Toilet Training

If you’re one of those offensive people who talk on the cell phone in bathrooms—particularly public loos—your behavior stinks more than your poop. There may not be more appropriate place to assert that you’re on my shit list, bud. Bathroom phone calling is bad etiquette by just about any measure.

I cringe when walking by a public toilet stall and hearing someone talking into their cell phone. I’ve heard men taking what clearly are business calls. Oh, please! I’d fire your ass, for sitting it on the toilet seat and talking to me (your client or boss). Could toilet talking be the real reason for noise-cancelling cell phones or Bluetooth earpieces? Surely someone will hear you doing your toilet business—or that of the person in the next stall—while you’re taking the call.

Perhaps the problem is an old one, and I am naïve about it. Cordless phones predate cellulars. I would never use a cordless phone in the bathroom, but many other people surely have. Perhaps you? Hotels encourage bathroom calling by often placing phones within reach of room toilets. What’s different now: Calling in public restrooms. What next? Hotels adding fold-down desks to public stalls, so that patrons can set up temporary toilet offices? “Our stalls are soundproof and comfy with free Wi-Fi should you want to make video calls”.

Bad Phone Behavior by the Numbers
Today, Microsoft released results from a survey conducted by Harris Interactive spotlighting bad phone behavior. Harris telephoned 2,024 Americans over age 18 between Oct. 6-17, 2010, about their mobile phone usage. Forty percent of respondents admitted to using cell phones in the bathroom—55 percent of 18-34 year olds. Among 18-24 year-olds, 19 percent admitted to dropping cell phones in a toilet—6 percent of respondents 25 or older.

What I wonder: How many people were too embarrassed to admit bathroom calling or mishaps? I wouldn’t be surprised if the overall percentages aren’t higher, particularly when weighing an important group not included in the survey: 13 to 18 year-olds. Mobiles are so common, maybe 10-18 year-olds would be more sensible. What? You think teens and tweens don’t phone from the throne?

The Harris survey suggests people aren’t being totally honest: “72 percent identified bad mobile phone behavior as one of their top 10 pet peeves, but only 18 percent of mobile phone owners admit they are guilty of displaying such behavior.” But what is bad phone behavior?

[blue_box]According to Harris Interactive, six out of 10 U.S. adults have seen bad mobile phone behavior, but only one in five admitted they exhibited such poor mobile etiquette.[/blue_box]

When Is It Rude to Use Your Mobile?
Well, hell’s bells, I’ve got a personal list of bad phone behavior. In order of offensiveness or dangerousness:

  1. Texting and driving, which isn’t just rude, it’s dangerous. Last year, I nearly had an accident with some guy texting while riding a motorcycle.
  2. Retrieving data and driving. If you’re lost or looking for the next Starbucks, pull over. Don’t use Bing or Google search or maps from a cell phone while driving.
  3. Driving one-handed talking on a cell phone. Hands-free, baby—it’s the law in California and some other states.
  4. Toilet talking. There’s no reason to do your business while, ah, doing your business.
  5. Talking while waiting in line for service. Are you bugged as much as I am by people blabbering on their mobiles while paying for groceries, fast food or other goods? It’s obnoxiously rude to everyone waiting behind you and to the cashier most of all.
  6. Obsessively texting in the presence of others. Have you never heard Stephen Stills song “Love the One You’re With”? Be present with the people who are with you, not the ones somewhere else. There’s time for those other folks when you’re alone.
  7. Cell phone ringing in movie or meeting. You were told to turn it off. Nearly one-quarter of 18-24 year-olds acknowledged disrupting an “event such as a wedding, religious service or play”.
  8. Texting or gaming while walking in public places. It’s rude and dangerous. Forty-nine percent of 18-24 year-olds admitted to having “tripped or walked into something while walking and texting or emailing on their mobile phone”.

There is a real mobile phone etiquette problem, for which Americans’ lack of proper toilet training is evidence. According to Harris: “Less than half (48 percent) of adults believed talking on a mobile phone in a public restroom is inappropriate phone behavior, and two in five (43 percent) believed texting, emailing or surfing the Web in a public restroom is inappropriate.” Cough. Cough.

Do you have a mobile etiquette story that you’d like told? Please email Joe Wilcox: joewilcox at gmail dot com.