my coworker uses the office bathroom as her personal phone booth

A reader writes:

At my company, we have large restrooms with 6+ stalls in both the men’s and the women’s bathrooms, with long counters that have three inlaid sinks. (I’m telling you this to let you know the rooms are large, echo-y, and there are no private “one-stall with a locked door” options.)

A coworker is choosing to use the bathroom as her personal phone booth. At least twice a week when I have to use the restroom, she’s in there chatting away on speakerphone. Sometimes she’s just “hanging around” in the area by the sink, but sometimes she’s also in a stall actively doing, um, bathroom business.

At first, I was embarrassed — can I flush? Should I wait? Does her caller not know she’s in a bathroom? But I’ve heard her flush a few times (she’ll acknowledge it into the phone, too, like “oh, I’m in the bathroom”), so now I’m just annoyed. I’ve also gotten passive aggressive about it; sometimes I’ll flush multiple times. Mostly I want privacy in the restroom and I don’t want to be subject to her loud conversation with her mother/daughter/whoever on the phone. And whether or not she’s comfortable flushing while on the phone doesn’t mean that I necessarily am (even though I am currently doing it out of spite).

Do you or your readers have any suggestions for how I can get peace while on the pooper?

Speakerphone? Why speakerphone? That makes it so much worse.

I’m tempted to tell you that you should go out of your way to make loud and revolting bathroom noises — perhaps play a recording of shockingly explosive diarrhea, if such a recording exists — but I know I personally couldn’t bring myself to apply that advice in reality and I suspect most people couldn’t either. (But if you can, I heartily encourage you to do it … although of course, she appears to have zero shame about her callers knowing she’s in the bathroom, so she might not care.) (Also, I’ve just grossed myself out.)

So, your basic options are:

1. Say something to her. For example: “I’ve noticed you’re often on the phone in the bathroom, which can make it hard to use it for its intended purpose. Would you mind vacating it when someone comes in to use one of the stalls?” (This doesn’t solve the problem of her being on the phone while actively doing toilet business, but at least you’d be addressing the hanging out by the sink situation.) Feel free to invoke “shy bladder” here — as in, “I know these aren’t private bathrooms, but it’s tough for me to use them when there’s a phone conversation happening right outside the stall.”

Or you could be less formal about it and just shout out, “Hey, could you take that off speakerphone? That’s really distracting.” Or even, “Hey, could you take that call out of here? It’s really distracting.” This is how I’d personally handle it — skip the diplomacy and just call her out when it’s happening.

2. Continue on with what you’re there to do. Flush multiple times if you want to, and don’t worry about being polite to her or the person she’s talking to. There’s no reason that you should be more concerned about being polite to her caller than she is.

Of course, part of the problem is that it’s uncomfortable to do this when someone is chattering away, but maybe you can reframe it in your mind to how you’d feel if she wasn’t on the phone but instead was talking in-person to another colleague who happened to be in the bathroom at the same time. That’s not always the most comfortable thing either, but it’s something that happens in the normal course of things, and so it might bother you less.

Mainly, though, feel bad for the person on the other end of the line.

{ 363 comments… read them below }

  1. Paloma Pigeon*

    Our office building has one bathroom per floor, and for reasons I can’t fathom, the women who use it are on their phones constantly. Some of them I think just sit on the toilet and scroll through their phones, preventing others from using the few stalls, because they are on breaks. Others talk, loudly, while they do their business.

    Folks, your smartphones are germ magnets. Leave them at your desk and take your breaks outside or in a common area.

    1. Anon for this because bathrooms*

      If you’re occupying a stall longer than you need so that you can use Facebook, or read AAM, or play games, then you’re being rude. If you’re talking on the phone while you’re in the bathroom, you’re being rude.

      But please don’t assume that people should never take their phones in, nor that they’re necessarily prolonging their time there to use them. I have a medical condition that can lead to me needing to spend more time in the restroom than I want. It is also painful. I distract myself with silly things on my phone, and I also use the phone to track when it stops and starts and what the results are.

      I’m trying not to be too specific here. But I would not have concerns about people using phones in the bathroom if they are not using them to call. The germs and the washability (or lack of washability) of the phone is theirs to deal with.

      1. The Sassy Vulcan*

        This. I have IBS and sometimes get to spend the better part of the day in the bathroom. Of course I take my phone or a book. Usually my phone, because afterward I very easily wipe it down with hand sanitizer and a tissue (books can’t be cleansed in such a way). I’m not going to apologise for having a medical disorder that makes me have to sit on the toilet for long periods of time, nor for not wanting to just blankly stare at the wall while doubled over with cramps.

        1. serena*

          Dude see a gastroenterologist. I have IBS and they put me on a couple pills and THE WORLD CHANGED. Treatment options are getting better every day, you really don’t have to live sick anymore! Also, see if you can get a referral to a nutritionist or at least talk to your GE about diet. For me, it was broccoli, soda, chemicals in processed food, oil, dairy and wheat. More protein, less sugar (I can’t be a vegetarian). And a delicate balance of fibre. But everyone is different!

    2. neeko*

      If they aren’t being disruptive (i.e. scrolling), why is that any of your concern? There are plenty of things we do every day that can also attract germs – riding the subway, opening a door, holding a stair rail, etc.

      1. Amber T*

        I think it’s more of a problem that people are using the bathrooms as personal break rooms, which is problematic when there’s a limited amount of toilets for people to use. I think most of us have those poop games or poop apps on our phones (ones that get used primarily when you’re on the pooper). I admit to using those apps when I’m at home in my own private bathroom and spending more time than necessary in there… but no one else around needs to use the bathroom at home. That’s not the case in the office.

        1. Jean Lamb*

          I’m an old person, that was what my books on the Tungsten-E were for (and for standing by the copier waiting for a 217-page invoice to finish printing, since just leaving work to print by itself was discouraged in our office, probably because the copier jammed so much).

      2. Nonprofit Director*

        This is a current situation in my office as well. I think the issue comes from the fact that if they are just sitting there (I know of at least a few coworkers that will sit on the toilet with the lid closed) scrolling through their phones, they are preventing those of us that have to actually use the bathroom from doing so.

        1. Paloma Pigeon*

          Yes, this. Women from multiple floors use our bathroom; when someone is net surfing, we’re standing in a line waiting.

          1. the gold digger*

            Not where I work! On her second day, my wonderful, great-attitude summer intern came to my desk, leaned over, and whispered in shock, “There’s never anyone in the ladies’ room here!”

            Working with almost all men/all engineers is one the best work environments I have ever had.

            1. TrainerGirl*

              That is one thing that I miss about working at a tech company. Sometimes it was like working in a frat house, but there was rarely anyone in the ladies’ room. Not the case at my new job.

        2. Anonymoose*

          Ugh, I’m guilty as charged. Sometimes I don’t want to walk to my car or to some lovely tree to read internet blather, but desperately need to ‘tune out’ from the constant chatter in my office. Enter: quiet bathroom stalls. That said, I never stay if someone else comes in. It goes against what I’m using it for which is a quiet space to tune out for a quick bit.

          And for the record, I’m usually standing up while reading my phone, not sitting on the toilet. That just…gives me the skeeves. I don’t even read my phone or play games at home. *shudder*

      3. Alli525*

        They ARE being disruptive if they’re preventing other employees from using the ONE bathroom per floor…

        1. TrainerGirl*

          Or my personal fave…using the bathroom as a place to for (what should be) a private conversation, and then glaring at you when you come in to use it for its rightful purpose.

      4. Not Today Satan*

        I don’t mind if people are using the stalls next to me, but it makes me super self-conscious when someone is just sitting there, presumably on their phone (sometimes I can hear the typing). I feel like it violates the “it’s awkward that we can hear each other’s bathroom noises but hey we’re all in this together” bathroom etiquette.

      5. Eva*

        And if nobody’s waiting or it’s not a busy time of day or there’s another stall open, then it’s not a big deal and not any of my concern. (Well, it does bug me when people have devices they use consistently during the work day that they also have in the bathroom, like say you use an ipad to do sales stuff at a retail job and you take it into the bathroom, that’s just…no thanks).

        But when I have a medical condition that means when I go into a bathroom I don’t really have a ton of time to stand around and wait before it’s an emergency, and somebody is taking longer because they want to read something funny on snapchat or whatever the kids are using these days, then it’s just rude. Not the end of the world, but rude.

      6. Triscuitoncheddar*

        The main issue to me in LW’s complaint is Speakerphone.
        Sure you can make your own decisions on whether to take your phone into a public bathroom; but using speakerphone means that everyone in the bathroom has become an unwilling performer for an unknown audience.

    3. Elmyra Duff*

      Ugh. I worked for a company that was adamant that no phones were allowed out while at your desk, period. I can’t tell you how many bathroom breaks I took just to scroll through Facebook/play games/answer texts. I’m not sorry.

      1. Sparky*

        When I was trying to escape from my awful job that I had during the recession I would take job hunting calls and phone interviews in the supply room. I guess I might have used the bathroom if I didn’t have access to the supply room. But I wasn’t on speakerphone, and my end goal was to get out of that place and stop having to make calls there.

      2. myswtghst*

        Yeah, we don’t allow our reps to use their phones at their desks (it’s a call center and IMO it’s a reasonable customer info security measure), so I don’t get too judge-y if they’re in there on Facebook (although they do have multiple break room options with comfy chairs they could use instead, so…)

        My recent fave discovery is that someone is taking their snacks in the ladies room, and then, rather than cleaning up, they leave snack garbage (packaging from Reese’s peanut butter cups, empty soda bottles, mostly empty Fritos bags, etc…) just sitting on the toilet paper holder in the stall. Like… at least be a little ashamed of your thoroughly gross toilet eating and throw it out please?

