Let me tell you a little story about a Blackberry, bad design, a deaf man, and an airplane.
I was flying back from Savannah, Georgia (from, ironically, an interaction design conference) on a rescheduled flight after my original flight had been canceled due to the monster storms that hit the mid-Atlantic last month. I was on the second leg of my trip, sitting on the plane, waiting for departure out of Atlanta. I was in the middle of the plane, sandwiched between a young woman on my left and a deaf man on my right. It was a full flight and we were all a little weary and anxious due to the travel delays, but were relieved to be on the plane to Baltimore before another blizzard grounded flights again.
The obligatory safety video came on and, as usual, nobody paid much attention. Except for the guy sitting across the aisle from the deaf man. When it was over, he leaned across the aisle and pointed out to the deaf man that his Blackberry was still on. "You need to turn it off." he said.
But the deaf man couldn't understand this guy, mainly because the guy made no attempts to modify his communication techniques for someone who couldn't hear. So when the stewardess walked by a few minutes later, in perfect third-grade tattle tale form, he said, "Miss, his phone isn't off. He was texting just a few minutes ago. He won't turn his phone off."
For the next five minutes, as the plane left the gate and moved onto the tarmac, the stewardess and I tried to help the deaf man turn off his phone. Meanwhile, the tattle tale across the aisle nagging us the entire time, reaching and pointing, "No, it's that button." " Hold that one down." "You need to hold it for several seconds." "You have to hold it down.", until finally, the deaf man reached over and hit him, saying "Be quiet! Leave me alone!", speaking with unprounounced consonants and warbled vowels, as deaf people often do.
At this point, I proceded to help the deaf man take the battery out of his phone, making sure I was enunciating very clearly so he could read my lips, explaining that the phone had to be completely off and that this appeared to be the only way to shut it down.
The stewardess left to get help from another stewardess in turning the phone off. Or so I thought. The next thing I know, there's an announcement over the intercom: "Sorry, folks. We're going to have to turn back to the terminal. There's a problem with some passengers in the back of the plane." I turn around in my seat, looking toward the back, thinking maybe someone was sick. Like, choking-to-death or dying-of-a-heart-attack sick. Then the second stewardess comes to our row and says that they've called the police. "What?", I asked. "Why??" "Because this was an assault. He hit this man and that's assault."
"Are you fucking kidding me?" was all I could say. And a little too loudly, at that, as I am sometimes wont to do.
The Deaf Man could sense that something was wrong, asking me to explain. Given the complexity of the situation, I took out my Moleskin and laid it out in writing.
Meanwhile, the pilot turns the plane back to the terminal after which each man is called off the plane to speak with the police, one at a time. First Tattletale, then the Deaf Man. As the Deaf Man comes back to his seat, he's signing "I'm sorry" all the way down the aisle. Most of the passengers were in a surprisingly jovial mood (except for a woman in the seat behind me who'd given me the evil eye after I blurted out the "f" word) and cheered and clapped as he took his seat. I have no idea what happened to Tatttletale. He must've switched seats because his original seat was empty the entire way home.
Deaf Man sat down next to me, apologizing profusely with his hands. Then he reached for my notebook, where we had this exchange (of note are his comment blaming himself for the whole commotion "The burden was on me!" and my response, "No, the burden was on bad phone design.":
And this, my friends, is why I will never buy a Blackberry.