I feel sorry for cashiers these days. Not just because their work flow soars during the holiday rush, but because they’re on the receiving end of non-stop rude encounters. One by one, customers are now yakking away on cell phones during check-out.

You’ve seen it happen. The person in front of you is laying her items on the counter when her cell phone rings. She digs through her purse, answers it, gives the cashier the “wait” salute with her index finger, and then proceeds to blab away with an invisible friend about something trivial. Everyone behind her is delayed when the cashier, who has a question, can’t complete the transaction. Or, if the cashier can finish the transaction, the cell phone blabber merely grabs the receipt and strides away. No thank you to the real, live person who just helped her. The blabber seems totally oblivious to anyone else’s feelings or needs.

This behavior is inconsiderate, disrespectful and selfish. It treats cashiers like second class citizens, which they’re not, and forces all of us to listen to silly conversations. I’ve been polling cashiers recently to see how often this happens to them. Sadly, they say it’s relentless.

The bottom line is that cell phone calls in public are not merely a two-person activity. We drag others in when we blab away in grocery aisles, restaurants, airplanes, book stores and movie theaters. The boundaries of privacy have been blown as people yak away anywhere and everywhere. I think all this cell phone blabbing is bothersome and inappropriate. How about you? What bugs you most?

There’s a simple guideline that I’ve taught my children that may apply here: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. In this case, just because it rings, doesn’t mean you should answer. (Unless it’s an emergency, of course.) If your “private” conversation will interrupt or be inconsiderate to others who are present, please resist the urge to chat away just because it’s good for you. Some restraint is in order – that’s why there’s voice mail.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my phone is ringing.