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So what's the big deal with loud cellers?

There's a fun little discussion going on in the Comments section on Monday's "Red Line meditation." First some folks wanted to know why I thought it strange that some people can yak on a cell phone and then go into a deep meditation stance. I called it cognitive dissonance. (There's your definitions, cmama.)

Then Jocelyn chimed in (almost literally -- I can almost hear her loud laugh now): "why is talking on the cell phone any more annoying than people talking and having a real time convo? i'm a loud laugher and a loud talker. i can't help it. my voice carries. so, people are bound to be annoyed by my loud voice no matter what. i'm not allowed to talk? but somehow it increases in annoyance, because the person i'm talking to isn't there? i've never understood the principle."

Well Jocelyn, one reason it's so annoying is because we voyeurs can't hear the other side for the conversation. And research proved that, as I blogged back in October.

The other reason is because people don't necessarily want to hear about how your job interview went, nor do they want to even HEAR your job interview. We don't care about your dog taking up two-thirds of your bed, or how your lover likes chicken sandwiches.

But Christine has the best reason yet as to why we don't want to hear your personal cell phone calls. (Just for the record, I'm fine with calling wifey to say you're on the way home and will pick up some bread, or whatever.) Christine reported hearing this conversation:

"A pretty young thing of about 22 sat down next to me on the bus (no seats left & I was trapped) with her cell phone planted on her ear. She was in mid argument with her mother after coming back from her doctor to find out if she was pregnant or not. She would take another pregnancy test in the morning (because it's more accurate in the morning, so her doctor told her) just to be sure. Evidently Mom didn't approve because the rest of the conversation devolved into this young women loudly defending her lifestyle and her sex life with her boyfriend who, BTW, she's been with for four years. Jeez, Mom, it's not like it was in your day, loud huff for effect!

"Point is, I don't need to know all this about some perfect stranger. Neither did anyone else sitting within earshot. I can't begin to imagine having this conversation on the el myself. Cell phones just allow for too much information in too small a space!"

Does that settle it for you, Jocelyn? ;-)


The real point is...

If you don't want to hear other people's conversation, don't ride PUBLIC transportation.

Would that pregnancy conversation be more pallatable if Mom was sitting right there next to her?

The more I follow this blog the more I see the same attitude: delusional righteousness.

It's great that you deem calling wifey acceptable, and past that its a bunch of stuff you dont care about, but who gave CTA Tattler the moral authority to pass judgement on what is acceptable on the train?

Hey here's an idea...try reading on the train and don't concern yourslef with what everyone else is doing.

Look, I ride the train (Green Line) 5 days a week, twice a day. I use that time for many reasons including making personal calls, studying (sometimes even reading a law book -- I MUST BE SHOW OFF) or just reading the newspaper. If you don't want to hear it, don't listen. There are plenty of ways (Walkmen, iPods, Books) to keep yourself distracted if you are that much of a busy body that you can't control your urges to pass judgement on other peoples actions on public transit. I have heard countless peoples conversations on cell phones, but I cant remember even one of the subject matter....know why?? Because I dont pay attention to that level. You have to be TRYING to listen to really hear that level of detail.

(Granted ther are some cases that are over the top and legitamately annoying, like excessive loudness or vulgarity or whatnot, but most the cases described seem like small annoyances -- GET OVER IT ALREADY -- people are going to do things you dont deem appropriate)

"people are going to do things you dont deem appropriate"

like ranting about statements on a community website?

umm. i love that kind of shit. i do. i'm an exhibitionist and a voyeur. i love to hear about people being pregnant and yelling at their boyfriends and grieving and all that sort of shit. and it occurs to me as it has on several occasions when i'm talking about god or going to an AA meeting or being sad about a breakup or gettin' all loud about someone's sex life that others can and will hear. and that's the CTA, people!!

it's part of why i love it. it's why i get both drawn to and scared from the mentally ill and gangsta kids and trampy tramps and the freaks and the drawn out junkies and the loudmouths and the drunks and all the crazies that make it up.

isn't that part of why you do the tattler?

so, that's cool. i'll try to keep it down, but not always. i text message a lot now, too.

Fuck this, I'ma settle it. Portable cell phone jammer and you can all go to hell! hahahah

ChicagoTom asks: "Would that pregnancy conversation be more pallatable if Mom was sitting right there next to her?"

Of course not. And I can bet you it never would have taken place had the both of them been on the EL together. At least not at audible tones. I think people on cell phones think they are in some bubble where people can't listen, or something. Or they just don't care.

And Tom, no one gave me moral authority to judge other people. I'm not claiming to. Just giving my opinion. That's all. Just as you are.

