Let me make this short:
To the human being with a phone always on speaker,
I do not need to hear you argue with your boss or your wife.
I do not need to hear you watch your favorite sports team lose.
I do not need to hear you gossip with your best friend.
But I do hear them, loud and clear, and it is downright rude. And I think most of the world will agree with me.
Five years ago, I was hanging out with a couple of friends at an IHOP in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An older gentleman, probably in his late 50s, started speaking to a friend on his phone…with the speaker ON. I was secretly annoyed, but one of my friends had a shorter fuse and actually blurted out my sentiment. He was thinking of approaching the guy but then decided against it for the sake of amity. He said he did not want to ruin our morning. We all agreed that the inconsiderate man was probably just an outlier.
Five years later, that man IS the trend.
Last week, another man was watching a basketball game at a Starbucks in Quezon City, Philippines. He did not have his headphones on. I was reading my book. Between us were two ladies in conversation. They were just going about their business and they did not disturb me at all. (I was reading at a Starbucks — I knew what I was getting into.) But a man turning a coffee shop into his own sports bar is not part of the bargain, so I did what my friend at the IHOP didn’t: I walked up to this guy and told him to turn it down, nicely. The ladies next to him went silent. He obliged.
But what I really wanted to do was scream at him like a cantankerous old maid and ask “WHERE THE HELL ARE YOUR HEADPHONES?!”
Is this not common knowledge?
The situation resembled for me a person having body odor and pretending not to smell it, but doing serious damage anyway to the people around him. And because I have been down that road before, I know that I am EMBARRASSED by it. The difference is, I am not sure people who are noise polluting with their speakerphones turned ON are embarrassed by anything at all.
It is worse than BO. A plague. The attack is unceasing.
I see this constant watching of YouTube or Facebook videos on smartphones EVERYWHERE: sidewalks, elevators, trains, and restaurants. I hear what should be private conversations audibly. A colleague once blasted music in the office while I was writing a speech. None of these people were wearing headphones. The latter’s excuse was that she left them at home, but even though that was not an excuse, the others have a different story? Am I Big Brother now?
They all heard it from me, and I don’t like raising hell. But I guarantee you — future models of inconsiderate behavior will experience the unexpected wrath of a person who just wants to get through her day in peace. I know I am not alone in my suffering.
I can feel my usually reserved self in public turning into a curmudgeon but I hope the more responsible world will cut me some slack. I just want us all to get along, but can these people with absentee headphones spare the rest of us their own business, the way I mind mine?
Our lives should not be a conference call. Our hobbies should be enjoyed in private. We need to preserve whatever privacy is left in our present-day Orwellian tragedy. We need to be kinder to our neighbors who want to be left in peace even if we prefer chaos.
We can all do that by simply putting our headphones on.
Will you help me by asking your neighbor, when necessary, to please put his headphones on?
Thank you for reading.