more people stood up to wrongdoing we observed it wouldn't happen as much," he said.

Carlin said most mobile misguiding behavior falls under the category of little white lies, but even those seemingly minor fibs can lead to bigger trouble.

"If you're just fibbing all the time that’s ultimately going to catch up with you," she said. "Your friends will come to realize you never really are just five minutes from where you say you are.”