Ms. Geek Speaks: Cellphones and toilets are a No-no

Recently Dear Abby weighed in on cellphone usage in the bathroom. We’re not talking about the kind of scenario movies and TV programs about the rich and famous give us–someone in a lovely bath talking on a phone while leaning back and enjoying the bubbles–the soapy kind and the kind that makes some people love champagne. We’re talking about talking on the phone while defecating or urinating.

Dear Abby got it wrong.

So let’s go over this. Cringing in Dallas, wrote:

My husband thinks it is fine to use his cellphone while he is in the bathroom, no matter who is on the other end. The noises must be obvious to anyone he’s talking to because he makes no effort to be quiet about his “business,” including flushing the toilet.

He won’t listen to me about how unacceptable this is. When I mention anything about it, he accuses me of being “sensitive” and “uptight.” Maybe he’ll listen to you and any of your readers who care to respond. Any comments?

Dear Abby forgot the basic rules of etiquette when she replied:

Clearly your husband enjoys what he’s doing. If the people he’s talking to don’t mind — and apparently they don’t or they’d say, “I’ll talk to ya later!” — you should butt out. tells us etiquette has to do with consideration, respect and honesty.  Val Curtis, the Director of the Hygiene Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Topical Medicine, divides manners into three categories: hygiene, courtesy and cultural norms. We are concerned here with manners of hygiene which are manners that affect the transmission of diseases.

A recent article in TIME magazine revealed that a test conducted in 2011 by the University of London found that about 1 in 6 cellphones has fecal matter on them.

In a different article on the same study, Curtis felt this revealed that “people still don’t wash their hands properly, especially when going to the toilet.”  I wondered if there was a higher incident of fecal matter on cellphones for people who regularly use their cellphones in the toilet because even if one washes their hands, one rarely washes one’s cellphone. Most cellphones aren’t waterproof.

Another doctor , Dr. Ron Cutler of the University of London, was quoted in the CNN article about the same study, saying, “A person can transfer fecal bacteria by touching door handles, food and mobile phones and, from there, to other people.”  Of the 12 cities in the UK studied, people in London were the worst, with a 28 percent rate of fecal matter on their cellphones.

Using your cellphone in the toilet is unhygienic and risks the possibility of passing on diseases. That is inconsiderate. One may force the listener to be be revolted by listening to the audio experience of the elimination process and too often one attempts to be nice and forgets to say, “No.” This is one of the principles of Emily Post’s etiquette. You can say, “No,” and you need to learn how to say, “No.”

Ms. Geek says a big N-O to cellphone usage in the toilets–at home or away. Some restrooms do provide a lovely rest area with a sofa or a chair. These places are appropriate for cellphone usage, but not the stalls or urinals when you have an urgent need. Otherwise, more and more people will want to adopt the Asian practice of bowing instead of shaking hands as one wonders just where your cellphone was last used.


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