Some people are better at tuning things out. Apparently you are. Others aren't, including me. Tis more the pity.

And I do notice that you think there are some over-the-top cellers. And I will write about them. I will also write about the other things that you deem more minor because that's what I do -- "CTA Tattler: Seen and heard on the Chicago Transit Authority."

Chicago Tom-

I find it completely hysterical that in one breath you're asking why CTA Tattler has the moral authority to pass judgement on what is acceptable on the train and then in another you yourself pass judgement:

"Granted ther are some cases that are over the top and legitamately annoying, like excessive loudness or vulgarity or whatnot, but most the cases described seem like small annoyances ".

Find that strange?

Thanks for the definition. It's wednesday now, I can function a little better. How about everybody sit around the campfire on the Grand red line platform (neutral territory for sox and cubs fans) and sing "Kum-ba-yah" with me. I would say we sing "America the Beautiful", but I'm still figuring out where we have seas.

yeah. i wasn't trying to start no riots. i'm always reminded of mick jagger in 'gimme shelter' when things are all going to hell (literally with the hell's angels standing menacingly by as security at the edge of the stage) in a handbasket, and he yells into the microphone:

"who's fighting, and what for?"

cmama, I don't think it is safe to sit on the platform at Grand. Nasty stuff going on there! Maybe the newly remodeled Lake stop on the Red Line?

I own a cellphone, but I will not use it on the train (or any other public place) unless it is very urgent. I know that when I talk on a cell phone, I feel like it is just me and the person on the other end. I am a private person and do not want to inadvertantly say something that I would rather not have the strangers around me know.

But I must also confess to a certain voyeuristic pleasure at hearing others conversations. It is fun to try to fill in the other side of the conversation!

While I at at times enjoy the ridiculousness of the conversations* I hear on the CTA, cell phone or otherwise, ChicagoTom's notion that one can tune them out is misguided. I, for one, cannot concentrate on reading if someone is shouting about anything to anyone. Likewise, my iPod at top volume does not save me from the conversations of many of the loudest of these talkers. Perhaps Tom is less easily distracted than most of us, but it seems he's in the minority.

*I once sat behind a woman who called no less than 14 of her friends to have identical converstaions about a dress she bought. Then there was the drunk 20-something who called her friends crying because it's so hard for her to go out anywhere because she gets hit on all the time.

I don't know about anyone else, but I certainly would not have told MY mother I was taking a pregnancy test when i was in my early 20's and unwed. My mom would have had the same reaction as PYT's mom.

Folks, if you could have witnessed the drama and the complete lack of awareness of this young woman that her choice of topic for her conversation with her mother might raise a few eyebrows...it was truly a "tattler" moment!

Just as those who ride the CTA should expect a certain amount of noise, smells, bumps and other little interactions with other human beings, they should also respect those around them and understand that we're all just trying to get home as peacefully and comfortably as possible.

Who's that ringing on your cell phone? It's Copernicus calling to tell you that after careful research, it has been found that the world does not, in fact, revolve around you.

i think ANYONE who talks loud should expect to be subject to scrutiny. i hate loud talkers, especially as a captive audience member when on the train.

for you loudmouths out there: learn to use your indoor voice when in close quarters. jeez.

I'm good at tuning out the conversations unless they're interesting. What annoys me is the new ringtones that sound like old fashioned phones--you know, those heavy suckers with the cords and the dials. That ringtone is just LOUD. And annoying.

Jason Kratz, you asked if I "Find that strange?"

It's a very simple point really. It goes like this..
Unless someone is literally screaming in your ear or being a general nuisance to others on the train, like invading their personal space, or harassing them verbally or whatnot, then it really isnt our judgement to pass. Its a very tough argument to say that the guy who happens to be talking on his cell phone 4 rows down from me falls in the nuisance category. And it really has nothing to do with the content of their conversation. Like in the example of the pregnancy conversation. There is nothing inherently wrong with having that conversation. Just because *YOU* find it icky or uncomfortable doesn't inherently make the subject matter improper. Now if they went into graphic detail of sex acts, or they started swearing at each other while there were children nearby, well then that would qualify as a public nuisance because it crosses the line of public decency. (kind of the same reason why they bleep out swears on TV)

The point of me qualifying "legitamately annoying" cases was to premptively stop anyone from throwing out an extreme example and saying "well wouldnt that be alright to pass judgement on". My point wasn't that there is nothing that people can do that is in fact rude, ignorant, a nuisance. My point was that most examples cited in this blog hardly qualify as anything more than examples of things "I wouldn't be comfortable doing them, so there must be something wrong with the people who are comfortable doing them" which is just bogus self-righteousness.

