Dear Urban Diplomat: Am I a monster for not lending a stranger my cellphone?
The other day, I was waiting for the streetcar, killing time playing Candy Crush, when a woman rushed up to me and frantically asked to use my phone for an emergency call. I had visions of her running away with it or racking up huge long-distance charges, so I told her I’d already eaten up my minutes for the month. When I recounted the story to my partner, he called me a misanthropic meanie. What’s the etiquette when it comes to strangers and cellphones?
—The Neverlending Story, Distillery District
Back when cellphones were just chunky gadgets you used to call people, lending one to a stranger was no big whoop. But now that they’re repositories for banking passwords, private emails and steamy sexts, it’s wise to keep them locked down tight. That doesn’t give you a free pass to be a Bad Samaritan, though. Next time, ask for the nature of the emergency and, if it seems legit, dial the number yourself (assuming it doesn’t start with the country code for Taiwan) and put the call on speakerphone while keeping a firm grip. If it’s a bona fide crisis, the stranger will get over the lack of privacy. If she makes a fuss, she’s probably up to no good, and you can go back to wasting your life on Candy Crush with a clear conscience.
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