By LAURA CIRILLO

The sign posted front and center in each PRTC OmniRide bus is quite clear, asking passengers to use cell phones briefly and only when necessary.

Yet from time to time, I have to wonder if that sign is either blatantly ignored, or if some riders are just completely unaware of its existence. And it just so happens that those same riders who disregard the sign also seem to be the ones lacking in the common sense department. I would assume that boarding a quiet bus full of sleepy commuters would be an indicator that noisy cell phone conversations are not appropriate. But we all know what happens when we assume.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not above turning around and giving the cell phone offender a dirty look, which is usually no problem, considering they’re almost always sitting directly behind me. Yesterday, I had to shoot the stink eye at a lady in a particularly loud conversation with her realtor. Yes, I’m sure the conversation was super important, but I’m guessing it probably could have waiting another 45 minutes for her to get off the bus.

One morning, I ended up taking the last OmniRide bus from the Route 123 Commuter Lot in Lake Ridge, as I was running a bit later than usual. The driver waited as a man, running even later than I was, hurried to catch the bus. He politely thanked the bus driver for waiting, but I noticed as he made his way back to a seat that he was holding a cell phone to his ear.

Oh great, I thought. So glad we waited for this guy!

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who hoped he’d quickly end the conversation, now that he was on the crowded bus, but to our dismay, the casual conversation continued.

He chatted on and on until we were nearing the Pentagon, when suddenly a female passenger expressed her agitation and abruptly asked cell phone guy to cut it out. They bickered back and forth, until the female passenger called out to the bus driver to reiterate the cell phone policy. Keeping her cool, the bus driver used the intercom to remind all passengers that cell phones were to be used only in case of emergency, and that calls should be kept to a minimum.

But cell phone guy wasn’t going out without a fight. He refused to hang up, claiming he had a family emergency, and shot back by saying the other passenger was harassing him. I wondered if the bus driver felt like she was breaking up an argument between children, as she calmly asked him again to finish his conversation as quickly as possible.

Luckily, the argument didn’t last much longer, since we arrived at the Pentagon bus stop soon after. What impressed me, however, was how the bus driver dealt with the altercation between the two passengers. I’m sure she is used to grumpy people who aren’t exactly thrilled to be going to work every morning, but she remained unruffled and diplomatic in handling the situation. It certainly didn’t stop the rude passenger from being obnoxious, but at least the driver kept things from getting too out of hand.

Hopefully, her announcement was a good reminder of the cell phone policy to other passengers.

And if that fails, one thing is for sure – any passengers who insist on using their cell phone will get the stink eye.