Cell phone calls in public places

I was enjoying dinner on a recent trip when I had a little disruption.  Two ladies across from the restaurant from me 2-17-15-2were eating when one of them received a phone call.  She took the call, which is not a big surprise these days. But what was surprising is that she took the call on speaker phone!  What was more bizarre was the friend she was at the table with was not even part of the conversation.  So it wasn’t like the two friends both needed to hear the call. The friend had to sit there awkwardly while the lady held a dinner speaker phone conversation in a relatively quiet restaurant.  The lady taking the call was eating while talking so I can only guess she put it on speaker was to make it easier to eat (would you call this hands free eating, like hands free driving??). 

I can’t think of any public place where speaker phone should be used to hold a conversation. Maybe walking down the street but even then it’s still pretty annoying. No one wants to hear your distracting conversation.   At least when it’s a one sided conversation I can block it out because I don’t fully know what they are talking about, but when I hear the entire conversation blasting I can’t find a way to block it out.  Some people may say that it’s not that different from two people sitting there having a conversation. I think that’s true on the rare occasion, but mostly people tend to talk louder when they’re on the phone for some reason.

What should be the etiquette for taking phone calls in public places?  I think speaker phone conversations are a no brainer for being inappropriate in public, but what about phone calls in general?  For me, when in a restaurant I rarely will take a call unless it’s something that just can’t wait.  In those cases I try to step away from the table to take the call.  I just find it rude for dining companions and/or for the people sitting around me.  Even somewhere like a coffee shop, where it can be a working environment, I still find it inappropriate to hold lengthy conversations because it can be such as distraction for those sitting around me.

Hotel and restaurant lobbies, and even airport gates, seem like more appropriate places to hold phone conversations.  In those areas for the most part if you are distracted by someone on the phone you can easily move somewhere else.

Finally, airplanes.  I believe airplanes are the worst place to allow a phone conversation, and it’s because of this that I hope that cell phones continue to be banned during most flights.  In such tight quarters I can’t imagine having to be stuck next to someone blabbering on their cell phone the entire time.  Sounds awful.

Readers, what are your thoughts on phone calls in public places? 

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  1. Literally listening to a guy have a business meeting on speaker right now in the airport lounge. 1) About half the lounge is on calls and everyone else is using their headphones or handset. It’s annoying, and I have to wonder who else on the call knows he’s on speaker? I’d be worried about sensitive business info.

  2. My understanding is that there is a device that makes cell phones inoperative within a certain area, except it can’t be used domestically. It’s used in Mexico and other nations to achieve quite when necessary.

  3. I have a policy that I do not take calls at dinner or when I am talking to a person face to face. That is what voice mail is for. I was getting a haircut the other day, and my phone went off. My stylist asked if I was going to get it I said no that voice mail will handle it. She was amazed that she stated I was the first not to answer the phone while in her chair. I stated that her time was valuable just as mine is the call is nothing that I can’t handle after I leave in a few minutes I saw her smile that also made me happy.

  4. I once had words with a man who took two calls during a movie. The second right during the massacre scene of Bloody Sunday, which I felt was extremely disrespectful.

    I think anyone who takes/makes calls in a restaurant and doesn’t step out is a dick and should be told so. (constant texting and FB checking from GenY is bad enough). The only time I’ve ever done that was when someone’s mum was (literally) dying and I took time out to provide comfort to her (she called me), but then felt extraordinarily guilty when it ended after ten minutes because my dinner was going cold.

    If people start being allowed to make calls during flights, I will have to stop flying. I already want to murder people who make calls on trains and trams. I can’t imagine how much angrier I will be if this starts happening in flight. The “I’m on the plane, be there soon” calls shit me to tears as it is. What’s wrong with a text message???!

  5. Just a note on cell phone blockers: they might be great for your personal comfort, or ensuring that a performance is not interrupted, but if I’m out and about while on call at the hospital I RELY on my phone having a functioning signal. We no longer carry pagers and to block signals can put lives in danger, so don’t.

  6. After working in customer service for years, I have grown to despise cell phone usage, especially since it keeps people from having a conversation with me while I assist them. I have even had customers take calls at the register, interrupting a conversation entirely.

    I wrote a blog post about my experiences that you can check out here:


  7. Just this moment, interrupted a man (not gentleman) who took a call on the runway at O’hare. When he hung up, I explained neither I or the other 60 passengers cared to hear his call. He was shocked at the interruption of his call. I suggested he Google cell phone etiquette on airplanes …. he fumed in silence until we deplaned.

    Were I not a well dressed 6’ tall white guy – I think his reaction might/would have been different.

  8. I am literally sitting here listening to a woman and her husband conduct a phone interview on speakerphone with a potential au pair. They are pretty much yelling to be heard, and everyone all around in the coffeehouse can hear every word. I have noise-cancelling headphones on and have the volume as loud as I can tolerate, and can still hear every word.

    I cannot imagine how anyone thinks this is an appropriate thing to do.

  9. I made a couple of business calls at a YMCA lobby with a low tone voice being extremely sensitive not to bother/disturb anyone. And yet, a man in the next table working on his laptop keeps looking at me like he is about to kill me. After I hung up, I asked him if everything was ok or if needed anything from me. His response, “don’t you realize that this is a public place and not an office. Think about this, what right do you have to be making noise and disturbing others.” Really???
    My response, “so we both understand this is a public place. And yet you have an expectation to have privacy, quiet, “aloneness”??? He simply walked away….

  10. Wow! Some people are taking out a lot of aggression just by people making cell phone calls in public. Maybe a bit of insecurity on your part about not receiving enough, or being told with whiplash not to do so yourself traumatizing a little bit? People are going to make cell phone calls where they want, period, and it’s none of anyone else’s business to interfere or interrupt as long as it’s not a *designated* quiet, public place, like… a library, or a doctor’s office. That’s just rude, again, except if in an emergency. Public, non-designated spaces that do not clearly state no cell phone talking in the lobby, blah blah blah are fair game, but with that being said, usually that applies to one- way calls. I happen to know some individuals who have their hands full, have hand and shoulder/neck problems, and need to take a call on speakerphone. I think if they do so in a public place, they should try to find a less crowded area that is not thematically exuding out tones of silence. Places like restaurants would also apply, where you’d want to wait. But for goodness’s Sake, I can make a call on an airplane, just like you can, when it’s ALLOWED TO.

    No pompous 6 foot white man is going to sass talk my ability for free speech if I’m just *talking* with my headset or the cell phone to me, and I’m not being overly loud. That dude nor anyone else doesn’t really know what I’m talking about, to who, and it might be important… for any reason whatsoever I choose, and not you, you oh person who shares public spaces yet feels so narcissistic and arrogant as if to control them entirely with the wave of your hands.
    Yeah, keep dreaming buddy, and go back to your office and penthouse that costs you 10 grand a month inside a city, feeling like you are living large. I’m allowed to speak, period, and so are you (even though your pompous entitlement makes most people not want to listen), and if I’m not doing hate speech or yelling/screaming next to you, you’ve got no right to ask me not to speak in a non-designated silent area. Aka, when the pilot gets on the announcer and says we can put our phones back to airplane mode.

    Oh, and to the Mrs. lady who said what’s wrong with a text… some people have trouble staring at a retina-killing blue light machine all day, and it’s none of your business either, haha! You laugh yourself all the way into glasses and dead brain cells even faster.

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