Talking on Your Phone

Most passengers on Japanese trains are either reading, sleeping or using their mobile phones for sending messages, browsing the web or playing games. Talking on mobile phones inside trains, however, is forbidden… (“Taking the Train”,

Okay, I feel like I’m having a cranky day, but I’m going to try very hard not to let that take over this post.

Do you know what makes me cranky, though?

Other than lack of sleep, getting soaked in the rain, having a bad hair day, and forgetting to eat breakfast…?

Listening to somebody’s entire phone conversation while riding on the train. 

If you’ve ever been to British Columbia and used one of the Lower Mainland’s Translink services (bus, Skytrain, sea bus, WCE, train bus, etc.), then I’m quite sure that you have seen the signs around stations and on the transportation itself that remind riders of common etiquette. These are all pretty innocuous things, like being careful not to wear too much perfume or cologne (so many people are allergic); giving up your seat for seniors, disabled people, and pregnant women; not littering, etc.. One of these little pieces of etiquette is to refrain from using your cellphone (at least loudly) while in transport. This suggestion is not because Translink is Big Brother and wants to tell riders what to do. No, this suggestion is stated because NOBODY WANTS TO LISTEN TO YOUR PHONE CONVERSATION!

cellphone on train etiquette


Sorry. Did I sound a little chippy?

But seriously. Do you have to talk on your phone for the entire thirty minute bus ride? Is that really necessary?

Today’s culprit of this bad behavior was a woman who I often see on the train as she tends to get onto the same car as me in the afternoons. I’ve noticed her before because of her phone use.

A few weeks ago, in fact, I was quickly calling my mom (before I left the downtown station) to let her know what time my train would be arriving to the station in my suburb when this same woman sits down across from me and proceeds to have a loud phone conversation. While I was just trying to make sure that my mom knew what time to pick me up, this woman was in it for the long haul. And did she have to sit directly across from me to start her conversation when she saw that I was still finishing mine quietly?

I digress.

Today, this talkative woman was already on the phone when she sat across the aisle from me (not facing me, but to my left). She was speaking loudly into her phone, switching between English and a language which I think might have been Arabic or Persian (my linguistic studies were mostly around Latin- and Germanic-based languages so I’m not totally sure). I don’t really care what language she was speaking,though ; it could have been English, Mandarin, French, Yiddish, Gaelic, or Pig Latin and it still would have been annoying because it was unnecessarily loud!

And I brought up the languages she was speaking for two reasons:

1. When one older woman gave this woman a look which seemed to say, “Your behavior is inappropriate”, the phone woman glared and said something to the person on the phone which sounded kind of hostile. It may have had nothing to do with the other woman, but because it was said in a different language and with a harsh tone and while looking angrily at the other woman, we have no way of knowing.

2. I’m guessing that the woman might have been discussing something personal or private because I know, for a fact, that she speaks fluent English as I had heard her speak it before. So maybe she chose to speak in a less common language in order to keep others from listening in. Is a full train the right place to be discussing something so private that you have to switch languages? I don’t think so.

I’m not saying that you have to sit silently while riding transit, but there should be a certain level of respect for your fellow riders. This is not the Skytrain home from a drunken Friday evening downtown; this is an early (somewhat expensive) train for commuters. Having woken up at 6 am (not even as early as others on the train, I’m sure), I, for one, had no interest in listening to this woman’s conversation. It would not have been a big deal if she was speaking at a reasonable volume, but she was using her outside voice inside.

Am I the only one who is bothered by this? I know that it was an extreme situation, but it represents this idea that what you have to say is so important that you don’t have to follow the rules. Pretty selfish, if you ask me.

Do you have any horror stories from transit? Have you heard things from other people’s phone conversations that you wish you didn’t? Drop a comment and let me know about it!

Thanks for reading!

Stay classy,



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