The Mercury News
`Can you hear me now?' YES!
DEAR AMY >> What words of advice would you have for addressing someone who is in a public place having a very public, loud and personal phone conversation on their Bluetooth earbuds (or cellphones in general)?
I'm completely baffled as to why someone does this, but I see it all the time — in grocery stores, business offices — you name it.
No one wants to hear it, and it personally makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable.
— KQ, in Kentucky
DEAR KQ >> I believe the reason people tend to yell into their cellphones while they are using earphones or earbuds is because they can't actually hear themselves very well ... because their ears are plugged by their earbuds.
People tend to quickly believe that they are isolated when engaged in a private cellphone conversation — even in a public space.
Landlines (remember those?) have microphones in the earpiece so speakers can hear themselves. Cellphones don't seem to utilize this function as well.
The so-called “Lombard effect” describes the human tendency to raise our voice to match the noise around us, even when this is unnecessary.
Yes, this is annoying! I'd like to augment this gripe by adding an additional annoyance: People who use FaceTime in public.
I understand that all grandparents find their grandchildren adorable and compelling but must they visit with these children over FaceTime at a crowded restaurant? And again with the yelling!
Listeners tend to be more annoyed by overheard phone conversations than they are by overheard in-person conversations because we only overhear one side of the conversation. Our brain can't help but be distracted as it tries to fill in the missing pieces. This is especially true if someone is YELLING.
Only one time have I actually confronted someone doing this. I approached a man who had shared some extremely sensitive and proprietary information over the phone while sitting right next to me at a Starbucks. I told him I was a reporter and had been taking notes. (Did this caution work, long term? I doubt it.)
I am deliberately dodging your actual question, because — other than trying to make eye contact and putting your finger to your lip in the universal “shhhhh” gesture — I don't know how to respond to these loud intrusions.
Readers will want to weigh in ... using your indoor voices, please!
DEAR AMY >> I have a suggestion for “Anxious Aunt,” whose niece was getting married in Europe.
She should not be pressured to attend. But I wonder if someone at the wedding ceremony could arrange to livestream it? — Wondering DEAR WONDERING >> Great idea!