    4. peachie*

      I get this… but one time I didn’t bring my phone to the bathroom and got locked in a bathroom corridor for 7.5 HOURS* and only got out because I honest-to-god McGuyvered my way through a solid wooden door with a bathroom sign and a soap dispenser.

      That was 4 or 5 years ago and I’ve rarely used a restroom without a phone nearby since.

      *The building would have been unoccupied for over 40 hours from the time I got locked in, so all things considered, getting out in under 8 was not the worst thing that could happened.

      1. Traveling Teacher*

        Oh, you have to tell us how you did it. Details, please! What if I get stuck in a similar situation and lack your creativity?!

      2. Else*

        Gyah!!! That’s awful! The only thing worse would be the elevator – at least you had water and, ahem, facilities available.

      3. Paige Turner*

        I am amazing at your escapery skills and now terrified that this is a thing that could happen.

      4. Sarah*

        This! My friend got trapped in the bathroom in the hotel room we were sharing and waited an hour before I arrived, ran back to the front desk, and insisted on maintenance immediately. Ended up having to knock the door in.

        If I hadn’t been sharing her room, I think the hotel hairdryer would have been sacrificed.

      5. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        Ditto! This happened at my company. Twice!
        We used to work in a building that was badly in need of repair (of the two lifts, one never worked in the four years I was there, and the other one would break every second Monday like clockwork). There was one unisex toilet on the first floor and the lock broke – one woman got stuck in there towards the end of the day and was only rescued by the receptionist after virtually everyone else had gone home. Very few people actually liked using the toilets because they would repeatedly block/flood/just not flush or whatever, but when no other options were available, it became common practise to take your phone with you to call for rescue because there were no guarantees that something wouldn’t go wrong! It’s remained a habit even after we moved to swanky new offices with decent plumbing.

        (side note, since we are talking workplace bathrooms – one cleaner found an… item for personal pleasure in one of the cubicles in the old building. And the following month there were a number of empty spirits bottles shoved down the side of the personal hygiene bin – none of these bizarre habits followed to the new building, so we think it might have been a few disturbed members of the public coming in to make use of the facilities)

    5. Alienor*

      Sitting on the toilet for too long when you’re not actually using it is a great way to get hemorrhoids, so they may pay the price for that sooner rather than later. Not that I’d wish hemorrhoids on anyone, because they’re awful, but it is a thing that happens.

  2. twig*

    I worked in an office that shared a restroom with a real estate company.

    I once got to listen to the lady in the next stall conduct a business phone call on the toilet. she wasn’t on speaker, but I could hear both sides of the conversation. it was awkward and not at all confidential.

    1. Bonky*

      I worked in an office that shared a bathroom with another company that had a lady who used the toilet as an office too – she was the only woman working there other than their office manager, so we knew exactly who it was. It was hugely disruptive and disconcerting for anybody trying to use the toilet. Our office manager ended up having a chat with the office manager from the other company (they were very small and had no HR department), who had words with the woman. It worked for about two weeks, then she started again; our office manager had words again, but nothing happened. In the end we were lucky enough to scale to a size where we could get our own building and didn’t have to share, but it was really annoying that moving was the only way we could deal with the problem!

    2. TM*

      We had one that used to have her conversations in the bathroom, and one day, she actually said, “Hang on. I have to wipe.” to the person on the phone!!!

      1. SarahKay*

        Many years ago (before cordless/mobile phones) I lived in a flat where the extension cord was long enough that I could take the phone into the bathroom. I like long baths, so it was great to be able to take the phone in and use it when I was having a soak but I would never have used it while I was on the toilet. And when my flatmate told his best friend how long the extension was his friend’s response was “NEVER, NEVER, call me when you’re on the loo!!!” Which, quite frankly, perfectly summed up my feelings on the subject too.

        1. Duck Season*

          That reminds me of the episode of Friends in which Joey gets a new apartment that has a phone in the bathroom. Monica: “Joey, promise me something? NEVER call me from that phone.”

    3. Special Snowflake*

      We had a part time realtor working in our insurance office who would also would conduct real estate deals on her phone in our washroom stalls. This did not bother me personally, but she was doing it in work time, and many of us who also heard her wondered how she had so few insurance claims to process during her work day that she could find time to do another job. She was eventually let go for another reason, but I was still amazed at the sheer nerve of her behaviour.

  3. AnnaBanana*

    Ewwwww! What’s wrong with people?? I second going with option 2 and asking her to take her phone calls somewhere else like a normal person. I’d like to recommend the recording of really disgusting noises but I’d worry about her spreading stories about OPs ‘issues’ outdoors the office

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I’d be really surprised if the woman spread stories. I mean, “omg, I was just in the bathroom and OP totally had explosive diarrhea!” seems like a super bizarre thing to share with your coworkers.

      … side note, I never want to be close enough to my coworkers that I’d feel comfortable sharing that “story”…

      1. CheeryO*

        I have a coworker who did exactly that, only it was, “Omg, I was just in the bathroom and X farted SO loudly!” I told her that other people’s bathroom activities need to stay in the bathroom.

        1. Excel Slayer*

          Does remind me of my Mum telling me of a direct report complaining to her that a co-worker had produced a smell in the bathroom…

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        I don’t think I’d share that kind of story about anyone…

        Well, okay, the unsuccessful interviewee who pooped in the potted plant and the quitting garden store employee who pooped on a pallet were pretty funny.

        1. TotalRecall*

          Oh, I can beat that! I worked for a document storage/data entry company in Raleigh, NC for a while. We sent a box of records to one of our law firm client and when they depend the box they discovered that someone out in the warehouse had used it as an emergency toilet, then cut up their own underwear and used that to wipe with. Then just put the lid back on the box and went about their day pretending to be a human being.

      3. Temperance*

        We used to gossip about our receptionist’s bathroom habits, BUT she used to sit on the phone while er, loudly using the toilet. It was so gross!

  4. Mouse*

    I had a coworker who did this, but we only have one single-user bathroom on our floor! She would lock herself in there- and better yet, I happen to know she was using it for phone interviews. It was deeply uncomfortable. Unfortunately, there was nowhere else in the building to discreetly take a private phone call, but our only bathroom wasn’t an ideal solution.

    1. MicroManagered*

      I’ve heard people giving phone interviews from the bathroom before too! Who does that?!

    2. NW Mossy*

      True confession – I did this about a decade ago, when I was interviewing to leave a toxic job and it was the only private location I had access to during working hours. A large part of the toxicity was tied to gossip and a wildly irrational boss/owner, so it truly was the lesser evil to conduct my calls from there.

      My current employer offers a bunch of small conference rooms that are good for private calls, and also puts chairs in our vestibules on each floor that are basically a cell phone zone for personal-but-not-private calls. Works pretty well.

      1. Jean Lamb*

        I had to use a conference call to check in my dad, who was waaaaay deaf, and had to apologize to everyone who heard me shout. (sigh, wish he was still around).

    3. Eversong*

      That reminds me of my uni days when a flatmate’s friend locked herself in our (only) bathroom to have dramatic fights over the phone with her boyfriend.

  5. Anonymous Poster*

    Ew! How do people get to the point where they think that’s okay?!?

    I hope this isn’t the sort of person that would get nasty back once called out on their behavior. But this is something they should be called out on too.

    Is there anywhere in the office that this person can go with some privacy? Like a back hallway or something? I’d also start to have questions about their overall work output. Having long drawn out conversations like this at work makes me wonder if they have enough on their plate. It’s not your problem to solve, OP, but it’s a concern I have about how they can afford to have this much spare time to camp in the bathroom making personal calls this many times per week.

    I worked in a job where it was possible to do this because it was an operations floor. People would call up and chat with their friends, and it wasn’t a big deal because their work would get done, they’d hang up and concentrate on problems when they came up, and since they worked overnight shifts it helped keep them awake. But that doesn’t sound like the case in your situation at all!

    Ugh, long conversations in the bathroom… I’d exact my revenge and have Chipotle or something similar the night before. But I’m uh, not always a good person.

  6. Helpful*

    Ugh I would be so annoyed but too chicken to say anything. I mean, are you supposed to shout over the stall wall? So gross.

  7. Mike C.*

    Just keep flushing the toilet. I did this to a guy who was yelling at his broker and it was absolutely hilarious.

    1. crookedfinger*

      I’m normally not one for passive-aggression, but in this instance…do it. Flush repeatedly. Be as noisy as possible. Maybe throw in a couple of loud grunts or an “OH MY GOD THAT’S THE BIGGEST SHIT I’VE EVER TAKEN IN MY LIFE” if you’re feeling particularly brave.

      1. Havarti*

        Oh god, there was once a woman in the bathroom with me and it sounded like she was giving birth to a watermelon. The loudest grunts and groans I ever heard in my life.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I cannot keep it together on this thread. In addition to chuckling loudly to myself (inspiring ire from officemates), I can’t get over the basic grossness of not only being on the phone in a public multi-stall restroom, but being on the phone ON SPEAKERPHONE. There is so much that I can’t even.

        OP, I love the idea of loud, embarrassing background noises/commentary.

      3. Shadow*

        I normally do my business and get in and out as efficiently as possible but I would to hear that go down.

