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Thoughts For Thursday: Cell Phone Etiquette

January 20, 2011 · 58 comments

in Thoughts For Thursday

Cell phones are a known distraction, even though many people do not necessarily see them that way.   The other day I was driving up the aisle in a parking structure nice and slow.  Next thing I know, some is pulling out of their spot and is about to T-Bone my car.  I tapped on the horn to let him know I was there, and he got furious.   He started beeping his horn at me and made some rather unpleasant gestures.  Of course none of this interrupted his cell phone conversation.  He was still able to talk on the phone, beep his horn, drive, and gesticulate all at the same time!

Anymore, if someone makes some stupid move while driving, I can almost guarantee they are on their cell phone.  I will say though, I love my cell phone.  I feel almost nervous without it in a sense.  What if the kids need me?   What if I am going to be late arriving somewhere and I need to let the person know?   I hate that feeling of not being able to reach someone if I need to.  However, I rarely talk on my cell phone when driving anymore.   I must admit, part of it might be that the city I live in just passed a law banning cell phone use in the car of any kind.  (Blue tooth is ok though.)  I can’t remember how much the fine is, but it is more than I want to pay, regardless.   So, I just think while driving instead.

Ever since I ‘met’ the guy who was clearly in the wrong and was flipping me off in the parking structure, I have been thinking about all the ways that cell phone use bothers me.  (Besides the obvious issue that people can become dangerously distracted when using a cell phone.)   So here is a list of the instances where I don’t think people should be using their cell phone:

  1. The Bathroom. Oh my gosh, do I hate listening to the person in the stall next to me chatting away on their cell phone like it is the most normal thing in the world.  Outside of being in labor, there is no other reason to need to complete a call while in the restroom.   Quite often these cell phone bathroom talkers also do not wash their hands either, which is another pet peeve of mine altogether.  I couldn’t believe it when I was at the mall over Christmas, and this very wealthy looking woman came strolling out of a stall at the Macy’s bathroom while on the phone.  Seeing that reminded me that money does not always equal class!
  2. Standing in line. Lines are usually pretty closed-in places, allowing about 3 feet of space max per person.  The last thing I want to listen to is someone else’s conversation while I am standing there.  I think some people might believe they are providing entertainment for others because they get louder and louder and laugh boisterously.  If you have to talk on the phone in line, please make it short and sweet.
  3. When with someone. I was at lunch the other day, and this man was on his phone the entire time while his wife just sat there.  He was yucking it up for a full half hour, totally oblivious to his spouse being bored out of her mind.   I actually get uncomfortable when I am with someone that is on their cell phone.  I almost feel like I am the one that is intruding and I feel like I need to find something to do.
  4. At a cash register. I feel so bad for many in the service industry who have to try to keep their cool while they are trying to conduct business with someone that is on their cell phone.   I don’t know why these rude cell phone users feel like it is ok to be so dismissive to others.  I love when they ask questions too, intermixed with their phone conversation, so the poor person at the cashier has no idea if the patron is talking to them or the person on the phone.   I think all stores should institute a policy where they absolutely refuse to wait on anyone that is talking on their cell phone.  It would be great to just say ‘Next’ and act like the cell phone talker was not there.
  5. During any public event.  I hate when I am stuck sitting next to someone at a sporting event or wherever and they decide they have to chat on their cell phone on-and-off throughout the game.   I can’t imagine the person on the other end of the phone conversation wants to hear the intermittent screaming and cheering either.

Overall, I think cell phones are a wonderful invention.  However, the are way overused.  If I controlled the world, cell phones could only send or receive calls when people/things were at least a certain distance away:

  • Strangers:  5 feet away
  • Toilets:  20 feet away
  • Steering wheels:  2 feet away
  • Cash registers:  20 feet away.  (This includes U-Scans.  Don’t take up extra time checking out because you are chatting on the phone with one hand and trying to ring up your groceries with the other.)

So, do you think I should rule the world and institute my new policies?  Do any particular type of cell phone users drive you crazy?  I wonder if patrons chatting on cell phones bothers a waitress more than people that employ poor tipping practices?

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole January 20, 2011 at 6:56 am

Agreed on all points.

