Ask Laskas: Your Turn to Give Advice on Cell Phone Etiquette

Jeanne Marie Laskas writes our magazine's monthly advice column; now you help counsel this woman for possible inclusion in an upcoming issue.

A woman took her cell phone into a public restroom, and I listened to her conversation from the next stall. Apparently this did not bother the woman or the person on the other end of the phone. But it bothered me. Should I have said something?  — Seeking Privacy


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  • Your Comments

    • Shanna Johnson

      Would it bother you if she was talking to someone who was also in the bathroom? If it is the volume of the conversation that really bothers you then you can poltely ask her to drop the volume a tad, or plug your ears. However, a public restroom is “public” and as long as it doesn’t bother her you shouldn’t let it bother you.

    • Edda Anderson

      It’s a public restroom- she knew she wasn’t alone. If it bothers you, tune her conversation out, but it was her decision.

    • Sally

      Key words are “public restroom.” and the self-labeled ”Seeking Privacy”.  Use a private restroom, and if one is not available, just ignore those who bother you. Get over it!

    • Minivan007

      Pretend you are on the other end of her phone call and carry on the conversation with her. This may get her thinking twice about her phone calls on the john, and if nothing else it will give you something to laugh about.

    • KDS912

      One of my co-workers does this DAILY! It drives me bonkers, so what I do is hold down the manual flush button on the toilet. This prevents me from hearing her and the person on the other line from hearing me take care of personal bathroom business. She has stopped using the phone in the stalls…at least when I am in there!

    • James Zaliga

      Remember when phone booths had doors that closed.  They offered some
      form of separation from the public.  In the ’70′s they became roofless
      and doorless, but still had side panels that prevented one’s talking
      from being overheard.  Back then it was considered rude to eavesdrop. 
      These days phone booths are museum relics and the age of broadcast-
      conversation is upon us.  Quite a paradox for a society that staunchly
      demands the right to privacy while at the same time divulging personal
      information and secrets on the internet and openly airing intimate cell
      phone conversations.  In fact, society has done a complete 180 on the
      decorum of phone calls.  Ever been with a group of people and someone’s
      cell phone rings?  What happens?  Everyone immediately stops talking
      (even in mid-sentence) while the called person answers and carries on a
      private conversation without so much as saying excuse me or turning
      aside or making any attempt to detach himself from the group’s
      proceedings.  And amazingly enough, the group indulges him and
      maintains silence throughout!  Suddenly we have a society in which the
      cell phone is king, attending to it is religion, and normal, in-person,
      human interaction is unimportant and disdainful.  Well I say bunk! 
      Your cell phone is your master, not mine.  Your calls are for you to
      hear, not me.  The onus is on you to practice proper phone ettiquette,
      not me.  I am under no obligation to keep quiet while you jabberjaw in
      the free, open space.  If you think you can eschew the practices of a
      genteel, polite society and only tend to your own narcisistic world of
      self-importance where you think everyone should be privy to everything
      you say, then you should go live on a deserted island where you can
      talk as loudly and as garruously as you want.  Then, maybe one day, in
      your aloneness, without a hand to touch, or an embrace to feel, or
      another’s heartbeat to listen to, or someone’s eyes to look into, or a
      natural voice to hear, or the silent rendering of love to sense, you’ll
      come to realize that a cell phone is nothing but a parlor trick.

    • fernbarry

      No, I wouldn’t say anything to the person, but I would have flushed the toilet several times while she was on the phone!  It happens at my work, and I think it’s rude and annoying!