Communication – The Urban Etiquette Handbook – Self Help

Practicing Proper Cellular Conduct

Where you can and can’t answer the phone.


“Excuse me, I’ve got to step out and take this call related to the birth of my child.”

Movie theaters, at any time

• Quiet/romantic restaurants

• Dinner parties

• Any date

• Elevator

• During a commercial transaction

• On the treadmill*

• Public bathrooms*

* You can skip the step of excusing yourself in this situation; it would probably make the people around you more uncomfortable.


“Hey, let me hunch over slightly to indicate that I’m ashamed to be talking on the phone in this situation and call you back in a second.”

• Any one-on-one conversation

• Very loud restaurants

• Moderately loud bars

• Moving motor vehicles of any kind

• Landed aircraft

• Dwelling places where you do not pay rent


“Bro!!! Yeah, I’m in my home, a completely open public space, or a relaxed work environment. Whassup???”

• Sidewalks

• Loud bars

• Cabs

• Hallways

• Lobbies

• Your desk*

• Anywhere you pay rent

* Calls announced by a ringtone that you’ve forgotten to turn off must be ignored as penance.


The Four Levels of iPod Interaction

Whom you do and don’t have to unplug for.


Continue at full blast. Consider increasing the vigor of your head-nodding and/or humming.

• Guys passing out bargain-electronics-store flyers.

• Idealistic-looking whippersnappers holding clipboards.

• Scientologists.


Subtly turn down volume.

• People in the elevator you don’t know.

• Someone attractive who sits down next to you on the train while you are listening to the Goo Goo Dolls.


Make a big show of pressing PAUSE.

• Anyone who approaches you while you’re working out.

• Non-panhandlers on the subway (may be helpfully pointing out that your bag is open, may be distracting you in a Gangs of New York–style pickpocket ruse).

• Co-workers you hate.


• Your parents, if you’re a teenager.


Remove headphones, toss them jauntily over shoulder.

• People in the elevator you know.

• Anyone taking your money or instructions about how to prepare your food.

• Co-workers you don’t hate.

• Your parents, if you’re an adult.

• Police officers.


Completely remove and enclose in nearest pocket/bag/ purse.

• Co-workers who could have you fired in less than an hour.

• Anyone who’s crying.

• Police officers standing next to someone who’s pointing at you and saying, “That’s him!”

via The Urban Etiquette Handbook — New York Magazine.


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