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Husband of Everyday Tips January 20, 2011 at 8:17 am

I heard a guy once trying to have a meaningful conversation with his girlfriend or wife while he was sitting in a bathroom stall. I’m sure she appreciated the toilets flushing, etc. while they spoke about their relationship. Ridiculous.

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Kris January 20, 2011 at 3:20 pm

So it isn’t just in the ladies room that these things happen, eh?

Blech!

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Lola January 20, 2011 at 8:20 am

Yes, 1-5 are all pretty maddening. Pity my friend who works as a physician for Student Health Services at a big university – in spite of signs in the waiting room and in the examining room (!), she says she constantly has to tell students to get off their cell phones. She won’t let her student patients text, either, while she’s examining them. She says they get very huffy about that, as if texting was not distracting.

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Kris January 20, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Oh my gosh, I bet your friend just wants to smack those students. How could you be so stupid as to text while a doctor is examining you??

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First Gen American January 20, 2011 at 8:23 am

I would add texting to that as well. I absolutely hate it when people are together but not together. I had a friend who was in town visiting and he was texting the whole time with work during a party. It’s like, turn the phone off and enjoy present company please. We did give him crap about it and he stopped.

I’m guilty of the checkout line thing though. Usually I feel okay picking up the phone in the grocery store, but sometimes it’s hard to finish the conversation before I’m ready to leave. I will be more mindful of that in the future.

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Kris January 20, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I am with you First Gen. I never understood why people think they can just whip out their phones and start texting while having lunch with you or whatever. (I only do it if it is one of my kids and they need something.)

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The Biz of Life January 20, 2011 at 9:02 am

You don’t like hearing the flush when you are talking to someone on the phone? I’ve heard it on a couple of business calls where there were 15 execs on the line….. sadly inappropriate.

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Kris January 20, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Oh my gosh, could you tell who the offender was that stayed on the phone while in the bathroom? Did anyone say anything?

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Jaymus (RealizedReturns) January 20, 2011 at 9:03 am

I find that I am less bothered by these cell phone annoyances now than a few years ago. this is thanks in large part to the popularity of text messaging.. people simply talk less on their cell phones now.

But as First Gen American said, I really don’t appreciate being in a situation where someone at the table is constantly texting on their phone.

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Kris January 20, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Jaymus, I am kind of the opposite – I kind of notice it more. People seem to think that it is just acceptable now to talk on the phone under any circumstance.

I do agree though, people sure do text a lot!

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101 Centavos January 20, 2011 at 9:26 am

Kris, cellphones are a useful tool, but their widespread use I think has enabled a general decline in good manners.

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101 Centavos January 20, 2011 at 9:28 am

and by the way, take solace in the fact that the wanker who made rude gestures at you has got some bad karma coming his way.

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Kris January 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Yeah, maybe the wanker got a ticket once he hit the road since he was on his cell phone in the forbidden city.

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Linda January 20, 2011 at 12:20 pm

One of my friends works for a mobile phone manufacturer and told me a story about being in the ladies room one day and someone in a stall next to her asking that people not flush since she was on an important call. !!

From a business standpoint, the over-scheduling of life can be really annoying to me, and this issue with mobile phones is part of it. I hate that if I don’t mark time out on my calendar, I will often have a day where I simply have no time to physically move in space or attend to personal bodily needs. Need a drink of water or to use the toilet? Well, you’re on important calls from 10 to 3 PM, so how do you do that? You take the call on your mobile phone so you are not trapped at your desk that whole time and can get that water or use the toilet. (Actually, I draw the line at doing this in the office and just show up late for the call; but when I’m telecommuting from home…well…isn’t that what the mute button is for?)

If at all possible, I won’t let my schedule get filled up like that, but there are times I just can’t decline the meeting or ask that it be moved. I try very hard to not be on business calls when I am driving because I can’t really concentrate on driving and listening/responding very well; they both take a lot of attention. (With a headset, it’s legal in my city and state.) I will, however, often talk to my mom while driving (with the headset, of course); usually I just need to listen and not talk much to her. 😉

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Kris January 20, 2011 at 3:31 pm

I agree that we are all overscheduled now days, and cell phones allow people to plan for meetings all the time. 20 years ago, driving time was exactly that, not meeting time.