So I guess the answer is "NO" I dont find anything strange with my comments and I believe they are completely consistent. There is a difference between being a real nuisance, and people doing things that you would prefer they didn't. Anyone who doesn't see that, in my opnion, is a self-centered, self-righteous twit.

If you totally disagree with everything in this blog, then why are you reading it?

really, it's a matter of respect for people talking loudly about inappropriate things on the train, or in any public setting. would i have a conversation about foot fungus in the produce department of a grocery store? no. would i discuss a partner cheating in the library? unlikely. chat about my friend's coke habit in the bathroom at work? probably not.

oh no...do I see name calling?! Time to sing a little bit louder:

"Kum-ba-yah my Lord, Kum-ba-yah....."

People, people! Please take mine and cmama's hand and join in song: "Kum-ba-yah my Lord, Kum-ba-yah....." (And a big thank you to cmama, our choir director.

ChicagoTom, there's really no right or wrong answer here, just people's differing opinions and tolerance. You have a higher tolerance. Great for you. Others find some cell phone calls annoying. I personally fall in the "voyeur" category where I love to listen to try and figure out what the other person is saying.

And to get material for this blog, natch!

A friendly (I come unarmed) reminder----Everybody had different tolerance levels. My tolerance for alcohol is different than yours, my tolerance for pain is different than yours, my tolerance for scary movies is different than yours, and my tolerance for noise, smells and people riding on the CTA is different than yours. So, with that established, everyone should respect the fact that what may bother you, may or may not bother the next person. I was raised to discuss personal problems within the home, while others may have let the whole block know what's going on. I personally would not have had that conversation about the pregnancy on the phone, but she can do whatever floats her boat.

Relax, take a deep breath and ENJOY THE SUMMER!

Someone - I forget who - once suggested always carrying a notebook and pen onto public transportation. Then when some clueless wonder is yakking away on their cell phone at top volume, put out your notepad and start writing down everything they say. Don't make a secret of it. Wait during the pauses and look at them expectantly. Scribble furiously to keep up. Act intensely interested. Do this until they either quiet down or hang up.

I've never had the nerve to do it, but wouldn't that be excellent?

please point me to my post where I said I disagree with everything I read here. There are many aspects of this blog that I enjoy and find interesting. For example, the pigeon post from today was actually quite interesting. I never knew the extent to which the CTA goes to prevent them.

Having said that, I find your attitude towards my critcism of certain aspects of this blog to be a bit unwarranted. Blogs (especially ones with open comment sections) are supposed to foster a sense of community and interaction. Is your implication that the only welcome members of this community are those which only agree with the opinions of the posts? Or is that everyone should be like minded when posting/reading at CTA Tattler?

I'm commenting and engaging here because I overall enjoy this community forum, and want to be part of it but there are certain posts that come of as elitist, judgemental and condescending (sp?), and I felt it proper to speak up and say so. I would like to see the tone of some of these posts change because they do turn me off, but Im not demanding it. I'm merely pointing out what I find troubling, and trying to do so in a polite manner. It's the equivalent of writing letters to the editor of your local paper. I could just stop reading, but I find it more worthwhile to send in comments and allow them to respond to those comments

If that bothers you, then tough ta-tas. Now if the the authors of the site would like me to stop being a member of the community for whatever reasons, I would gladly oblige, but barring that, Im going to post whatever I want.

Does that adequately explain to you why I continue to read this blog? Or do you want to put some other words or sentiments in my mouth again?

I can't help but wonder if the young woman who had the bad luck to sit next to me on the 147 the other night to talk to her mom about her potential pregnancy would be mortified to learn that she has become quite the catalyst for such controversy!

TR, I double-dog dare you to do the notebook thing.....

Tequila, how do you think I get all my material? I whip out my notebook and take notes! However, I'm probably not quite so in-your-face as you suggest.

ChicagoTom, I love the sense of community we have going here. And I have no problem with you or anyone else criticizing posts or whatever, as long as we are all polite. And please do keep reading.

Chicago Tom,
At the end of the day, you have the same righteous morality you accuse others of having. There are conversations that you agree are beyond the pale. Well, if that means we are all on a continuum of tolerance, it also means you are on the continuum of moral righteousness. Relativism is relativism. Res ipsa loquitur, as you LAW BOOK types like to say.

I wear an mp3 player because I don't want to hear the discussions around me, regardless of topic. I read a book because it is a good opportunity to do so. I miss a lot of tattler moments, but it does keep me from jamming a cell phone down someone's throat--which is nice.

