I was recently shopping at Target on a weekday morning, not so much for the holidays but because my underwear and socks are hanging together by threads and I happened to have the day off.
Anyway, a friend of mine called me just as I got to the megastore within the mall, and I put on my handsfree device so we could chat while I shopped. We were talking while I was comparing two socks I was thinking about buying, when this woman suddenly yelled at me:
"You're being really obnoxious!"
I looked up in total shock. This middle aged woman was standing in front of me, glaring at me angrily.
"What?" I said.
"You're just being really obnoxious," she said. "I'm trying to focus on shopping and I can't concentrate because you're talking on the phone. It's really obnoxious."
I think there was a time when I would have mumbled an apology, but maybe it's just that I'm older or maybe it was my friend on the phone saying, "What the hell?" Or maybe it was another shopper who was looking at that woman and shaking her head like she couldn't believe it. But I wasn't going to be yelled at for OMG talking on the phone at a department store.
"So you're saying I'm not allowed to talk at Target?" I shot back. "So if I had a friend standing next to me, we wouldn't be allowed to speak?"
"That's different," she said. "What you're doing is obnoxious."
"How is it different?" I said. "Are we all just supposed to shop in absolute silence so that you can concentrate? Nobody is allowed to talk in this whole store?"
"Look, I'm sorry I said anything," the woman finally said.
"Yeah, happy holidays," I said.
I mean, WTF? I get that there are times when being on your phone would be obnoxious. Like, if I were on a train, where we were all trapped there, I wouldn't talk on my phone. But I was at a huge store that was noisy as hell already, and in all likelihood, if she hadn't said something, I would have moved on in about two minutes anyway. I mean, how long can you spend looking at socks?
I would never consider going up to a complete stranger and criticizing their behavior. Speaking of obnoxious.
Hands free devices in public are often obnoxious, though I would not have said anythingReplyDelete
What's funny is that earlier, I got a call while I was sitting at some benches in another part of the mall and there were some people next to me and I was worried about bothering them, so I was hesitant to take the call. Then I realized that every single one of them was on the phone, in their own conversation. I hadn't even noticed!Delete
Well, I do have to sympathize with your attacker since apparently the onerous task of selecting socks was over-taxing her neolithic brain.ReplyDelete
Good for you for standing your ground!
I agree with you, how is talking on the phone any different that talking to a person standing next to you? Why is hands free more obnoxious than holding the phone? In reality trying to push the cart with one hand while holding the phone in the other is more obnoxious because it is difficult to control the cart. The only reason I think people get upset is because they can't satisfy their nosiness by hearing both sides of the conversation they are listening in on.ReplyDelete
You should have told her you were actually having a conversation with the socks. Couldn't she hear them responding to you?
I use hands-free devices and think they're great, and if I'm out and about then I will talk on the phone, too. That's the point of cellular phones, after all.Delete
But I do think that talking on a phone is different from talking to someone who is physically there. People process things differently, but I know that I seem to easily block things out as background noise when it's two people talking to each other in person than when a person is on the phone. I'm not sure exactly what it is... maybe it's the relatively constant flow of voices with two or more people being there in person, compared with hearing a voice, silence, voice, silence of someone on the phone that makes the latter harder to block out. I suppose it could also be that even if we're not focused on it, our minds are always listening in and snooping. If you hear the full conversation, it is again easier to block out (because your mind is processing it in the background), whereas hearing only one side tends to make it a bit more difficult to block out because now you're trying to figure out the missing part. As if it's some puzzle, it suddenly becomes intriguing and distracting.
Those are my guesses. Somewhat similarly, a person talking on their phone is preferable to many people over hands-free devices because it makes it clearer what they're doing. Someone on a hands-free device could be talking to someone on the phone, they could be talking to someone in person, or they could be talking to themselves; you just don't know, especially because it's not always easy to see that they're wearing a headset. Whereas if you see someone with their arm characteristically crooked upward and they're holding something to the side of their head, it's clear that they're on the phone. In a way it's less distracting... and people like that it's less ambiguous, I think. Although it is interesting that headsets are no longer a new technology but still haven't gained much social acceptance... that we're headed toward a future of texting rather than voice communication makes me think that headsets may never be accepted.