With work I would think people could say they are stepping away from the phone for the moment (which I do all the time). I can’t imagine anything would be so important that someone would drag the phone with them into the bathroom!

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Jenna January 20, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Mine is when you are in the car with someone and they proceed to have a 15 minute phone call with someone else during a 20 minute drive. If they are driving, that really freaks me out. And if they are the passenger and I’m driving I feel like a chauffeur!

Thanks for your comment today about Adaptu on Budgeting in the Fun Stuff!

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Kris January 20, 2011 at 3:32 pm

I hate being held captive in the car with someone on their cell phone. You are right, it is even worse when you are the passenger. (You can’t even turn up the radio!)

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Suba @ Wealth Informatics January 20, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I HATE hearing flushes while talking, which has happened more than once in a conference call. In CA, talking while driving (without handsfree) is not allowed, but I see a lot of people doing it. I don’t see them getting caught and I got a ticket for driving on 67 in a 65 mph freeway (yes, even the ticket said 67 mph and it was a perfectly normal day, no rain, snow or anything dangerous).

I think I will handle talking while driving after seeing so many people texting while driving. They do it really fast with one hand and have a conversation with texts. I change the lanes and put as much distance as I can if I see people distracted, texting or talking. I think “typing” something is insane while driving, but I guess I am too old for texting.

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Kris January 20, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Texting while driving is definitely scary. I wonder how often truck drivers see ridiculous things like that since they sit up so high and can see everything.

I too avoid those distracted-looking drivers!

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krantcents January 20, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Unfortunately, too many people have become self absorbed! I would add the people who talk on their phones in elevators. Also, the ones who wear headsets and talk on their phone, because I think they are talking to me. Then I realize they are on their phones.

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Kris January 20, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I have often made a comment to someone who was talking into their headset and I had no idea. I then feel like a complete idiot. Of course, they are so important, they didn’t even notice me so I really had nothing to be embarrassed about!

I wish cell phones didn’t get reception in elevators like how it was in the good old days…

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Deidre @ TransFormX January 20, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Exactly @ headsets – totally annoying!

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Carol January 20, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I find it absolutely gross when people talk on their cell phone while in a public restroom. When I note that occurring, I flush the toilet in my stall continously which typically quickly causes the person on the phone to leave the restroom because they can’t hear their “important” conversation. I also hate being held hostage to someone’s cell phone conversation while in an elevator.

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Kris January 20, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Repeated flushing is a great idea. I may alternate between doing that and pounding on the hand dryer. I may also shove them toward the sink to make sure they wash their hands after their call too.

Thanks for the ideas!!

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Deidre @ TransFormX January 20, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Yes, I second the repeated flushing idea!!
LOL @ hand dryer 🙂

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Money Reasons January 20, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I hate when people talk on the phone in a meeting and also in a movie theater… I’m a quiet guy, but on those occassions, I had to really restrain myself from saying something smart…

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Kris January 21, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Someone deserves to have a drink spilled on them if they talk in a movie theater!!

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MoneyCone January 20, 2011 at 3:49 pm

When crossing the road. You still need to be aware of the traffic! A cellphone is not a license to walk as you please.

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Kris January 21, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Oh very true MoneyCone, I am so mad I didn’t include that one. I love when people stroll ever so slowly when on the cell phone too while crossing the street. I am surprised more people haven’t been hurt from walking and talking.

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retirebyforty January 20, 2011 at 3:49 pm

ughhh… I hate it when people talk loudly on their cell phone on public transit.
Do I need to know you are heading to the gym, your sister and Ben are going out, you are trying to get better handicap on your bowling game, got a ride from work to the train station, etc…. (This was last night.)
The next time someone keeps yapping in my ears, I am going to take notes and hand it to him/her after 5 minutes and see how they react.

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Deidre @ TransFormX January 20, 2011 at 6:33 pm

LOL @ notes 🙂 Nice one! I would love to see the person’s face!

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Kris January 21, 2011 at 4:27 pm

What’s public transit? We don’t have that in the Detroit area… 🙂

That would be incredibly annoying to be stuck on a train or bus next to some phone loudmouth.

Let us know how it goes when you hand over the notes. That would be great!