      4. Hey Nonnie*

        I’d be SO TEMPTED to shout out “HI, COWORKER’S MOM!” loud enough to be heard at the end of the line whenever I walked into the bathroom. Every. Single. Time. I walked into the bathroom. If I ever caught enough of the conversation (on speakerphone!!) I’d throw in some conversation, too, like: “How’s your [health condition I couldn’t help but overhear] doing? Feeling any better?” or “How is [grandkid]’s soccer team doing this season?”

        Maybe that would make her realize how annoying and not-actually-private her phone calls are.

        (And yes, I’d totally say “Hi Coworkers Mom” even if I didn’t know who was on the other end.)

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      Or at least walk in, make a concerned noise, flush, go to a different stall, do your business, and then try to time the flush for an inconvenient time for her. And be extra-diligent about your hand hygiene, including using the hand dryer if you have one.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        YES! The hand dryer is so loud it should render conversation all but impossible – especially since she’s using speakerphone (WHY???)

      2. myswtghst*

        Our hand dryer sounds like a jet engine, so since I’m spiteful, I make sure my hands are extra extra dry when people are taking calls in our multi-stall bathrooms.

  8. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    This happens ALL. THE. TIME. I hate it. There isn’t anyone I’m close enough with that I want them partaking in that activity with me.

    Unless it’s an emergency, I just stand and stare at them until they’re done. Except for the time I ran in with a nosebleed. THAT ended the extracurricular activities quickly.

    1. Spooky*

      Glad I’m not the only one who runs into this regularly.

      Personally, I think it stems from two things: 1) Common workspaces without even the luxury of cubicles (like my current office) mean that there’s nowhere in the office that’s even semi-private, and 2) jobs that are so stressful that bathroom time is the only legitimate “excusable” reason to be away from your desk. At my last job, lost of people spent way more time than normal in the bathrooms because they couldn’t take an actual break, not even a lunch break, and were desperate to get away from their desks for even a few minutes.

      1. Jennifer*

        I really wish there was an option to have private space. I have a terrible time trying to find anywhere to make a phone call that doesn’t have hordes of people and/or planes flying overhead and/or construction going on outdoors. I really didn’t want random strangers overhearing the call I just got off right now, but anywhere you go, people are swarming.

        I feel very sorry for people who can only get away in to the bathroom.

      2. Wannabe Disney Princess*


        Although nothing beats walking on a coworker taking selfies. The horrific fluorescent lighting alone should be enough of a deterrent. (Not to mention me standing awkwardly out of the frame so I wasn’t featured.)

      3. mcr-red*

        Yeah, my current office has no cubicles so there is no where to take any kind of personal phone calls, so you’ll often find people in the bathroom on the phone, generally just standing by the sinks and not in a stall. Usually they will leave when someone else comes in.

        I don’t know why the no cubicle thing became popular, as it is always noisy in here. You can barely hear to make a work-related phone call.

      4. Cactus*

        I think you’re right about why this is happening, and it’s frustrating, having worked in an environment like 2. Some managers don’t know how to treat their employees like adults, or even like human beings in general.

        On the other hand, I have also worked for a company with a huge open office plan… but it also had numerous little meeting rooms, including one that was just called the “quiet room.” Whenever I needed to make a phone call (which was rare, but it happened a few times), it was easy to pop into the quiet room, close the door, and not bother anyone else with my phone business. Any company with an open setup NEEDS at least a few conference rooms and quiet rooms.

        1. MJH*

          This is what we have, too. Multiple tiny meeting rooms and a “wellness room.” That means that any time I have to take or make a call, I can slip in one of those rooms and it works well. Otherwise, yeah, I’d be headed outside or to the bathroom.

  9. Snark*

    There’s an app available for most mainstream mobile OSs that is a soundboard for a wide and educational variety of body noises and functions, if flushing and your own noises and functions are not of sufficient volume or lack the drama and amusement factor necessary to drive home a point.

      1. Statler von Waldorf*

        Came here to post that exact idea. My airhorn app is surprisingly effective for all sorts of problems, and this sounds like one of them.

  10. ClownBaby*

    Oh boy. I have a hard enough of a time trying to pee when someone else in in the stall next to me being silent…it would be near impossible for my shy bladder to put in work if I had to listen to a phone conversation. I would definitely want to take part in some sort of passive aggressive attack, but I think it’s probably more efficient to follow any of Allison’s options. In my case…my bladder would probably lock up and I would just no longer need the bathroom for an hour or so…at which time I would try again.

    I personally think bathrooms and locker rooms should be phone-free areas. With as easy as modern phones make it to snap pictures and recorder audio/visio, I don’t want anything to do with them in areas where private business is going down!

    Also…that sounds grossly unsanitary to not only have a phone in the bathroom, but being on it while doing her business. I hope she disinfects her phone frequently.

    1. Bleeborp*

      Being whatever the opposite of a germaphobe- germophile?- I think it’s funny that some of you don’t take your phone to the bathroom. Like…what do you do in there? Stare at the back of the stall door? I don’t have loud conversations (although I do hear them often in the bathroom which does baffle me) but I like see what’s poppin’ on Instagram while I’m poopin’. I’m not constantly infirm from catching poop germs from my phone or anything.

      1. Amber T*

        I don’t take my phone with me when I go to the bathroom at work (mostly cuz I don’t do my poopin’ at work if I can help it, and if I do I try to make it as quick as possible), but I bring it in with me at home. I clean it often enough, it’s fiiiiine.

        (Your phrasing is cracking me up – “what’s poppin’ when I’m poopin’?”)

      2. EddieSherbert*

        I mean, I guess I stare at the stall door for the 30-60 seconds I’m in there? Hahaha

        …. I’m the other side of the spectrum and I’ve always found it weird that people bring entertainment with them – like how long does “it” take you?! (meant rhetorically and just to be funny… no answer needed! lol)

        1. President Porpoise*

          Well, there’s some genetic anomaly in my family that makes it so the guys take half an hour to 45 minutes to poo. So, that’s an unfortunate data point…

        2. Cactus*

          I mean, if I have to pee, it takes basically no time. Poop though? Poop is annoying and it can help to have a distraction.

      3. Vegan Atheist Weirdo*

        I don’t want to bring my phone near the toilet (which I am likely to drop it into because I am a clutz) or the sink with its perpetually wet countertop. Where am I supposed to put it down when I need to wash my hands? Besides that, I’m one of those who just don’t like to walk around with my phone in my hand unless I’m expecting a really important call. The more I carry it, the more likely I am to drop and break it. I leave it on my desk.

            1. Dooty Duty*

              My phone has a pop-socket on the back and I usually carry it right in the front of my shirt hanging on the collar, snuggled against the boobs for added safety! LOL

          1. Cherith Ponsonby*

            Under the chin! Most of my work outfits have pockets, but under the chin is my go-to phone spot otherwise.

        1. Not sharing name on this one, TN*

          Me too. Im too scared of dropping my phone. And germs. At home, I have a book, and my tv in my bedroom is at just the right angle thru mirrors, so I can watch tv with the door open, I live alone. I have a friend whose husband would leave the door open and turn the tv stand around, it was right next to the master bathroom.

      4. Birch*

        The germ fear makes no sense to me. Your hands are “normal” level clean until the end of the bathroom visit, at which point I assume most people put the phone away since you need your hands to clean up. The real problem with public bathrooms is the lack of seat lid when those super powered flushes fling all the particles into the air. But like… your face and clothes are also hanging out there too. As long as you’re not wiping with your phone in your hand, there’s nothing extra dirty about scrolling in the bathroom.

      5. ClownBaby*

        I guess I don’t take long in the bathroom. I’m usually in and out within 2-3 minutes. 1 minute to “go” and and 1-2 minutes to wash and dry hands.

        I don’t understand how people have time to do anything on the toilet, haha. I know my father was a toilet reader. He’d read a book a week solely from his bathroom breaks. I would probably read half a paragraph…then what? Do I just sit there for a while on top of a bow of human waste so I can finish the chapter? Or do I just end there at half a paragraph and hope I remember what’s going on for the next time I use the toilet? Or do I take the toilet book out of the bathroom to a more suitable reading area?

        To each his/her own, I guess!

        1. Rookie Manager*

          Try a book with short chapters. I’ve been reading a book by Dave Grohl’s mum for a few weeks now in the bathroom at home. Can read a little bit while I do the necessary and it’s waiting for me next time. I wouldn’t recommend a complex or page turner novel though as then you would be sitting on a bowl of human waste till you found out who did it!

          1. Drew*

            They even make “bathroom readers” with short essays or other fun things designed to be read in short sittings.

        2. SarahKay*

          I shared a flat with a guy who, when he moved in, put a stack of books of comics (Garfield, etc) in the bathroom. Best idea ever! Great to have something to read if one was unexpectedly taking slightly longer than usual, but nothing long that would keep one reading once done on the loo.

      6. Rebecca in Dallas*

        I don’t do my poopin’ at work! And when I do have to poop, it doesn’t take so long that I need something to read to entertain myself. Maybe I get enough fiber? LOL

        Personally I’d be so grossed out if someone called me from the bathroom. I’d be like, “I hear flushing, are you in a bathroom? Call me back when you’re out, please.”

        1. michelenyc*

          Most of my friends and family know that calling me while your using the bathroom or eating results in me hanging up on you. It’s gross and yes I hate loud chewing and eating noises too! It makes me want to slap the person!

        2. TotalRecall*

          Or you don’t have an inflammatory bowel condition? Some of us cannot help it, fiber be damned.

      7. Susanne*

        Why would I need to take my phone in there? It takes, what, 30 seconds to do what I’m in there for, flush, and then I’m done? It’s pretty indicative of some kind of GI problem if you really have to sit for any length of time to do that.

