Annoying Behaviours

Let me share a story that might remind you of a recent encounter you may have experienced. Always pushing myself to learn new things, I signed up to attend a 2-day training from 9 to 5. Most people that know me usually burst into laughter by this point because they know I hate seeing or talking to anyone before 10A. My first contact any and every morning is a good-looking, strong, and sexy black cup of coffee. We have had a relationship for many years. Sometimes we allow a third silent third party, a PB&J on an English muffin. On this day, there was no time for either of my trusted, scrumptious friends so I ventured off to the train station in silence at 7:30A, which feels like the crack of dawn to me.

As I struggled to push myself to walk from the car to the train platform, I noticed that everyone waiting for the train had the same expression on their faces. I liked them already because I knew there would not be any small talk. As the train pulled up, we all sighed a relief that we could get this day started and hopefully ride in total silence. I was in heaven until the first stop. A huge man entered and sat across from me and began shouting on his phone so we could all hear his conversation. I put in my earbuds, but he was able to shout over them. I looked around for another seat or a place to stand in peace. I moved to another car, and it happened all over again. A woman with a high-pitched voice sat across from me holding her phone and yelling into it and then the person on the other end started yelling back in response. Everyone on the train looked at these two people with eyes that could kill. She ignored all of us and continued to talk loudly on her phone for the next 30 to 35 minutes. We all looked at each with support. I pumped my music up and stared out of the window thinking of the 101 ways to commit murder. Has this ever happened to you or are you one of the people that speak loudly on your phone when on public transportation or in a public place?

We all exited the train as fast as we could to get away from these two rude people. Hearing the noise of cars honking, music playing, and people talking to each other was delightful. At that moment I decided to spend the next few days observing people being rude. I am still not sure if people know when they are being rude or if they think it’s the norm to annoy an entire bus or train load of paying customers by telling everyone their business. When did it become popular to be on speaker phones in public or small spaces?

As I continued my journey, I was surprised by how many inconsiderate people exist. While walking to my destination, most of the people, so early in the morning, were talking out loud on their phones or walking around like zombies looking down at their phone screens bumping into people and looking up frightened. One man bumped into a man so hard that it almost knocked his little girl down. The guy kept going and never made eye contact or pretended to be sorry. No one ever says excuse me or I am sorry for bumping into you and knocking your coffee out of your hand. Nope, they just keep walking. I don’t understand when we became an insensitive race of people, seemingly caring about no one, but ourselves.

Grocery stores are another big place where loud conversations occur, especially in checkout lines. Shoppers on their phones look annoyed when the cashier and those in line are giving them the look of death because they are standing there looking at their phones instead of paying for their items. Even in pharmacies or drug stores, the story keeps repeating itself. To my surprise, it’s not teenagers that are on their phones, it’s people of all ages. Even elderly people are shouting on their phones in small spaces. No one wants to know your business. Even in elevators, someone will usually enter talking loudly on their mobile devices. Ever tried going for a walk to calm your nerves? Forget it, everyone is on their speaker phone while walking, jogging, or pushing their baby or dog in a stroller. Each person tries to shout louder as if they are competing for a title. Quite often mothers or fathers roll their strollers into traffic and get a fright when an oncoming car honks the horn.

Imagine if you were standing next to one of the people I described at a bookshop or a department store, chances are they probably wouldn’t even say hello to you. You might exchange a friendly glance, but it’s highly unlikely they would share the personal details that were contributed while they were talking on their speaker phone on the bus or train. Never would you know they have financial problems, and their house may go into foreclosure or that they are cheating on their partner, looking for a new job, or dealing with a serious illness. Most people would never share these personal secrets with a stranger, but if you are near them while they are sharing everything on their speakerphone, you will know everything from A to Z about them.

People seem to believe that talking on their mobile devices isolates them from the people sitting all around them being forced to engage in uninteresting conversations that should be private. The deeper loud talkers get into their conversations, they seem to feel more removed from those around them, acting like no one can hear anything they are saying while on speaker phone. Public mobile phone behavior is annoying, and perhaps a bit foolish given that the wrong third party may overhear the conversation, but there’s possibly no ill intent. You would be right in concluding that the behavior is inconsiderate, but it’s not motivated by an ulterior motive. Most people think that it’s chic to sit cross-legged chatting on your speaker phone, perhaps making them appear important.

Nothing is so important to me that I couldn’t wait until I am in a private space or sitting alone on a park bench to answer a call or call someone back. The only time I would answer a call on public transportation or in a small public space would be if my partner, friend, or a family member was ill or in trouble and needed my help. When traveling around town on public transportation or enjoying a cappuccino in my favorite coffee shop, my phone is always on mute. The phone is programmed to alert the caller that I am unavailable to talk at this time, but they can text me their message and I will get back to them ASAP.

Many people would prefer confronting a loud phone talker, but it’s not worth the fight. Many of them won’t understand the request and will probably start talking about their rights to do what they want to do. Yes, we all have rights. My rights empower me to get up and move to another seat or another car on the train so I can’t hear their conversation. That’s the best solution. Don’t let anyone spoil your day.

I truly wish that public transportation companies would make certain cars or sections on trains or other public vehicles, quiet sections, and speaker phone sections. Those who want to talk loudly on their phones could all be together, trying to overtalk each other. Quiet sections would be a delight. Of course, it would all have to be monitored and I am certain that will never happen. The mandatory wearing of a mask on public transportation doesn’t exist because it’s not monitored or enforced by those hired to facilitate it.

Mobile phone conversations in small spaces aren’t meant to be rude, but let’s face it, they are offensive. I wonder if the speaker phone talkers were placed in a situation where they had to listen to someone yelling next to them, how would they react? Word to the wise, if you must be on your mobile device on public transportation, in a restaurant, or a small public space try to keep your conversation brief, and quiet, and be respectful of others. And remember, no one is interested in hearing your conversation when they are trying to get to work, meet a friend for dinner or lunch, or just going on an outing. The next time you pick up your phone while in public, find a space where you can talk without annoying everyone.

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Mikael Wagner is a communications project manager with focus on health promotion, public relations , marketing and focus group facilitation.

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Mikael Wagner

Mikael Wagner is a communications project manager with focus on health promotion, public relations , marketing and focus group facilitation.