With the recent birth of the new suckfest that is the headphone-jack-less iPhone 7, I thought I’d talk a little bit about the recent implosion of cell phone etiquette and abandonment of the headphone. Because lately…Something is happening:
Everyone has stopped caring about being a dick.
Lately the amount of people watching videos, playing music or games, and gabbing on the phone in public at a volume of 300,000 decibels has practically skyrocketed. Ever since the iPhone 7 announcement, I have been practically sweating about how much worse this will now get. The world is already full of morons who consistently rationalize that the urgency to watch a three minute video of twin babies screaming gibberish at each other trumps the extra 10 seconds it will take to get out their headphones before pressing Play. Now they’ll need special Bluetooth ones? I understand Apple is trying to pioneer the new Bluetooth earbud thing and blah blah blaahhhh, but they’re not the ones stuck next to a girl on NJ Transit describing her STD symptoms in graphic detail on speakerphone.—Yes. That really happened to me. (My guess was gonorrhea.)
Let me preface this topic by saying this: I am like the Headphone Police. When I hear the first few plunky notes of Candy Crush music emanate from somewhere down the train car, my fists clench, my eye twitches, but I will myself to lamaze a few breaths and give it at least a full minute; If it continues, I always ask the person to put on their headphones. They always comply, but here’s the thing… they also always act like I’m the rude one. This happens without fail, and as sassy as I’m being right now about it, I am never, ever a jerk to these people. Even though in my head I am vividly picturing myself hurtling their phone out the window after smashing it with a baseball bat, I always ask them quietly and politely, with an “excuse me” and a “could you please” or a “would you mind” and all that other crap my mom taught me to say when talking to people I don’t like.
But it doesn’t matter. I am always viewed as the bad guy. Case in point: A few weeks ago I was taking a Metro North train, and about halfway out a woman gets on and sits in the row of seats right in front of me. Within 5 seconds, she’s on the phone, at about three times the volume of how loudly you would speak to someone right next to you. For the next twenty minutes, this woman is on and off the phone with practically every person in her contacts, in absolutely worthless conversations. It’s a crowded commuter train, so there really isn’t an option for me to move, but at a certain point I give up completely on trying to read my book and settle for glaring at the back of her seat, daring her to make a sixth phone call as she hangs up her urgent conversation about so-and-so’s Snapchat story…… It happens. “Oh Hiiiii Rob, I’m so glad I could catch youuu!!” I see the other people in the train glare at her, shift in their seat uncomfortably, or roll their eyes, but of course no one says anything. Being the chief officer of the STFU unit, I can’t let this go any longer.
“Excuse me,” I say sweetly as I poke my head over the seat in almost a whisper, so only she can hear me. “Would you mind speaking just a little softer? Thanks.” The woman looks up shocked, then nods vigorously and gives me a smile. I plop back down in my seat and re-open my book, as the woman continues the debate about what so-and-so wore to the wedding at a whisper. Let’s take a second to note here, that I didn’t even ask her to get off the phone. I just asked her to lower the volume from a guttural scream. However, you can’t deny that the underlying message was clear as a bell: “YOU’RE ANNOYING ME.” Well, no matter what the circumstances, people don’t like hearing that, and they certainly don’t like being told what to do. So I shouldn’t have been surprised at what happened next:
The phone call ends, and she waits about ten seconds before making… yet another call. Suddenly her volume picks slightly back up again and I hear this: “Yes, well I was asked to keep it down. You know, my boss is giving me so much shit lately, and my car is still in the shop and MY SON IS SICK, and you know what? We’re not even in the quiet car!! So……. she can just go sit somewhere else!!”
Within half a second my ass was up and out of my seat, ready to respond in my best bone-dry, murder-them-with-kindness, I’ll-let-you-know-exactly-how-stupid-you-are-without-really-saying-it way at which I am so excellent, but I stopped myself, channeled the strength of a thousand dalai lamas, and made myself sit back down. I knew there would be no point in getting into it with this woman. Clearly, this was an idiot, and a passive aggressive one at that, with which I have zero time for.
But really, what on earth could make someone rationalize that just because they’re “not in the quiet car,” they have full range to scream into their phone about which bar in Chelsea has the best french fries? And that’s the thing; As stupid as I’d like to think this woman is, she is not stupid, because, if the tables were turned and she was stuck on another train on a different day with some other idiot gabbing endlessly into their phone, she would undoubtedly hate it with every fiber of her being. Because everyone does! Everyone knows full well how obnoxious they are being when they call their roommate on the M34 bus to obsess over what their Tindr date thought about their outfit. Everyone knows that their choice to watch a video of a 4-year-old screaming Defying Gravity at full volume while in line at the grocery store makes them a terrible, terrible person and a direct cause of human suffering. So when people make an active choice to be jerk, and someone dares to point it out (enter me), even politely, their self-importance blinders are obliterated, and the only way to deal with it is to go on the defense: HOW DARE YOU POINT OUT HOW RUDE AND OBNOXIOUS I DECIDED TO BE?
Here’s the moral of this story: Ideally, don’t be a jerk. But if you choose to be one, and force an entire Dunkin Donuts to be held hostage to your listening party of the new Rihanna album, just own up to it when someone calls you out. Either don’t be an asshole, or own your assholedom. As far as I’m concerned, those are the new options. And don’t ever–EVER–leave the house without your headphones. Because you never know when you might run into me…