      8. Hey Nonnie*

        Well, because most of the time my business just doesn’t take that long. I sit, and by the time I have TP in hand, I’m done.

    2. CleverGirl*

      Meh, I don’t think it’s any more unsanitary to be on your phone while sitting on a toilet than while sitting on anything else. It’s not like just being in the bathroom makes you covered in germs. And it’s not like she’s swishing her phone around in the toilet.

  11. mskyle*

    I guess the other passive-aggressive way to deal with it would be to just start participating in the speakerphone conversation – she’s making dinner plans? You say, “Oh wow, is that place good? I’ve heard a lot about it but I’ve never been. Is it busy on weeknights?” She’s talking to family? “It’s so nice you have such a close relationship with your sister! I wish I felt that comfortable with my brothers.”

    I’m not saying I’d have the balls to do it, anymore than I’d be willing to do the “loud bathroom noises” response, but it’s attractive…

    1. Vegan Atheist Weirdo*

      This is what I was thinking, too. I mean, she’s not having a private conversation if she’s talking on speakerphone anyway, right? Since she’s effectively invited you to join in, I think it’d be awesome to go for it.

      The only potential downside is it may backfire if both she and the person on the other side of the phone are enthusiastic about your participation. Now you’re stuck in a three-way conversation while trying to do your thing.

      1. Winifred*

        The old “Seinfeld” menage-a-trois situation … it didn’t repel Jerry’s girlfriend into breaking up with him … she was into it!

      2. Dooty Duty*

        Hilarious. I’d be the person who would welcome the convo and it would probably feel awkward for OP and me and whomever I was speaking with would find it endlessly hilarious afterwards. I’m just not a shy person about things like this.

    2. Mew Yorker*

      My husband does this, all the time. Not in the bathrooms (that I know), but on the street when we pass people talking on the phone while walking. The passive-aggression sometimes rubs me the wrong way, but in this situation, I wish the OP had my husband’s balls. (Well, that didn’t come out right.)

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        “I wish the OP had my husband’s balls. (Well, that didn’t come out right.)”

        LOL, I am dying laughing at my desk.

    3. Muriel Heslop*

      This is how we solved this same problem with our old admin! We pretended she was talking to us, and it was even better if a third person came in and we could have a side conversation about the phone conversation. Our admin would get SO MAD but she kept doing it. We weren’t supposed to take personal calls, so she took them all in the bathroom. Finally, she quit for a job with “more flexibility.”

    4. Dooty Duty*

      This made me laugh loudly!! Like really loudly.
      This was hilarious and I’d love to be a fly on the wall when this happens.

      I’m in the minority in the comment section about this, in that I am NOT a fan of passive aggressiveness and I think OP should just mind her business and do her business and leave. I think OP doesn’t really know what pressures are on the “offenders” plate and that her bathroom breaks may be the only breaks she gets etc.

      I can guarantee she and the people on the phone don’t care about whatever OP is doing in there, because then she wouldn’t be on the phone in the first place. Some people aren’t shy about telling people they’re in places like that (read: I am some people) so being passive aggressive seems childish and potentially fruitless and may just make OP look bad.

      If OP must do something, I champion being direct but not expecting much to change. I think it’s kind of weird that one is THAT concerned about it, just go in and do what you need to do and leave. If you’re at the mall and a mom has her kid in the stall with her and is talking to them while they go, would you also be aggravated by the conversation? In my opinion minding your business and doing your business and leaving is the best bet, but I understand I am in the minority with how I feel about that in these comments haha

      1. EddieSherbert*

        My understanding was that OP doesn’t like the fact that the woman is taking her calls on speakerphone (rather than being upset about the calls, period).

        1. Dooty Duty*

          I can agree the speaker phone thing about this is the worst part (Imo) and I can agree that that part should be stopped. But I can understand the offender needing free hands while in the bathroom *I am cry-laughing about this entire post as I type these replies* thus the speakerphone…

          I still encourage being direct as I don’t think being passive aggressive is going to work with this gal.

        2. HollyTree*

          Sometimes people with hearing issues hear better with speakerphone! I know I do if there’s a bit of background noise.

          That said, I’ve never called someone in a bathroom, I never will, and calling someone in a bathroom is incredibly rude, and I honestly don’t know how the people on the other end haven’t hung up in disgust. Gross.

    5. Drew*

      “Did that restaurant have anything to do with why you’ve been in here for half an hour? Because if so, I’m going ANYWHERE else.”

    6. Sadie Catie*

      I have accidentally had an entire conversation with a complete stranger because I assumed they were talking to me through the stall. They paused, said “Hold on, some girl thinks I’m talking to her”, flushed and met me at the sink, cell phone to ear all while continuing conversation . So I wouldn’t be too shocked if the awkwardness didn’t halt the conversation, even though it should. Gah. Maybe this is just a situation that some people need outside input on why the situation is weird. Avoided that bathroom for weeks.

    7. Laura*

      I do this with people talking on their phones on the bus sitting next to me. Or I read the book I’m currently reading to them, out loud, at the same volume at which they’re talking.

      In the bathroom, I would sing songs from classic musicals if I heard someone talking on their phone. I know plenty of songs and my voice is not great…

  12. Sara*

    There are a couple people that do this in my office too and its disgusting. I would never want to be the other person on that phone call. But I mean, its their personal time (I guess?) so there’s nothing I can really do about it.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      The ONLY people I ever have phone convos in the bathroom have been my mother and a BFF. And that’s it. And it’s only when we were already on the phone and I had to pee and couldn’t hold it. They did the same and I did not mind, and it was NOT in a public or work bathroom.

      (I’m not saying I haven’t taken the phone in the work bathroom at all; sometimes you need something to read, ya know.)

      1. Drew*

        My brain went to Michigan J. Frog singing “Hello my baby, hello my darling.” This is how I know I have reached Loopy Time in the work day.

  13. Longtime Listener, First time Caller*

    I wouldn’t worry about the person she is on the phone with knowing about the location of the call; that’s her relationship to manage, not yours.

    If you truly are too uncomfortable to go while is on the phone (which, I don’t blame you. It would irk me too), then I would say something, using Alison’s suggestions. But you say you’re doing it out of spite. So if it were me, I wouldn’t bring it up. I would just keep going along the passive-aggressive route.

  14. LQ*

    I would be so tempted to jump into the middle of their conversation just like clearly you want to have this conversation with everyone so here let me help you. “You really need to try this recipie for chicken soup.” or “Have you tried getting tested to see if you have allergies, that might be causing it.”

    (I mean I wouldn’t, but I’d want to and I’d think about it.)

  15. Fabulous*

    FLUSH! OFTEN! I can’t stand when this happens at my job, but people here usually have the decency to leave once they realize some actually needs to *use* the restroom for its intended purposes. Hopefully she’ll get the hint with a few flushes in the background of the call. If not, at least the callee will know that they’re talking to someone who has no regard for personal privacy.

      1. Catalin*

        I’d prefer to blast the Potty-themed music from pull-ups commercials. %it’s time to potty everyone%!

      2. Thorgi*

        Retching noises followed by dumping a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew into the toilet from a reasonable height…

        1. SaraV*

          I just made what can only be described as the “Mr. Yuk” face. (Basically a bright green sticker placed on “poisonous” things, warning small kids not to eat/drink said thing. Kinda looked like this –> X6)

    1. AKchic*

      Flush so much that they question it.
      When questioned, an innocent “well, the conversation stunk so much, I figured I’d do my part to ensure I wasn’t befouling the air as well.”

  16. snarkarina*

    I’ve had the same issue multiple times . . . and I generally have to remind myself that when it comes down to it, I’m the one using the space for its intended purpose, so I’m not the one that should have a problem. Though I know it’s easier said and done — because I still have to remind myself of that fact.

    1. CheeryO*

      Yep, this is where I come down too. Using the bathroom for non-bathroom activities at work is a huge pet peeve of mine, but I try really hard to just ignore people and do what I need to do. The type of person who has a conversation on speakerphone in the bathroom is probably not someone who will realize the error of their ways and apologize when called out.

  17. 123456789101112 do do do*

    Bathrooms have some interesting acoustics. You may wish to try out these acoustics by belting out some show tunes or operettas (WITH CAT-LIKE TREAD/UPON OUR PREY WE STEAL…). Check out the latest dubstep mix at full volume on YOUR phone. Meow a lot for no reason, loudly. Encourage the management to install those deafeningly-loud air hand dryers/personal tornado generators.

    1. Havarti*

      Ok, this cracked me up. By the time I got to “Meow a lot for no reason, loudly.” I was trying so hard to keep from laughing, I made a high-pitch noise like air squeaking out of a balloon. I was thinking of “100 bottles of beer” at the robust volume of a drunk viking myself.

    2. E.Maree*

      omg yessss, BROADWAY TUNES


      For bathroom-related pun funtimes, substitute the vowel in ‘shot’ for another.

      1. a1*

        Oh we got trouble!
        Right here in River City
        With a capital T, that rhymes with P, that stands for POO!

      2. Tabby Baltimore*

        It’s after work, I’m at home now, reading this at the table, and literally gasping for air, I’m laughing so hard. Thank you for this.

    3. Elizabeth West*


      Off-topic, but I was in that show in high school!! It was a joint college/local theater production, where I ended up going to music school. :D

    4. JB (not in Houston)*

      I was going to suggest the same thing–loudly belting out your favorite songs (and yes, including some Gilbert & Sullivan would be amazing). You’ll get to have fun and annoy your coworker as a bonus.

