Help-Key: How To Enjoy Your Gear Without Being a Douche


Here we are, in the age of ubiquitous mobile devices, and while most of us read the instruction manuals, many don’t consider what’s not in the pages. Most of us have at least two devices on our person at all times, some even more. The upside is that these gadgets have made it easier for us to be entertained and revolutionized communications on a personal level. The bad news is most people don’t realize that this communication needs to remain personal. Herein lies a problem: as we get more and more gear, where are those who would tell us the appropriate and inappropriate times and ways to use it all?

That’s why I’m here, friend. I’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts that will get you through your hi-tech day without pissing off your like-minded gearhead humans. But don’t get me wrong, this guide isn’t just for nerds. In fact, nerds tend to know better than others how to use their technology without effecting those around them. No, this guide is for anyone at all who suffers from poor gadget judgement, and you should feel free to send it along to anyone you think might need its instruction.

The primary abusers of their technology are cellphone users, and they can be annoying for a variety of reasons. The most notable of these crimes are committed by those who don’t realize or acknowledge that there are other humans within earshot, and thusly conduct a conversation as if they’re alone at home. This should be a no brainer, but if you’ve been in a Starbucks in the last 2 years, you’ve seen it (or, rather, heard it) happening yourself.

Don’t be this person. If you’re phone call has more from your end than a “Yes, ok, sounds good,” then you should take it outside. Or, better, tell your connected party that you’ll call them back as soon as you get your Latte. There’s nothing saying you have to take your call right there and right then. Spread the word.

Not all gear crimes are of the actively stupid nature. Indeed, many of the most douchey things people do with their electronics are passive, such as wearing that damned Bluetooth headset at all times.

No, it doesn’t necessarily affect me. I will be honest about that. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t want to rip it off of your ear and throw it into the street. Handsfree kits are for when your hands are busy with something else, like driving, or arts and crafts, or dental surgery. They are not for when you’re standing in line at the bank. Not only will people think you’re crazy for talking to yourself, but they’ll think you’re an idiot for trying to show off your hi-tech Bluetooth headset. Look, they’ve been around for a while now. Put it back in your car and talk on your phone like a human.

Also, if you are using a headset in public, understand that they’re well engineered by people who specialize in acoustics. Unless you’re on a bus (where you shouldn’t be on your phone anyway) or at a construction site, the party on the other end can hear you just fine. Yelling into your headset makes you harder for them to hear, and makes the rest of your fellow mourners at the funeral even more pissed off. Think about it.

Ok, so we’ve weaned you from your headset, great. You’re still a douche. And the reason why is right there on your belt: your phone holster. Repeat after me: I am not Batman. My belt is not a utility belt. Now say it again. Good, we’re making progress, I can feel it.

Your belt is to hold up your pants. That is what it’s for. Your pockets are to hold things so your hands do not have to. That is what they are for. Do not confuse them. Put your phone in your pocket. Try it, it fits.

Not just holsters, but belt clips are bad too. You’re not a gunslinger, you do not need the quick-draw action, cowboy. If your phone doesn’t fit in your pocket, get a smaller phone. Or bigger pants. There are people all over the world keeping their phones in their pockets, and they get my respect and admiration for doing the right thing.

Another advantage of pocketing your phone, besides making you look like a grown-up instead of a kid playing G.I. Joe, is that you can use the handy vibrate feature that almost every phone made today has. That means we don’t have to hear your cellphone’s crappy 16-bit rendition of Sexyback while trying to read our newspaper. You should try it, it works quite well.

Speaking of ringtones and the keeping of them to one’s self, do not change your ringtone while amongst others. If you get a new phone, you want to play with it and all it’s features, that’s natural. And go ahead, new toys are great. But wait until you get home to scroll through the various crappy built-in tones, the factory installed one will work fine until you get there. There is nothing worse than hearing someone get halfway through Fur Elise’s harmonic beeps just to change mid-bar to La Cucoracha. For serious.

Gadget abuse isn’t just for cellphones, mind you. Various iPod owners have heaped their own problems on the public at large, most notably Singalongers. Alright, you’ve got the new My Chemical Romance single from iTunes, good for you. Keep it to yourself. Not only does that band suck, but you singing it aloud in line at the bank makes me want to punch you in the throat. The headphones are so nobody else has to hear your crappy music, I shouldn’t have to tell you this.

The bit about not wearing your cellphone on your belt clip goes double for your iPod. A friend once asked me how he could wear his iPod without looking like a tool. I was honest and told him, “You can’t.” If your 80GB is too big for your pockets, get a purse (or a manpurse/messenger bag, whatever). Or they fit nicely into jacket pockets. It’s fun to not be a douche, try it out for a while.

You might also try switching to a diminutive iPod Nano. These wafer-thin iPods can be stashed anywhere on the body with almost no noticeable bulge. Just don’t do the lanyard thing. Been to an Apple store? See how douchey they look? My point is made.

If you’re a Shuffle user, feel free to clip that thing. It’s one exception to the rule. By making them smaller than buttons and in colors you can match, the Shuffle is made to show off. Just keep it off the belt. No, really.

Lastly, you should try to use common sense. If you were from 10 years in the past, would you annoy yourself? If the answer is yes, then you’re likely annoying others. Stop it. Courtesy is not dead, and we’re here to make sure it makes a full recovery.

This guide is meant as a primer. I’m sure there are other doucheties unwitting people perpetrate that I didn’t mention here. By all means, feel free to populate our comments with others. The only way to win the war against idiots, friends, is with our knowledge. So contribute, and spread the word.