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No more quiet zones
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We have become a nation addicted to noise.

There’s an entire generation that has never lived in a world without cell phones and Ipods.

Of course, geezers like me have always accused young people of playing music too loudly. That’s nothing new.

I can recall my father, a mild-mannered man, walking into my room when I was a teenager and wincing as the sound from the stereo speakers assaulted him.

I was the same way with my kids. Probably you were, too, if you’re middle-aged or older.

But the noise factor has gotten far, far worse.

Used to be, if you were quietly going about your business – if you were in an airport waiting for a plane, or sitting in a movie theater prior to the film’s starting, or just walking down the street enjoying the day, you could be pretty sure you would have a few moments of silence.

Not anymore.

About 20 years ago, the quiet zone in the world ceased to exist.

Cell phones were -- and are -- the primary culprit.

But up until recently, you only had to listen to one end of a loudmouth’s conversation.

That’s no longer true.

I was in an airport recently -- delayed, as is so common, and a bit grumpy because of it.

A young man in his 20s sat down next to me, pulled out his smart phone and soon began "face timing" with friends.

Face Time is a smart phone application that allows you to use the camera in your phone to film you while you are talking to other people -- sort of an updated Skype, or videoconference.

Because you have to hold the phone out so the camera can capture you, you can’t put it up to your ear, and so the speakerphone feature is used.

So there we sat, me already a bit disgruntled because of a delayed flight, having to listen to this guy and his friends talking about the concert they'd been to the night before and how much beer they planned to drink that night.

The longer they talked, the louder they got.

They were all laughing and interrupting each other and pretty much making idiots of themselves in this crowded seating area of the airport.

And lest you think I was the only one irritated by this, I wasn’t.

Slowly, surely, people began getting up and moving away from the young guy. One woman walked right up and stood in front of him, glaring at him with a baleful stare.

Didn’t do a bit of good. The guy was oblivious.

So oblivious, in fact, he didn’t even seem to notice that he was annoying everyone around him.

This is definitely a generational thing. None of the people who left the area were young; the loud conversation didn’t bother them at all.

So I guess this is just another trend in a changing world. It probably won’t make the network news shows, and the talking heads on cable tonight will be discussing Congress or Obama or Syria, not face timing.

But watch: pretty soon you’re going to find yourself listening to all sorts of group conversations, no matter where you are, and the peace and solitude of the world are going to take another giant step backwards.

You’d better go out and get your earplugs now, because there’s going to be a run on them any day from us old guys, for we are now living in a speakerphone world.

(Glenn Tucker is the contributing editor to the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C.)