    5. ArtK*

      I’m sure the person at the other end of the line will love “… your life preserver — you may want to hit…”

    6. AKchic*

      Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog works really well here.

      Disney songs. “I’ll Make A Man Out of You” is an interesting choice.

      Weird Al Songs.

      Anything from Galavant.

      1. Canadian Natasha*

        “It’s a brand new day and the sun is high. All the birds are singin’ that YOU’RE GONNA DIE…”
        (Do I own the Dr. Horrible dvd? Why yes, yes I do.) ;D

    7. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Xlerator is the best brand of hand dryer for this that I’ve come across. Jet engine loud. One of my family’s long car trip habits is comparing the dryer brands at rest stops, so I know whereof I speak.

    8. Traffic_Spiral*

      I agree on the “start loudly singing” strategy. Now, me personally, I don’t have a problem using the toilet if there’s other people around, but if it bugs LW she either needs to do something or learn to deal with it.

      1. Laura*

        I’m so glad someone else suggested this! I always sing Sound of Music to junk callers and it would be great here too.

    9. mrs__peel*


      That’s my favorite thing to sing in the car!!

  18. grasshopper*

    I would be just as grossed out by the fact that the person she is speaking with knows that she is in the bathroom and continues the conversation.

    If the conversations are on speakerphone, then I say that it is fair game to join in the conversation. Whatever they are discussing, chime in with your opinion loudly and frankly. If it is movies, spoil the ending. If it is clothes, tell them that the outfits are tacky and ugly. If it is relationships, tell them to give up and be forever alone. Clearly bathroom noises aren’t enough, so up the ante to make it actually uncomfortable for them to continue the conversation. This might not be the most mature solution, but it will get their attention.

  19. You're Not My Supervisor*

    People in my office do this ALL. THE. TIME. I actually was thinking the other day about writing to Alison about it.

    I want to anonymously post a printout of this on the bathroom door…

  20. Not Tom, just Petty*

    Walk in, “are you talking to me?”
    “oh, you’re not talking to me?”
    “Oh, speakerphone. I get it.”
    “I didn’t see your phone in here, so I thought you were talking to me.”

  21. Someone else*

    Wow that coworker’s phone must be even more gross than most people’s phones are. This would make me never want to shake this person’s hand or touch anything they handed me. If they’re using the phone on the toilet they’re handling their phone before hand-washing. So anytime she uses her phone post-bathroom she’s contaminating her hands. Unless she wipes down her phone regularly. I don’t know if the public health angle is more likely to work than the angle to make the coworker aware she’s being distracting/disruptive but it might be worth a try if just asking her to go elsewhere doesn’t work. Although if she’s shameless about flushing while on speakerphone she may not be remotely phased by being told she’s doing something gross because she may not be convinced it is gross…

    1. Just Working Here*

      “If they’re using the phone on the toilet they’re handling their phone before hand-washing.”

      Most people have two hands, you know.

      1. LSP*

        But not all people, meaning that the average human has fewer than two hands.

        Not really relevant to this post, but it’s near the end of my work day, and I’m feeling a little punchy. ;)

        1. Just Working Here*

          Nope, that depends on whether there are also people with three or more hands out there. (There certainly are people with zero hands.)

          That’s why I wrote “most”. For the OP, the relevant issue is whether co-worker in question does have two hands, and I’d guess OP would know that.

          Just Working Here, never knowingly out-pettifogged

    2. Anon Anon*

      Eh, phones, particularly the screens, are germy anyway unless you wash your hands before each time you touch your phone and never put it down anywhere except a sterilised corner of your desk. They are little petri-dishes of every germ transferred from everything you’ve touched and most people don’t ever clean their phones. Touching your phone while eating is much more likely to get you sick than using your phone in the bathroom.

    3. Thorgi*

      I’m trying to figure this out, so if you can explain it, please do.

      When I take my phone into the bathroom, it’s in my pocket. I pull down my pants, take a seat. Remove phone from pocket. Play a game, scroll, whatever. Then I put my phone back in my pocket. Clean up, pull pants back up, flush, wash hands. Later remove phone from pocket.

      How is that any nastier than any other time I put my phone in my pocket and then later use it?

      1. Someone else*

        If you touched the door handle to the stall to lock it when you went in, and others had to touch it to unlock it to get out after using the stall, they had at that point not yet washed their hands when they touched the door handle. So by closing yourself in, your hands are now bathroom usage dirty, before you’ve lowered your own pants. When you take phone out of pocket, you’ve now contaminated it.
        Now admittedly, it is very common for people to do this, so your phone may not be nastier than any other time you put your phone in your pocket and later use it. There are trace amounts of fecal matter on basically everyone all the time, especially if you use a flush toilet with the lid open or no closeable lid. It aerosolizes to about four feet, so unless it’s an automatic flush and you’re gone by the time it goes off, it may not be a practical difference and you may not mind. I guess everyone has a different personal threshold for what level of “trace amounts” triggers that ick-factor. For me, OP’s coworker is using her phone in an ickier than average manner.

  22. Spooky*

    I think this is just the trend now. I’m so used to it at this point (even the speakerphone part) that I don’t even bat an eye anymore.

  23. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    Let me preface this by saying I would never, ever use the phone in the bathroom. That’s just weird (I don’t even have conversations with other people who are in the bathroom with me).

    But: I don’t really get why folks are up in arms about this. The bathroom isn’t private; why is a phone conversation more distressing than random conversations between other people who are in the bathroom?

    I’d be disturbed if I were the person on the other end of the phone — that’s the person who is unwittingly being invited into the bathroom with your coworker. But being in the bathroom with her? I’d consider than an annoyance in the bounds of normal other-people-are-different-than-me variety.

    (The speakerphone thing though? No. It’s never acceptable to use a speakerphone when other people are around. That’s just rude, no matter what room you’re in.)

    1. LQ*

      (I’m kind of disturbed by all bathroom conversations to be honest. But the speakerphone thing. I despise speakerphones way down into the depths of my cold, dark, heart.)

    2. kms1025*

      Victoria I agree with you on all points.
      There are so many things to get worked up about,
      to me this falls under the heading of “choose your battles”.

    3. Amber Rose*

      I almost never hear conversations in a bathroom.* The most I usually hear in bathrooms is usually “do you have a brush/sanitary pad/hair band/makeup/[whatever]?” And usually in quieter tones. Because people who are pooping would rather not feel awkward about pooping in the middle of your chat. Also it’s weird to have a chat with a background soundtrack of flushing.

      *The exception is bar bathrooms. Drunk girls go into the bathroom and turn into inspirational posters. “Ohmygawd, you are SO pretty and I adore your SHOES and you are just so AWESOME and I LOVE you!” I have had a girl start crying because she liked my dress. She was so plastered. You can’t hold that kind of person up to typical social norms.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Drunk girls in bathrooms are my favorite people. I have best friends I don’t know now, because we met in line for the women’s restroom and became sisters.

        1. LSP*

          Amen! There is a real sisterhood that comes about when someone hands you toilet paper under a stall wall, compliments you on your shoes or hair, or is too drunk to feel at all weird about just striking up a conversation about whatever pops into her drunken mind.

          All other parts of going out to a bar really, REALLY don’t appeal to me, but I have to admit, I love this.

          Also, this is the only kind of social interaction in a bathroom I’m okay with. And I am against the use of speaker phone outside of a car (or ones own home) entirely.

    4. Havarti*

      For me, it’s annoying because:
      A. Bathrooms are tiled, echo-y chambers of torture. Listening to people talking loudly in them is annoying. I’m all for brief conversations while washing hands, etc. but I dislike the long, rambling talks people engage in regardless whether it’s on phone or in person.

      B. Someone is handling (and sometimes forgetting!) their phone in the bathroom. Guess who has stumbled across a VP’s phone and had to return it to her more than once? Gross.

      C. I have not consented to letting someone outside of the bathroom listen to me take a leak. The person on the other end of the line may not have consented to listen to me take a leak. People in the bathroom already know leaking happens there and consent is implied by being in the same space. It’s kinda like how people get told not to take their kink out in public because bystanders have not consented to be included. It’s rude.

      1. crookedfinger*

        C. Especially. When you’re in the bathroom talking with another person also in the bathroom, they’ve consented to the conversation (or they wouldn’t be talking to you). But the person on the other end of your phone conversation isn’t part of that dynamic and neither is anyone else in the bathroom who isn’t involved in your phone conversation.

        Yes, a shared bathroom isn’t exactly “private,” but it’s definitely not public… otherwise you’d wouldn’t be pooping in a tiny single-person private stall inside of a larger room specifically designed for the disposal human waste.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Yeah, I just can’t get on board with your arguments.

        A) Current social conventions don’t ban conversations in bathrooms. As I said, I think it’s weird and don’t do it either, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect others to follow my lead on that when I’m clearly outside the mainstream.

        B) What other people do with their phones is not our business. People do gross things all the time. It’s not being done to me.

        C) I get this, sortof… except by peeing in a public bathroom we’re consenting to other people hearing us, and we don’t have control over who those people are. I just don’t get why someone on the other end of a phone line is disturbing my privacy more or differently than someone in the next stall. (I definitely agree that the people on the other end of the phone haven’t given consent, but that’s not my issue to deal with.)

        1. Havarti*

          I wasn’t trying to magically make you change your mind. You asked why people were up in arms. I gave my reasons. I never said they were right, wrong, or even reasonable. But they’re my reasons. I’m not going to yell at people for talking in the bathroom. Other people’s phones are my business when they lose them and expect me to find them. And we’re consenting to other people hearing us within the confines of the bathroom space. But hey, if it doesn’t bother you and you don’t understand why it bothers other people, then cool, I guess. Carry on.