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Roshawn @ Watson Inc January 20, 2011 at 5:23 pm

I agree…. I agree… I agree… I’m a little guilty of the cash register one, especially in the past (but I tend to pause the conversation now)

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Kris January 21, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I bet you will definitely pause or hang up next time you are at a register. 🙂

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Deidre @ TransFormX January 20, 2011 at 6:36 pm

I’m guilty of walking through the grocery store on the phone, not too much at the register though.

I thought about getting the headset for hands-free but I hate it when people are talking on the phone and you think they are talking to you and actually answer them …. I did not want to be one of those people so I’ve stuck with my standby.

Just think, all this craziness will be gone in 10 more years and a new communication device will be driving us insane 😉

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Kris January 21, 2011 at 4:24 pm

I will talk while strolling through the grocery store, although I have terrible reception at our local Kroger!

I didn’t even think about what the ‘next’ thing will be.. Interesting thought.

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Molly On Money January 20, 2011 at 10:34 pm

When I was in Japan talking on a cell phone publicly is looked down upon. It was so refreshing! On the other end there was a lot of texting going on……

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Kris January 21, 2011 at 4:23 pm

I wonder why it is frowned on in Japan? Maybe they respect manners or something??

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Aloysa January 20, 2011 at 10:44 pm

My friend used to call me while she was in the bathroom. It drove me crazy! Finally I had to tell her to stop calling me while she is taking a dump. Have some respect for people!

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Kris January 21, 2011 at 4:22 pm

That is not a good friend Aloysa- yuck! What was her response?

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Aloysa January 22, 2011 at 12:31 am

She said “I am sorry, won’t do it again.” She never called me from the bathroom. Ever. 🙂 So maybe she is not that bad after all.

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valleycat1 January 21, 2011 at 11:39 am

If the overheard conversations weren’t so predictable or banal, at least it would be entertaining. But, really, who needs to know you’re standing in line at the bank, or waiting for your flight to leave, or we just landed. I was in the airport recently & our flight was delayed. A woman made 2 calls – to the people she’d just been staying with and the family she was returning to, and had each and every person get on the line so she could personally repeat the message that her flight was delayed and she wasn’t sure when she’d be leaving/arriving. Literally.

For the restroom offenders, I suggest pretending to be violently ill in the adjoining stall as long as they’re on the phone.

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Kris January 21, 2011 at 3:12 pm

valleycat1- another great idea on how to handle the bathroom cell-phone offenders…

I get so impatient when I have to listen to people drone on and on. I would have screamed had I been at the airport listening to those calls.

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Joe Plemon January 21, 2011 at 11:50 am

Yes, I think you should rule the world. Run on the cell phone etiquette platform and you’ve got my vote!

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Kris January 21, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Thanks Joe. I will be looking for campaign donations then too. I will give you my Paypal ID… 🙂

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Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer January 21, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Loved this post as the same list drives me crazy. If cell phone use during flights becomes available, I think I will have to find a job that doesn’t involve travel.

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Kris January 22, 2011 at 9:55 am

Kay – Oh my gosh, I would cry if I was next to some phone talker on a plane. I hate flying as it is, so I can’t imagine.

Instead of getting a new job, you could get some earplugs, or fight back and have some super loud fake conversations on your own phone.

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Janice January 22, 2011 at 11:06 am

In case you all don’t know it, texting while driving is 10x worse than driving while drunk and cell phone talking is 5x worse. Bluetooth is only marginally better than regular cell phone use. It’s dangerous. It’s been proven. The only reason there aren’t more laws on the books about it is probably because of the cell phone industry. If you are driving, do not use your phone. It’s ludicrous that someone can’t wait the few minutes it would take for you to either pull over or get to your destination to get a call back. Including your kids. If your house in on fire, they should have been taught to call 911, not you. Cell phone usage is the new drug and in combination with driving, it is even more dangerous than alcohol. Moms out there, trust me on this. And it’s a bad example to set for your kids who will be driving themselves before you know it.

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Kris January 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Janice, I totally agree with you that cell phones and cars are a very dangerous combination. When I see people texting while driving, I want to scream even more.

I rarely use my cell phone in the car anymore, especially now that my oldest son is 16. How can I tell him it isn’t safe to talk on the phone and drive if I do it myself? Kids learn even when we don’t realize it, and you are right, the example you set is very important.

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