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Line gabbers

There is nothing more annoying than someone who continues to talk loudly on the phone while you are close by or in line.  Come on, are you invisible?  Does the person think that their conversation is private?  Or that you have given your implicit permission to have them live out their fantasies in broad daylight?

Many times, people on the phone are gabbing nonstop and are displaying how popular they are.  Or, that they have girlfriends/boyfriends/friends who cannot get enough of them.  It’s such a pretense, and as I said, an annoyance.

But what can you do about it?  And should you be discourteous to this person in order to short-circuit their conversation?  And what do you do when there are several people who have pulled out their phones?

These indeed are the moral decisions of our time.


You have a line-mate who is on the phone being loud and obnoxious.  Or, at least, this person is such an airhead that you cannot see straight, because you have to listen to their drivel nonstop.


Roll out your interaction with this person in phases.


Do not jump to conclusions that this person is a complete airhead.  OK, I just did.  But that’s because I waited too long.  The key is to jump in right away and be courteous.

  1. When a person answers the phone while in line or initiates a call, immediately offer to hold their place in line.  Use the following:  “I’ll hold your place in line if you want to take that call in a quieter spot.  Not a problem.”  This communicates that you are a good person and that talking on the phone is not the most courteous thing that the person can do.
  2. If the person takes you up on our offer, then you’ve accomplished your goal.  But if this does not happen, for example, if they say “That’s OK.  It’s quiet enough for me.”  Then it is time to move into a phase 2 approach.  Be a bit more assertive.
  3. Respond with any of the following:

“Actually, I have a splitting headache this morning/evening.  And I’m sure you don’t to upset the rest of us.”  Motion to the others in line.  “I’ll keep your place.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.  I thought it was a private conversation.  I love pulic phone calls, they’re so fun to listen to.  We all like to listen.”  Motion to the others in line.

“Oh, you have something coming out of your nose.  Gee what is that?”  OK, this is more of a phase 3, but you get the idea.

  1. If the person still insists on the call, it is time to expedite your interaction to a phase 3.  In phase 3, it’s time to hint at the possible downsides of the person’s continued discourtesy.  Here are some warnings.  Note that the phrasing should be clear and not threatening.  More like informative.
  • “OK, I think I understand.  You want us to be involved in your conversation.  It’s really annoying, but OK.  It’s just like a stranger engaging you in a conversation.  You know I was in the line the other day and the person at time was doing the same thing.  You know what happened to her…”  Move quickly into rant mode.  Express your frustration not at the person directly, but at them indirectly through other situations that have irritated you.
  • “OK, I think I know who you are talking to.  It sounds exactly like [fill in the blank].  Can you ask them whether they still have the mold on their you-know?”  Continue on with a rant.

Phase 3 can also be more indignant or engage directly with the person.  But you are expediting it to the next level.

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