    5. J.B.*

      EEW EEW EEW EWW EWWW! EW! I don’t want to hear bathroom noises on the phone and I want to pretend it’s sort of kind of private when I’m in there. And that’s before speakerphone. If it were a quick personal call whatever but MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY. No.

    6. The OG Anonsie*

      The speakerphone is the big deal. Someone just having a regular call in the bathroom is annoying, but not oh holy crap no do not do that like broadcasting the sound of me doing my business to whoever you’re talking to via speakerphone.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        This is my stance too. Bathroom phone calls give me a twinge of annoyance but whatever, whereas speakerphone bathroom phone calls get a spazzy WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!

    7. Jennifer*

      My mom always puts her calls on speakerphone around me (especially in the car). I did not want to hear about my aunt’s diverticulitis, thanks. All kinds of people have no idea I hear everything they say. Ugh!

    8. You're Not My Supervisor*

      I get where you (and others) are coming from saying that a bathroom isn’t private. But think of it this way: if you were having a bout of diarrhea, you would probably hope no one was in the bathroom to hear it. If there WERE people there, well, that’s unavoidable; they need to have the opportunity to use the toilet as well. But people on the phone adds more of an audience for your toilet time than is absolutely necessary. So it’s inconsiderate to be the person adding additional listeners to the audience, if that makes sense.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Yeah, that’s a good point. I don’t think it changes my position, but it moves it slightly. :)

      2. anon for this one*

        In fact, if I have to do anything more than a quick pee, I try very, very hard to time it so there is no one else in the bathroom. If you’re not only (a) hanging around a lot longer than you need to, but (b) including others via speakerphone, you’re adding a LOT more audience than I’m comfortable with.

    9. 42*

      The flip side of that is, if I were talking to my friend on the phone and I found out she was talking to me ON SPEAKERPHONE FROM HER WORK BATHROOM, I’d be like dude, call me back.

    10. Delphine*

      I have enough trouble using public bathrooms–I don’t need people adding an audience member or talking loudly while I’m trying to go.

  24. Janelle*

    This is so gross however people speaking on speakerphone annoys me far worse. The next time I’m walking around in public and have to hear someone screaming into their speaker phone I may just lose it. Plus why would you want everyone to hear your convo. At least not on speaker it is more often difficult to know what is being discussed due to only hearing the one side.

  25. Karen Walker*

    The bathroom isn’t private, but what you do in there should be. And that *basic social norm* is violated once some rando is hearing you shit via speakerphone.

  26. Amber Rose*

    Ohhh, I know this brand of person.

    When I was in my first year of university, I lived in a co-ed “dorm” which was really just the basement with a bunch of beds in closets. For the 40 or so of us there were only four toilets, so I sometimes took the elevator upstairs to use the school’s public washrooms. A couple of times while I was doing this, there would be people taking phone calls in there. And I mean, this was the U at midnight. There’s a thousand places to have private conversations. But no. The bathroom.

    And that’s not even going into the times people started getting frisky in a nearby stall (or the sink, one memorable time) while I was trying to pee.

    Some people view bathrooms as the bacterial soup for relieving yourself in that they are. Other people just see them as multi-functional hang out spaces. You may feel embarrassed for asking them to not do the thing, but they will likely not feel the same.

    For the record, I solved most of the “gettin’ frisky” incidents by yelling rude suggestions, which is not an example you should use at work, so I’m no help there.

  27. animaniactoo*

    Preface: Please note that I am currently off-duty as a mature responsible adult.

    Join that conversation. “Oh, you should really check out the schools in that district.” “Ewwww. That’s just gross!” “I totally think you should break up with him. The sooner the better.”

    Stand around and get as outrageous as you dare. “Have you tried karate classes? They’ll do great things for you! You can exercise and learn to defend yourself all at once!” “I can solve that for you! I’ll come over for dinner tonight and we can talk about it!”

    “Do you mind?”
    “What? No, not at all. This is fascinating.”

    And any implication that it’s a “private conversation” is answered with

    “No it’s not. Not when you’re on speakerphone in the bathroom.” and a direct stare.

    Encourage everybody else to do it to her too. See if you can pull it off as a chain – one in and one out! NEXT!

    1. Ms. Annie*

      ….. Preface: Please note that I am currently off-duty as a mature responsible adult.

      My new go-to line. Thank you!!!

  28. Hanna*

    I’ve noticed that some people have their phones on speakerphone at pretty much all time. Doesn’t matter who they’re talking to, if they’re in public, if it’s a very sensitive conversation, etc. It’s always speakerphone. Is is just laziness (not wanting to hold the phone up), or is it some kind of exhibitionism?

    Anyway, Alison’s advice is a good start.

    1. Been there*

      I was always curious about that too. I’ll admit 99% of my work calls are either speaker phone or computer speaker, but I have a private office.

      I watched someone in an airport bar a week ago trying to conduct a personal call on speaker. I mean.. it worked as well as you can expect, she’s yelling into her phone and saying ‘what? I didn’t hear you’ multiple times.

    2. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      Never run into a speakerphone in the bathroom, but boy have I on the bus/train! I like to live-blog those convos on FB or Twitter. My favorite was the dude with no indoor voice who had an indiscreet chat with his girlfriend, then had a similar one with his wife.

      1. crookedfinger*

        I kinda love the ones on the train. They’re always dishing some great drama about jail time or STDs or deadbeat parents or whatever. I consider eavesdropping on the train a hobby at this point.

      2. NW Mossy*

        Oh, if I’d had a Twitter account when I rode commuter rail! The stories I could have relayed….

    3. Bleeborp*

      Public speakerphone abuse is a huge thing, in and out of the bathroom and it’s very annoying! I have seen someone suggest that people are so used to seeing people on reality shows talk on their phones in speakerphone (so the cameras can pick up the convo, which makes sense) that they start doing it at all times in real life.

    4. tigerlily*

      I don’t like to use my phone in public, but when I’m in my house I always take calls on speakerphone. For some reason (and this is true of all smart phones I’ve ever had) I have a hard time hearing when the phone is normal, so speakerphone is really the only way I can use the phone function of my phone. And I don’t normally have any hearing troubles except for my phone.

    5. AudreyParker*

      I don’t understand this, either. Like zero sense of boundaries or something? It’s just extra loud, like people shouting in front of you, so very hard to dismiss as background conversation. Maybe I’m just a very private person, but I don’t tend to make even non-speakerphone phone calls in public without stepping to an area away from people. But I also think speakerphone is the devil in general, unless you’re in a situation where you have a group or are unable to hold the phone, and are in a more private setting. I hate when people put me ON speakerphone, because now I have no idea who’s hearing what I’m saying, and I tend to find it hard to hear people who put themselves on speakerphone – partly, because the increased ambient noise is distracting – so it’s interesting to hear others have the opposite experience. (I can’t even CONCEIVE of doing this in a bathroom!)

    6. Elizabeth*

      My dad & late mother both use(d) the speaker on their phones pretty much exclusively. Their hearing aids made it difficult to hear if they put the phone up to their ears.

      Short of something like that? Nope.

    7. Traffic_Spiral*

      I always use speakerphone if I’m alone. It hurts my ears less and putting the phone up to my face gets makeup and facial skin oil on my phone. That being said, if you’re around others, it’s considerate to minimize the random noise you make, including speakerphones.

  29. CatCat*

    I think this would be a scenario where I’d be really tempted to go the passive aggressive note route. I know, I know.

  30. Anon4This*

    Honestly I think this may be a possible cultural difference. I’ve noticed since moving to South Florida that my colleagues who were raised in some South American countries do this completely unabashedly and its not considered rude in their culture.

    Any possibility that this is the case with your bathroom talker OP?

    If so, maybe if you frame the issue as a cultural one it’ll be easier to address and understand rather than a more personal one like rudeness on her part or shyness on your part.

  31. thirdshiftmonster*

    I’m surprised I haven’t seen anyone bring up an issue of privacy with this. I do not think this is as egregious as per se, being on snapchat or facetime in the restroom, but it would make me uncomfortable on that level almost. I think OP would be perfectly justifiable in saying to their co-worker that this is a privacy issue and then ask the co-worker to leave the restroom when on their phone while others are using it, or at the minimum stop the speakerphone speak while others are in there. I personally cant stand when people try to make small talk standing next to me at a stall, so I can imagine how uncomfortable this would be.

  32. Allison*

    I could sort of sympathize with someone making a one-off, urgent phone call in the bathroom; where I work, if you don’t have your own office you don’t have a lot of options when you need to take a personal call. So if you need to call your doctor about a personal issue, or you just found out your child is sick with stomach problems, and you need to make a private call about a private matter, sure, use the bathroom.

    However, it sounds like OP’s coworker just likes to chat on the phone, and for whatever reason has to have these chats during the workday, and that’s not something I can be sympathetic towards. By all means flush, fart to your heart’s content, let your #2 album drop; take the Browns to the superbowl with a nice, big parade – you scoopin’ what I’m poopin’? Use the bathroom for its intended purpose, and if she gets mad, remind her what the bathroom is for.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        We have a shortage of conference rooms, and outside can sometimes be loud, between leaf-blowers, highway noises, and food trucks with generators. Personally, I will walk as far as I have to to get some privacy and quiet for a phone call, and if they don’t like losing a half-hour of work so I can make a five-minute phone call, they should give us someplace to make a call. But I can see why someone would give up had duck into the bathroom, especially for an incoming call.

