Digital Manners: Is It OK To Talk on the Phone While Using the Bathroom? (Transcript)

Navigating the intersection of etiquette and technology.
Nov. 29 2011 12:54 PM

Call Me Back When You’re Out of the Bathroom (Transcript)

 Is it rude to conduct your business while “conducting your business”?

Emily Yoffe:  You’re kidding. I can’t believe you said that. Can you hold on just one sec?

 [toilet flush]

Okay, I’m back!

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Farhad Majoo:  I’m Slate’s technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo.

Emily:  I’m Emily Yoffe, Slate’s Dear Prudence advice columnist. And this is Manners for the Digital Age.

Farhad:  Today’s question is from a listener who thinks at least one room in the house should be a call-free zone. He writes, “Dear Farhad and Emily, is it still considered rude to conduct your bathroom business, including flushing, while talking on the phone? My wife does this all the time.” Signed, Feeling Flushed.

Emily, do you talk on the phone in the bathroom? If so, are you conscious of the flushing sound?

Emily:  Farhad, I’m too busy reading the Great Big Book of Hemorrhoids to talk on the phone in the bathroom. In fact, maybe you can answer the great mystery of whenever you go to a hotel, what in the world is the phone in the bathroom for? Is this the Lyndon Johnson phone he was famous for calling people from the bathroom or is this, “I’m having a heart attack, so I’m calling the desk phone?” because it just seems to me grotesque to call people while they can hear your bathroom sounds.

Farhad:  We were in a hotel a couple weeks ago and the phone was just right next to the toilet.

Emily:  They are.

Farhad:  I think it’s the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up phone.” So, wait. Are you saying definitively, no, you do not talk on the phone in the bathroom?

Emily:  What about you?

Farhad:  I feel like this is a question you shouldn’t answer.

Emily:  Are you in the bathroom now?

Farhad:  If I was, I wouldn’t let you know it, because I think that’s the policy. I feel like it’s fine to talk on the phone in the bathroom as long as nobody knows. That means no talking in a public bathroom, because not only is that rude to the person on the other end, but that’s rude to everyone else in the bathroom.

But if you do find yourself doing your business while you need to do some business, then do it quietly. Don’t flush. There’s a mute button on the phone if you need to flush. That’s my policy.

Emily:  Gee. Okay, you lead a much busier life than I do. I’m going to carve out some time just me and the toilet and not communicate with people. Isn’t this what texting was invented for? Then no one has to know or hear your sounds, of course. Who talks on the phone anyway anymore? How often are you having a phone conversation?

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