By the way, before I get any snarky comments about my snarky comment about the LAW BOOKS, full disclosure demands that I admit that I am a lawyer. The only reason I don't read work stuff on the train is the lack of privacy and the necessity for confidentiality of client confidences.


I dont think my position is relativist at all. In fact its quite absolutist. I never implied that are certain conversations beyond the pale. There are certain ACTIONS that are beyond the pale. Those are actions that would constitute harrasment or assault. The topic of conversations is completely irrelevant. My belief is we shouldn't be passing judgement because others are doing things we dont like. If what they do crosses the boundaries of civil society into harrasment or assault (which are pretty well defined terms), then by all means that should be condemned. I fail to see how talking on a cell phone at a particular decibel level or making 1,5,or 20 calls falls into that category. And I fail to see the relativism in my position.

When people are face-to-face having a, let's say delicate, conversation, there's a good chance that one or both of them will understand that they aren't performing street theater, and the conversation will be more private.

Without the actual presence of the person who understands the difference between private and public conversations, the unknowing clod speaks as loudly as they please.

My suggestion is that if they want to perform public theater that we pay attention to them. Look right at them. React. Nod in agreement. Look shocked. Oooo and ahhh. Boo and applaud. Congratulate them on a fine performance.

Or join in the conversation. Offer suggestions. Make comments. Involve other people around. Make them the center of attention.

If they complain about you getting into their business, remind them that they've made it your business by having such a loud discussion in your presence. if they don't want people involved in their business, then they shouldn't flaunt it for all to hear.

Sure, they may walk away thinking you're rude. But if the same thing happens to them over and over again, maybe they'll think twice before making their private conversations into public theater.

If someone has the grace to lower their voices, and attempt to gain some privacy, I'll play along, and try to pretend I don't hear them. But if they're not even going to try to keep it to themselves, then I'm not going to even try to pretend I don't hear as well.

Y'all seen the Shhh... PDFs, right?!

Tom Sherman: I love the Shhh...PDFs! I'd love to hear if anyone in Chicago has actually used them.

I've realized that now when I ride CTA and I see or hear something unusual, I immediately think of CTA Tattler. As a matter of fact, I was overhearing a celler yesterday on my way home from work on the Brown Line. (A guy was telling the person on the other end about how his doctor told him "to wrap it in gauze" and that he needed to soak his feet in epsom salt twice a day.) I immediately thought of this thread...

Chicago Tom,
"I dont think my position is relativist at all." That was part of my point.

You did indicate that there were conversations using vulgarity, for instance, that would be beyond the pale. It is a distinction without meaning to say that a loud, vulgarity filled conversation is an ACTION that you are objecting to, rather than the content of the speech.

Furthermore, saying that "we shouldn't be passing judgement because others are doing things we dont like. If what they do crosses the boundaries of civil society into harrasment or assault (which are pretty well defined terms), then by all means that should be condemned" is the death of CIVIL society and leaves only LEGAL society. It is a lawyer-centric point of view, and forgets that there is a place for manners and decorum even if there is not a law mandating them.


Loud talking, loud laughing, loud cellyak, loud public profanity...it's all part of how crass we've become and how uncaring we are about anyone other than ourselves. No, the solution isn't to be prim and prudish; the solution is to live as though others mattered and having enough humility to keep one's own self-expression at a level that doesn't interfere with that of others.

As a lifelong resident of the city (precisely *hmmrmmmvrmmm* years -- I'm old enough to not want to reveal that number, let's leave it at that), I guess my beef with loud cell-yakkers is that I remember a time, not too long ago, when the unwritten law of the CTA was clear: unless you were having a muted converstation with your seat-mate, you SHUT THE HELL UP on the bus or 'L' car. Really. It was that simple. We're not talking some bygone era of yore, this was as recently as eight or nine years ago, before it was mandated that everyone have a damn cell surgically attached to their earlobe, apparently.

It was, in a big, tough city, the smallest measure of universal benevolence: we're all trapped here in this steel box just trying to get to work or get home from our daily grind, so let's all do so without making each other any more miserable than we need to be.

Some of the loud cell-gabbers ought to be thankful for the yuppification/gentrification of the city over the past decade... As recently as ten years ago, someone acting as rudely as they would likely be forcibly muzzled by several pissed-off CTA commuters.

My big cell question is this: why can't majority rule? It's not like cell phone use on the bus is a constitutional right (else you couldn't ban boom boxes and other radios). I dare the city to put this to a referendum and let the wishes of the majority decide.

And by the way, eventually they're going to show these things cause cancer.

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