In July I posted a survey asking people their opinion about cell/smart phone use in public restrooms. As expected, when asked, “Should people refrain from using cell/smart phones in public restrooms,” a whopping 85.5% of you frowned on the practice. Commenters to the column were quite frustrated by the disregard shown them by the person on the phone at a private, personal moment.
What was interesting was the split opinion about the next question: “If you are uncomfortable with a person near you using a cell/smart phone in a public restroom, is it okay to ask them to put it away?” 56.5% of you said “No” while 43.5% said, “Yes.”
So, while people expressed near unanimity about their dislike of cell/smart phone usage in a public restroom, when it comes to pointing out the behavior, there's more of a split decision. Even so, a majority did think that asking the perpetrator to stop is not the right approach.
As we interact with people every day, we must decide what kind of issue becomes important enough to point out another person’s questionable behavior and ask them to change it. Generally speaking, I am in agreement with the majority on this question. While I abhor the practice, I probably am not going to say something directly to a person talking on a phone in a public restroom.
And what about those ambient noises? Some commenters felt that trying to quiet restroom noises wasn’t necessary. Certainly, I think you should still flush, and you should still wash your hands. If those noises are heard by the person on the other end of the call, that is not your problem. On the other hand, I would not recommend going out of your way to be excessively noisy, but going about your business in your usual fashion is perfectly reasonable.
Thank you for answering the poll.
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About the author
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."