We Need to Ban In-Flight Phone Calls Before It's Too Late

News recently broke that the Department of Transportation is revving up to try to officially ban in-flight phone calls. That's right; the singular, obscene act of yelling into your hand while careening through the air in a metal tube full of strangers could soon be verboten. Good. It should. It's time to kill the in-flight phone call before it starts.

Yes, your chance of catching a signal 30,000 feet up is more or less nonexistent for now, but that may not always have to be the case. All it takes is one major carrier to install a network extender, and the entire cabin turns into a chatty, blithering, squealing madhouse.

A few noble airlines have already aligned with the phone-call-phobic. But let's not delude ourselves; airlines are going to line up the second carriers start shoveling cash their way. It's only a matter of time before network extenders find their way onto your flight. Unless, of course, we stop them.

It is a divine, irrefutable truth that there is nothing more maddening than listening in on one half of a conversation. Now imagine having to deal with that on an airplane, where you're effectively trapped for hours and hours. Other than the sweet, sad sanctuary of a six-by-six-inch bathroom, you're roped into in an eternally incomplete discussion from which there can be no relief. Enjoy your flight.

But wait, you might say. Passengers already (usually for the most part kind of) talk to other passengers without causing a disturbance. Why is this so different?

That's fair! But even though we've managed to send robots to Mars, pinpoint the very essence of modern physics, and have sex with our iPads, cellphone quality still blows in the very best of circumstances. Move one end of that conversation 30,000 feet in the air, kick the volume up about 20 decibels, and add in the occasional announcement/screeching infant, and you have just created a perfect storm of annoyances.

Our seats are getting smaller, our planes more packed, and carry-on fees have effectively forced our entire life into a ziplock bag the size of a sandwich. The last thing we need is to be jammed between some middle manager blathering about TPS reports and a starry-eyed tween crooning to the love of her 12-year-old-life back home. You can manage a few hours relegated to the world of email, text, Twitter, Snapchat—anything but the imminently disruptive phone call.

Air travel's bad enough as it is. You're already doomed to spend the four-and-a-half hours in the lap of a total, likely long-unbathed stranger. We should at least be able to hold onto this last bit of uninterrupted dignity. Let us spoon our filthy seatmate in peace, and in quiet.

Art by Tara Jacoby