I don't think I'd give up my headset just so that others can more easily know whether I'm on the phone or not. But for certain I don't think I'd ever chastise someone as being obnoxious if they were just minding their own business... and I've run across plenty of obnoxious people. If it's in a store, I usually just go to another area of the store and then return a bit later, when the bothersome person has likely left. Big deal. On one hand I admire the courage of people who speak up, but I also question some of the things that people feel the need to speak up about.
I am remembering now why I don't go shopping.ReplyDelete
Phones in public are offensive to me too.ReplyDelete
I don't answer while I'm in public unless it might be someone that needs immediate attention - like they're going to be a half hour late or can I pick them up something at the store. If I do answer, I dispatch the call quietly and quickly.
Most phone conversations in stores differ from in-person ones in volume and content. I don't want to hear other people's conversations when I'm shopping or waiting in line somewhere.
One of the most annoying is when the person in front of me in line is too busy talking on the phone to pay the cashier. Then we all have to wait.
Please, Fizz, try to be more considerate.
There were lots of people in the store shopping with friends and talking to those friends. I find shopping alone to be depressing and lonely, so I usually call a friend or my mom to make myself feel better. I don't know why that's so offensive. It was a huge store and I'm sure this woman wasn't listening to me for more than 60 seconds, tops.Delete
I do think her delivery (of her complaint) was unnecessarily obnoxious too though. But sometimes people are so uncomfortable speaking up that they have to get angry and end up going overboard on the harshness of their delivery. She could've just walked away or asked you to move aside if you were in the way and not focusing on your sock selection.ReplyDelete
I wasn't in the way. She was actually shopping in a completely different aisle that was next to mine.Delete
I am annoyed by it because I don't want to inturrupt. If you are standing with a friend, I would wait for a break in the conversation to say "excuse me, I need the creamed corn" but if you are on the phone I don't know when there is a pause. Likewise, when your friend is beside you, you are looking to make eye contact with them. When you are on the phone, you don't need to, so you appear to have tunnel-vision and don't always see the girl waiting for you to move from the creamed corn. I also catch myself listening to determine if you are talking to me or using a hands free device and this makes me feel like I am eavesdropping. However the fact that I am annoyed doesn't mean you are obnoxious.ReplyDelete
If you are talking about icky personal stuff, you are obnoxious. (phone or no phone)
You're both obnoxious.ReplyDelete
I'm with you on this one Fizzy. Agree that it's a totally different kettle of fish on a train, but in a big store it's not obnoxious.ReplyDelete
At least you had your hands-free operating. I've seen many a walmartian with the phone lodged under the strap of her tank on speaker so we were all invited to their conversation. My personal rule is if I can hear your conversation, you must want my opinion so I'll weigh in without a second thought.ReplyDelete
On the other hand, I miss the days before the headsets, when someone actually had to hold the phone up to their head to have a convo. So now when I see someone talking to open air, I have to wonder...
Yeah, in the old days, I used to see people on the street talking to themselves all the time, but they were usually schizophrenic.Delete
Glad you stood up for yourself. I suppose it's safe to assume that woman was having a bad day, or every day for her and those around her are a bad day. Doesn't mean you should have to take it. ... In my early 20s I was less rudely berated for talking on my cell phone on a train. I was a bit embarrassed, but correctly shamed by reasonable peer pressure. Your situation is absolutely different. I do think we are all louder on the phone than in person. But at Target - who the hell cares. On a commuter train where people regularly have 90 minute commutes - sure, that sucks. ... So anyway - I am sometimes tempted to impose a little bit of that sort of correction on people. Your case did not warrant it.ReplyDelete
I would never have done it if I were in a situation where somebody couldn't escape for me easily or in close quarters. In a huge department store, it seemed like nothing.Delete
For those of you who can't let a phone call go by no matter where you are, have at it. Just don't expect me to be quiet so you can hear your caller.ReplyDelete
It wasn't a phone call I had to answer. I specifically made the call because I was lonely while shopping. If somebody else had been loud and I couldn't hear my call, I would have just moved somewhere else, as this woman could easily get done.
Why not be considerate and move outside where people are gathered talking? Why should the other person have to move when her sole purpose is to shop and get outta there?Delete
Then when you're done chatting you can buy socks without annoying people.