        1. Jennifer*

          Yeah, I have to make an outdoor phone call once a week and there are ALWAYS people swarming around, loud cars, loud trucks, loud planes, construction, leaf-blowers, everything. “I can’t hear you!” happens really really frequently even if I hike for a long period of time just trying to find where none of the above is going on.

  33. Lunch Meat*

    Competing speaker phone conversations? Save up your calls where you know you’re going to have to be on hold for a long time or dealing with an irritating automated system and play that hold music on speakerphone in there. (Just make sure it’s not one where you’re going to be entering personal information.)

    1. You're Not My Supervisor*

      Ooh, or you could pretend to get on the phone with someone and loudly start yelling “HELLO?… YES THAT’S A TOILET YOU HEAR IN THE BACKGROUND…WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?… IT’S NOT INSANELY GROSS THAT I’M CALLING YOU FROM THE CAN!…I AM NOT TOTALLY OBNOXIOUS!” and so forth, drowning out the other person’s ability to carry on their conversation

  34. Elizabeth West*

    I’m tempted to tell you that you should go out of your way to make loud and revolting bathroom noises — perhaps play a recording of shockingly explosive diarrhea, if such a recording exists — but I know I personally couldn’t bring myself to apply that advice in reality and I suspect most people couldn’t either.


    1. JulieBulie*

      Yeah, seriously no problem here.

      Plus: we have auto-flush toilets. Some of them are very enthusiastic about flushing prematurely, multiple times, before I’m done (and then sometimes not flushing when I really am done).

      AND we have a hand dryer that no one likes to use because it’s as loud as a jetliner. But maybe after four wasteful flushes, I decide to save a tree and use the blower instead.

  35. J.B.*

    Alison. I’m sure such a recording exists somewhere. Or you could play clips from Captain Underpants. (Yes, this is a movie, and yes, my kids had to watch it!) Open thread anyone?

  36. Database Developer Dude*

    “I’m tempted to tell you that you should go out of your way to make loud and revolting bathroom noises — perhaps play a recording of shockingly explosive diarrhea, if such a recording exists — but I know I personally couldn’t bring myself to apply that advice in reality and I suspect most people couldn’t either. (But if you can, I heartily encourage you to do it … although of course, she appears to have zero shame about her callers knowing she’s in the bathroom, so she might not care.) (Also, I’ve just grossed myself out.)”

    …….Apparently, Alison has never heard of rule 34 of the internet. I’m not googling it because that’s not a question I need answered, but I will bet my paycheck that there’s a web site out there SOMEWHERE where such a recording DOES exist. I will bet my ANNUAL paycheck on that.

  37. animaniactoo*

    I am waiting for the passive aggressive note to go up in my bathroom:

    “Please note the bathroom is not a phone booth

    If you need to speak
    Let no-one hear a squeak
    Find another spot
    to talk a whole lot”

    It can go right next to the

    “If you sprinkle
    when you tinkle
    be a sweetie
    and wipe the seatie”

    (yes, that is a real sign in my office’s bathroom, complete with an image of a peeing fountain statue. I keep meaning to take a picture and post it.)

    1. JulieBulie*

      I know the latter poem as ending with “please be neat and wipe the seat.”

      It was one of the first things I remember ever reading in a bathroom as a tot, along with the “Here I sit, broken-hearted” one.

    2. Drew*

      If your lips are loudly flappin’
      While your coworkers are crappin’
      Time to take it somewhere new
      So in peace we all can poo

  38. Been there*

    How about getting out your phone and having your own conversation (imaginary)

    You: Oh Hi… thought I’d call.
    You: Well I walked into the bathroom and someone’s on their phone. You know me, shy bladder and all I can’t really go with a conversation going on behind me.
    You: I figured since I’d have to wait them out I’d make a call myself. Seems like a weird place to make a call… but what else am I going to do while I’m waiting.
    You: hmmm yep.. I know right ?! it’s so weird
    You: Yep, still waiting wish I didn’t have that bean burrito and extra strong coffee for lunch. I think I might regret that here very soon.
    You: Oh did I tell you I got those sugar free gummy bears* that you sent me. I ate a handful on my way up here. So yummy.

    At some point even the most clueless among us will understand the impending doom and end their conversation.

    *If you don’t know about the legendary effects of sugarfree gummy bears, go to amazon and read some of the reviews.

  39. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

    I’m ALL for the loud multi-flush, to try to, *ahem*, flush them out of the bathroom. However, doing my actual business OR doing the multi-flush on-purpose option, The Phone Talker might say “oh that’s just Surrogate having a bad bathroom issues day” (or something gross to that effect) to the person they’re talking to. Which I normally would find too funny, unless my co-worker or boss or boss’s boss was walking in at the exact moment The Phone Talker was proclaiming that statement about my perceived issues to the recipient on the other end of the line.

  40. seejay*

    This is seriously one of my biggest office pet peeves. If you want to sit on the can at home while on the phone, go for it, but I don’t want someone else sharing my bodily noises with someone else on the phone tyvm.

    If I could fart loudly and on command, I would, but considering my partner of 7 years has yet to hear me fart out loud, I don’t think I could do it even in this case. That being said, I have an amazing capability to throw up almost at will, so maybe I should do that next time I run into one of these situations. I’d rather do that than a straight-on confrontation anyway. :/

    1. Dooty Duty*

      I assure you your partner has heard you fart, you just may not have been awake when it happened! lol.

      I used to think this as well in the beginning our cohabitation, but was informed I have in my sleep on more than one occasion and I got over it haha.

      1. seejay*

        We don’t live together so while he *may* have heard it, it’s a pretty rare chance since I only sleep over once a week. ^_^


        1. Dooty Duty*

          hahaha!! As long as you never know about it then you get to honestly say it doesn’t happen!! lmao!!

  41. Nan*

    ack!! you must work in my office. I had this just last week. Someone on the freakin’ speaker phone. All I knew is some dude’s mouth hurt and the dog still needed to be fed. I didn’t need to know that while I was trying to pee. I purposely made as much noise as possible.

    We also had one that likes to Facetime her baby while she’s in the bathroom (at the sinks, not the stall). I had to remind her that it’s against state law to record/tape/broadcast in a public bathroom without the consent of the other occupants, and could she please not do that.

  42. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    I think I’d be tempted to just be as noisy as possible. Flushing, flushing, flushing. Running taps. Better still do you have one of the really loud hand driers?

  43. Been there*

    For a real suggestion, we did have this issue in my office. Somebody was using a phone in one of the bathrooms and another employee complained to management. An email shortly went out that cellphone use was not permitted in the bathrooms due to privacy concerns. And the person’s manager was asked to speak to the offender directly.

    It worked until a new batch of employees came in and the process was repeated.

    We were a small office that co-located with our customer and it was actually the customer’s employees who were the john-chatters.

  44. Old*

    Not downplaying the issues related to this behavior, BUT it should be noted that the old etiquette before everyone had a phone was to go in the bathroom to make a call because it was rude to use the cell phone out among people. If you don’t believe me there’s an old tv commercial where a teen girl is at a dance, asking people for something, finally someone slips her something that goes in her pocket. She goes in the ladies and calls parents for permission to stay out later.

  45. Elsewhere1010*

    Just repeat everything they say. Loudly.

    When they protest, just say, “How rude it is of me to be forced to listed to your private conversation. The least I can is join in.

    Meanwhile, I brought a speaker with me and I’m going to be listening to Pink Floyd through my phone. You won’t mind having to listen. I know you won’t.”

    1. Windchime*

      I actually like the idea of just cranking up some loud music over your phone’s speakers. After all, if we are now using speakers in the bathroom, why not join in?

      1. Drew*

        Heck, I bet we could come up with an entire telephone-themed playlist for discreet (-ish) bathroom conversation masking.

        I don’t think we SHOULD, necessarily.

  46. Buffy Summers*

    Some other things you could say and/or do.
    When flushing multiple times: “Well, will ya look at that! That little bugger just doesn’t wanna go down the drain!” Laugh heartily.
    “Hey, Jane! I’m out of toilet paper over here! Be a dear and fetch me some!”
    Sing a song, complete with toe-tapping while completing
    Moan and groan as you go.
    “Wow, definitely shouldn’t have had so much coffee this morning. But we girls have to stay regular, amiright?” Guffaw loudly.
    Obviously, I have no real advice.

  47. Dooty Duty*

    I am not shy or grossed out by bathroom habits, as most living things do bathroom things. I also use my time in the restroom to catch up with people sometimes and I’m not shy about it but mostly because the people I talk to while I am in there aren’t people I would need to be discreet about that with. I am assuming she and they don’t care if you go or flush while she’s in there, otherwise she wouldn’t be doing it.

    So, that being said, even if you say something she may frown at you and tell you to mind your own ‘business’ as she is technically minding hers. I can’t imagine you escalating this to management “when I’m trying to do my duty, she’s doing hers and on the phone!!” sounds very elementary and something I can imagine my youngsters arguing about but not adults.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t say something, perhaps you should. Being passive aggressive hasn’t helped, because she probably just doesn’t care. She’s in a bathroom! Bathroom sounds and flushing come with that territory. Again, saying something may yield no results. Might draw her ire. But perhaps maybe she will stop (I doubt it)

    Good luck! lol

      1. Dooty Duty*

        Understood :-)

        I wasn’t suggesting that they did, but I just feel they’re frustrated enough and if the offender doesn’t yield after a direct convo (which part of me feels that she wont) what would be the next step in an office environment? Anonymous signs? (that may be an idea actually, although I don’t think passive aggressive works for this offender given that the multiple flushing didn’t deter her! Lmao)

      2. Dooty Duty*

        Oh and to clarify! In the last part of my comment when I said “that doesn’t mean you can’t say something” I meant to her, directly, not to management! I was just thinking out loud as I wrote the reply of what the next step would be AFTER saying something to her directly. Sorry for the confusion there, I reread it and saw how it read!

