The stat diggers at Pew dug up a new gem: in their nationally representative survey, "13% of cell owners pretended to be using their phone in order to avoid interacting with the people around them." This seems very, very low.
Part of the beauty of the ubiquitous phone is the ubiquitous excuse. See someone walking down the sidewalk who you'd like to avoid? Say, an old college acquaintance to whom you have nothing at all to say? And never did? And kind of always hated? Out comes the phone! I have a great scripted fake phone call script, always sounding like some urgent news has just been relayed to me:
What? She said that? Are you sure? Okay—I'm on my way. Well, just wait. Oh, wow—okay I'm coming right now.
Etc. And it always works! The phone, a device for communicating, is just as wonderfully useful at blocking communication. And in a society where constant communication becomes an expectation, being able to tacitly say I CANT TALK TO YOU RIGHT NOW, sans rudeness, is terrific. And I know I'm not alone.