I usually side with you when you're complaining about people being inconsiderate to you. So I'm surprised that you wouldn't want to go out of your way to not offend others, especially knowing that many people hate to hear cell phone conversations regardless of whether they have the courage to confront you or not.
Would I be correct in assuming you entered the medical field to help others?
The truth is that in the course of living life, people are annoying. It's annoying if you're buying a zillion items and hold up a line. It's annoying to pay with coupons that inevitably don't work. It's annoying to go to a restaurant with children under the age of five. I accept that people are going to annoy me and vice versa, and while I might bitch about it here, it's a totally different thing to berate them in public. Any fleeting annoyance people are going to have from very briefly having to listen to me on my phone while they pass me in a store is minuscule compared with the enjoyment I get out of having that phone call. I work full time with two small kids and the time I have for uninterrupted calls with friends is extremely limited. I love talking to friends and family... it's one of the thing I enjoy most. Why should I not do that just on the chance that I could annoy somebody for sixty seconds while they're standing next to me briefly? I would never ask another person to do that.Delete
You appear to be trying to rationalize the social acceptability of what you did because you didn't get the unconditional support you expected. There are two kinds of people: those glued to their phones or other devices and those who are starting to hate people who are glued to those devices. If you are using the phone or listening to music or whatever, you are in a bubble of your own, oblivious to those around you. It makes you noticeable--altho I don't pretend to understand why someone talking on a phone stands out while someone talking to a companion doesn't. But one notices the bubble people, and their assumption that because they have shut the rest of us out, we in turn don't see or hear them is wishful thinking. We notice them more than we might if they weren't absorbed in a device. There is an increasing backlash against people who are ALWAYS on a device of some sort, because those people are being unsociable, deliberately making it clear that they want nothing to do with anyone around them, even to the point of avoiding eye contact. I am fortunate to live in a place where people understand the unsociability of ignoring those around you, which means that if I'm waiting in line at the deli, I can start a conversation with the other people waiting. I'm not shopping "alone." I have had some lovely conversations with people I don't know. I would not have said anything to you were I another sock shopper, but you would have annoyed me, too. Just saying.ReplyDelete
Actually, I really hate it when people who are in line next to me start a conversation with me. Always makes me very uncomfortable. So if being on my phone discourages that, it's a bonus. To each their own, I guess.Delete
You are a docDelete
Wow. Between this statement and the one about feeling too lonely to buy socks if you're not talking on your phone, I'm floored.Delete
You must talk to peopleDelete
So.... it's weird that I enjoy talking to my friends and family that I love but not so much having awkward, meaningless conversations with strangers in grocery stores?Delete
How do you even talk to your patients? Just asking.Delete
I ask them relevant, essential questions about their medical condition so that I can treat them. I don't really talk to them much about the weather or what's for sale at the grocery store. Should I be doing that?Delete
And I genuinely don't understand why it's offensive that I wouldn't want to be approached by strangers when I'm trying to do my private shopping. Especially when part of my job is to talk to people all day.Delete
I feel the same way. I actually was playing on my phone in the waiting room for Doc Appt, and randomly had a stranger shout at me Hi! Do You like it Here??... I was so confused - I was being deliberately involved in something so I wouldn't have to have random conversations and this lady literally just walks up to me and forces me into a conversation. THAT's obnoxious, what you did was normal activity, and if it was annoying to someone they could have and should have moved away. I do it all the time.Delete
For anonymous from a different perspective, yes, I am a doctor. I'm also an introvert. My job means I have detailed, intimate, and prolonged conversations with 15+ strangers a day. I love it, but it is draining as hell, and frankly, my desire to hear about anyone else's life, no matter how superficial, is nill at the end of the day. I'm not a jerk about it, I don't scream at complete strangers to STFU when they make a comment about the weather in the grocery store, but if I can avoid eye contact and chit chat by texting, that's me getting by, and saving my social energy so my actual patients get it.Delete
Oh, for goodness sake. So much for the holiday spirit. Maybe Fizzy would be better with online shopping, nobody would try to talk to her there. I often do wonder when I see folks chatting to nobody visible: on the phone, or off their meds?ReplyDelete