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Tim Foolery

Home » Travel » Cell Phone Etiquette: Happier Podcast Critique

Cell Phone Etiquette: Happier Podcast Critique

I’ve talked about ways I keep myself entertained while traveling before. Movies, TV shows and podcasts are my number one time killer while traveling. One of my favorite podcasts is Happier by self-described Happiness Bully Gretchen Rubin. Her weekly podcasts, which she co-host with her sister, Elizabeth Craft, give pointers on how to be happier.

Cell Phone Etiquette

This week, Gretchen and Liz tackled the topic of cell phone etiquette and how some people would interpret your actions as being rude, while others would think nothing of it. Gretchen posed a handful of questions to her sister on this topic – some I agreed with completely, while others I felt were just plain wrong. Here’s how it played out, with my commentery:


Gretchen: When you run into a friend while out and about, can you leave your ear buds in while you talk to them, even if your music/pod is turned off?

Liz: Take out one ear bud.

Tim’s Response: Couldn’t agree more. Show that you are engaged and not distracted.


Gretchen: Related question, at the store, when I am checking out. Can I leave my ear buds in. I’m of asking for help, the cashier is ringing up my items.

Liz: It is permissible to leave the ear buds in, if you give the cashier a nice smile.

Tim’s Response: No way. Just like before, turn off your entertainment, take our one ear bud and complete the transaction. These are people helping you. I don’t want small talk in this situation, but online it completely rude to shut off from people in the service industry. Plus, if the cashier has a question, they will likely have the repeat it once or twice all because you were too important to pause your distraction.


Gretchen: You are out walking your dog. Your dog and another start sniffing each other. Do you have to take the ear buds out and talk to the other dog owner?

Liz: Not if they don’t want to engage in a conversation.

Tim’s Response: If they want to engage, why must you? I don’t have a dog, but everyone in my neighborhood makes small talk while the dogs sniff around. Again, we are living on top of each other, we need to be a little more polite to each other. A couple minutes of idle, boring chatter isn’t going to kill you.


Gretchen: At dinner and the conversation drives you to a point where you want to look something up. Example: We love Shrek….wait, what year did that come out? Look it up.

Liz: 100% permissible as it is continuing the shared conversation. If you are checking your social media feeds, no, don’t donit.

Tim’s Response: Do it. Agreed. Be present in the conversation, don’t check out.


Gretchen: When someone shows you a picture on their phone, do you swipe to look at the other photos? I do it and it is rude.

Liz: It is rude. I’ve never done that.

Tim’s Response: Agreed, unless they preemptively give you permission. I accidently swiped too far and saw some very personal photos. Whoops!


Gretchen: When having a real world conversation and your phone rings or a notification buzzes. Do you check it or wait until the conversation is over?

Liz: I live in LA and we all accept that everyone just looks at their notification. It isn’t rude.

Tim’s Response: This one is tough for me. I say if the phone rings (which happens so rarely for me), see who it is. Notifications are different. Wait until the polite conversation is over and then check. If you are expecting an important call or message, let your friend know that you need to check something if/when it comes in.


Gretchen: If you are on a train, for example, your phone rings. Do you answer your phone? Do you answer and say “Hi, I’m on the train, what’s going on?” This gives the caller notice that you can’t fully talk, and acknowledges that you know you can’t really talk, so your fellow passengers aren’t angry.

Liz: Yes. That is fine.

Tim’s Response: Agreed. Unless you are in the quiet car. Then don’t answer. Also, depending on the train ride length, call them back once you are off the train. I have a quick SMS setup so when someone calls, I can shut the call down by texting them “I’m on the train. Will call you back when I’m off.” This works wonders for me.


Now some of the responses were indeed a bit more in-depth than the summary I’ve provided. Go listen to the pod to get the full picture. What do you think? Do you agree with their thought? Am I completely off base here? How would you respond?

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