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Home > Blog > Hang Up and.. Oh Never Mind
Out of Our Minds
Monday, November 08, 2004 9:44 PM
Hang Up and.. Oh Never Mind
Kevin Salwen on Culture

Twice in the past two days I have run across this: someone in the restroom on their cellphone. I'm not talking about picking up a ringing phone while washing hands; I mean a full-fledged conversation from inside the stall (guy version).

I can't even begin to figure out what this signals in our society. But I know this: if you're in the stall when I call, don't answer. If you're calling me from in there, we're done.


Catalina - 11/15/2004 1:51:56 PM
This obsession with being plugged in all the time is completely voluntary and I guess this is where individual freedom to choose comes in. Having the capability to answer nature calls and calls from colleagues and others at the same time is definitely a sign of our times and it definitely gives 'multitasking' a new meaning. I wonder what else we will be able to do to increase productivity in the years to come, as I am convinced that this is only the beginning.

Answering the phone while in the bathroom is definitely a matter of personal preference. I guess it's good to have the option of taking a break while on a conf call and taking the phone with you rather than missing a beat. I don't know what's worse though, interrupting a call to let people know you need a break or actually taking advantage of this newfound freedom and taking the conf call with you. One thing is for sure, I always appreciate having options rather than having to abide by yet another set of norms, rules as to what is the socially acceptable thing to do.
pr - 11/15/2004 11:12:22 AM
sounds like we need a reality check on what type of business to do, and where...
martin - 11/11/2004 9:47:21 AM
perhaps vc, perhaps. but I'm at a conference right now and i entered one of those huge bathrooms with a runways worth of urinals along one wall. and there were at least 7 guys with phones wedged to their shoulders held only by their head, talking away while flushing and a host of other noises rose in a cacophony around us. i'm just glad they weren't talking to me.

and perhaps we all can stop being so Pavlovian and just once and not immediately leap to our phone when it rings or take one single moment to ourselves, center (or relieve ourselves as necessary) and continue.
vc - 11/10/2004 8:31:17 AM
You're not getting it. I too think it inappropriate for the other party to hear the flush, just as it's inappropriate to conduct a business call with your brats screaming in the background or your stereo blaring.

But assuming:
(1) You give the other person your attention and
(2) They don't hear any distracting or rude noises (be they flushes, farts, honks, or screaming brats)

This is a reasonable, defensible position. Can you honestly say that you would refuse to do business with someone who talks to you from his home office in the buff? Your one objection here seems to be to the sound of the flush. That sound is easily muted or covered.

Robert - 11/9/2004 6:51:25 PM
More scarily, this bad behavior precedes our wireless times. Didn't Lyndon Johnson do the same from the loo just off the Oval Office? (Had a special phone installed.) Many stories of Senators, CEOs and heads of state feeling their egos stroked during a personal call from LBJ asking for their advice or help ... then they'd hear the flush!
Tom - 11/9/2004 4:33:39 PM
All I can say, vc, is that I hope to never, ever do business with you or with anyone who thinks like you.

You're 'allowed' to talk on the phone at anytime, under any condition you want. If, however, your attention isn't on the person you're speaking with, it basically says you don't care enough to give them your full attention, whether they know it or not. It has nothing to do with whether or not I'm an American, it has everything to do with my being a human being.
anita - 11/9/2004 2:49:25 PM
I used to date a guy who liked to multi-task and that included talking on the phone while taking care of other business. All that was well and good until the sound of flushing -- which produced an image that I didn't find particularly attractive. But maybe that's just me -- perhaps to others it's the height of romance.

At least talking on the phone in your underwear isn't normally audible.
vc - 11/9/2004 1:51:41 PM
Are you allowed to talk to your boss while barefoot (on the phone)?

Are you allowed ot talk to your boss while wearing your pj's (on the phone)?

Are you allowed to talk to your boss while tending to your children (on the phone)?

Are you allowed to talk to your boss while picking your nose (on the phone)?

The beauty of the cell phone is that it frees us from physical concerns of location, situation and activity and allows us to conduct our affairs at opportune moments.

You're all just hung up on the fact that using the restroom is a somewhat dirty act. How cute and quaint. How very American Puritan of you!

The person on the other end of the line really doesn't care or know any better so long as proper care is taken to shield the person at the other end of the line from anything that might interfere with the conversation.

Therefore, it would be rude to change your baby and talk on the phone ONLY IF the person on the other end must tolerate the sound of a screaming baby. It would be rude to use the restroom ONLY IF the person on the other end can hear toilets flushing and water running.

vc - 11/9/2004 1:43:50 PM
How does the person on the other end of the line know any different? Why does it matter where you are or what you are doing so long as the person on the other end gets your full attention?

I'd say that it's far more rude to talk to someone while driving. You aren't giving the person on the other end of the line proper attention when you do that, and when communication is concerned, that's a far larger faux pas.

Also, your argument indicates that it's also verboten to pick your nose, your ears, or your teeth while on the phone with someone. It is also rude to be unclothed when on the phone with someone. You are also suggesting that if you are on the phone with a business acquaintance, you should be in full business attire that's appropriate to the relationship.


Laura Bergells - 11/9/2004 1:42:30 PM
If I am in a public place and MUST use the cell phone, I look for a phone booth or other private area to talk. Since there are fewer of these private areas available, I will frequently head to the only remaining private area within a public area: the ladies' room.

If it's a private ladies' room or one with a sitting area, wonderful. If not, I usually go out to the (parked) car.

Now, men's rooms usually don't have sitting areas. That might explain the use of the stall, I imagine...but the sound of flushing would be impolite.

So how about this for a social solution? Designated 'cell phone' areas to use in public places? Convert pay phone booths into cell phone booths. If you must talk, go to the booth.

Of course, it appears that many people need remedial education in basic etiquette, too.

PS - vc, it lacks courtesy to share private acts with an unwitting audience. It's not downtime - it's a private act that is best accomplished alone.
Tom - 11/9/2004 1:20:28 PM
vc, it's rude, it shows a disregard for the person on the other end of the line. Would you like it if your boss held meetings with you while he was sitting in a stall? Just because they can't see you doesn't make it any less disrespectful.
Tom - 11/9/2004 1:02:58 PM
I walked into the bathroom here at work while a guy in a stall was on the phone. He told the person he was talking to to 'hold on' when I walked in and didn't say 'go ahead' until I was leaving. I felt bad for the person on the other end.
vc - 11/9/2004 12:50:48 PM
I disagree entirely. This is a great use of downtime. What's actually wrong with using the cell phone while in the restroom? You haven't said what's wrong with it, only that you dislike it.

Kate - 11/9/2004 10:40:20 AM
And the ladies are just as bad. I've overheard this lunacy dozens of times. Whether you're asking for date advice, changing that meeting time, or negotiating that deal: please hold.
Troy Worman - 11/8/2004 11:19:39 PM
Multitasking = BAD.


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