      3. Been there*

        Yeah that was me who said that’s what happened in my office. It may seem like overkill to some, but it was effective.

  48. Laura*

    I’m guilty of bathroom phone use and rarely speaker phone bathroom use, in home.

    The latter is always when I’m waiting on hold in the morning for the bus service to pick up and give me my pickup time. Not regularly but often enough-I don’t get the call the night prior sometimes. (I use the speaker solely because I like moving forward in my routine and am usually getting dressed and need both hands to do that.) Fortunately I have enough warning to stop what I’m doing, switch off speaker and jam the phone to my ear when they (finally) pick up.

    Only time I use the phone in a work bathroom is after work to pop a quick text to my ride to let em know that I’m making a pit stop and I’ll be right out.-if I haven’t sent something at my locker- Then it goes back into the bag and I do my thing, wash my hands and go out to meet them.

  49. DCompliance*

    I am lost as to why this would be considered rude. I find it odd to be on the cell phone in the bathroom, but I don’t consider it rude.

    1. Jennifer*

      (a) Other people using the bathroom don’t necessarily want to hear all of your phone call details while pooping.
      (b) The poor schmuck on the other end of the line frequently has no idea everything they are saying is being shared with strangers.
      (c) Making a phone call from the toilet, especially on speakerphone, makes your odds of hearing someone’s intestinal distress very, very high.

      I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy any of that stuff. And it’s rude when I’m forced to have to hear it.

      1. Grapey*

        Why is this in particular to the bathroom though? I don’t want to hear my coworkers personal calls pretty much ever, but it’s not like I’m concentrating in the bathroom whereas I would be at my desk. I find this whole thread baffling.

        If anything, I think it’s only rude to the person on the other end of the line, but I assume they have their own agency to say “Sounds like you’re busy, call me back later.” (which is what I would say if I got a non-urgent call from someone on a toilet.)

        1. Dooty Duty*

          I am with you in being baffled why pooping suddenly makes hearing people talk rude. Lol. Whats so holy about taking a dump that it requires silence from other occupants in the restroom. If anything I’d rather someone be distracted while I shit so they don’t have to focus on me which is actually more uncomfortable to be now that I think about. Silence allows one to hear the plops and random gaseous sounds emitting from my body as opposed to me yammering on means sounds are covered. LOL. This is the most bizarre convo we’ve had on AAM in a while, for certain.

          Also, the other points were addressed in the letter. The phone offender is said to inform the people she is speaking with that she is in the loo. That being said, I’m starting to wonder if the OP is spending too much time listening and caring because she’s just so appalled that this person is on the phone, rather than just getting in there to do her doo and get out.

          1. Perse's Mom*

            It’s the environment in which the conversation is happening that makes it rude. You don’t call someone in the middle of a movie screening, or in the middle of church services, or in the middle of a funeral, or wedding. If you GET a call in any of those situations and you are at ALL aware of societal norms, you either turn off your phone or excuse yourself to take the call so as not to be disrespectful to everyone else.

            You also don’t call people in the bathroom when other people are using it for its intended purpose. Absolutely no one would be okay with a coworker recording anyone in the bathroom, even audio, but apparently it’s okay to broadcast those same things to a third party?

            1. Dooty Duty*

              Pooping doesn’t quite compare to a wedding, or a funeral or church. I’m sorry. I think this convention is a bit strange or that idea that it should be this way is. I agree that speaker phone is taking it far but me having / continuing / answering or ducking into a bathroom for a call is just not the same thing! It didn’t used to happen before simply because people couldn’t drag payphones and landlines into public restrooms, that doesn’t mean that bathrooms should be silent holy places. It happens more now because everyone has a cell phone, and I am actually happy it. I don’t want you silently listening to my bowels move and then awkwardly staring at me while I clean my hands. Let’s all hold phone convos and quit thinking we are so important that the person on the other end of the phone cares what you are doing when they have no idea who you are and can’t even see you!! lol

              (but yeah, headphones, bluetooth or hold your phone, speaker phone is a bit much! lol)

              Okay thats my last comment on this post, I was thoroughly amused by it though!!

              1. DCompliance*

                I am in agreement with you. I don’t think talking on the phone in bathroom is rude and it is completely different then at a wedding and a movie theater. I mean if two co-workers were chatting away in two different stalls no one would be saying “Silence is Golden”. Also, I don’t know why everyone is assuming the person on the other of the phone doesn’t know he or she is on speaker. Sometimes you know your friends phone habits.

    2. Murphy*

      I also think it’s rude to have a speakerphone cell phone conversation in public (where other people can clearly hear you) anyway.

  50. FCJ*

    I’m kind of sad at all the advice to keep flushing. It obviously isn’t working, and if you don’t actually need to make a courtesy flush, it’s a pointless waste of water. It’s bad enough already that we poop in perfectly good drinking water–don’t waste even more of it.

    1. Alli525*

      Me too! Thank you! People in Puerto Rico and Flint don’t have ANY drinkable running water, so I’m officially invoking the “there are starving children in Africa, finish your peas” argument now.

      1. Annie Moose*

        Um. The water in Flint has been perfectly fine for ages with filters, and has been tested as safe without filters now too. (by the same researcher who blew the whistle on the lead in the first place, in fact) As someone who lives less than an hour from Flint, I assure you it is not at all comparable to the site of a massive natural disaster that killed dozens of people, and frankly I find your analogy trivializing to the ongoing tragedy in Puerto Rico.

        Also, the problem in Flint was never a lack of running water, it was lead solder in service lines, so wasting water really isn’t relevant.

        1. FCJ*

          Wasting water is relevant. No matter where you live, the water comes from somewhere. You’re pulling it out of rivers, or out of groundwater basins that supply the surrounding environment. Desalinization plant? Cool, but careful about the marine life nearby. That’s their water, too. Even if you don’t have a shortage in your area, water treatment and purification isn’t always cheap. It’s irresponsible to think that it’s a magical infinite resource.

          Don’t keep flushing, OP. Find an adult way to deal with it.

        2. Alli525*

          I’m sidetracking here, but I am still seeing current tweets from Flint residents who do not have drinkable water, and “perfectly fine for ages” is an exaggeration when the crisis only came to light a couple years ago. And I’m not equating Flint with Puerto Rico, only saying that two places in the US don’t have a specific basic human need available to them.

          1. Annie Moose*

            By “ages” I meant within the context of the timeframe of the water crisis, of course. It’s been known that filters will appropriately filter the water since not long after the water crisis became public, and filter distribution has been ongoing for months.

            At any rate, my main point in posting was to correct the misrepresentation that Flint doesn’t have “ANY drinkable running water”, which applies to a relatively small number of people in the city but is not broadly representative of the city as a whole. The latest results show that most houses with Flint water test as well under federal lead limits, and the researchers (who, again, are the same ones who blew the whistle in the first place) have stated that they believe lead levels for the city as a whole are the same as other American cities with lead pipes. (doesn’t mean those other cities are doing great, of course, just that Flint is no longer considered an outlier)

  51. chocolate lover*

    Someone once put a sign on our multi-stall women’s room asking people not to use their phones in the bathroom out of respect for other people. It got taken down pretty quickly. I don’t care what you do in your own bathroom, but that’s definitely awkward for other people.

    A male colleague once heard a student on a phone interview in the bathroom. We just shook our heads.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      …phone… interview…WTF.

      But then, I’m pretty sure people have shared stories here on AAM of phone interviews where they heard a sudden flush (or worse).

  52. YarnOwl*

    Slightly related (in that it’s about a colleague with terrible office phone etiquette), but I have a coworker who seems like she is constantly having loud and angry conversations on her cell phone, like almost yelling at the other person, and she does it in places that have like, a fair amount of foot traffic but aren’t necessarily “office areas.” The parking structure, the stair well, the room where everyone eats their lunches, empty meeting rooms (I’ve had to kick her out of them more than once when I had one reserved), etc., and it’s so weird to me! Partially it’s because I feel a little bit of concern for someone who is having these kinds of super angry phone calls all the time, and partially it’s because I don’t understand how someone can have them in the office! If I had a phone call I knew was going to be heated, I’d sit in my car or walk down the block or something.

    1. NW Mossy*

      Many years ago, I shared an office with someone who routinely had loud, shouting arguments with her boyfriend from her desk, which was literally within arm’s reach of my own. To this day, I don’t know whether it would have been more appropriate to ask if everything was OK or practice selective deafness.

  53. Jadelyn*

    My favorite was the time when a coworker got out her phone while in a stall and called a bakery to order the cake for the upcoming monthly employee birthdays party. And I know this isn’t rational, but I couldn’t have any of that cake. It was tainted by association in my mind. It was and forever would be the Bathroom Cake.

  54. Professor Ronny*

    play a recording of shockingly explosive diarrhea

    If you do that, please let us know how it goes. ;)

  55. DouDou Paille*

    Not trying to derail the conversation, but what bothers me more than bathroom stall phone chatters is those idiots who Facetime with their friends IN THE GYM LOCKER ROOM! Despite signs being clearly posted everywhere saying that cameras are not allowed in changing areas. Do they not realize that in the background of their mindless conversations they could possibly (and illegally) be catching glimpses of people getting out of the shower, etc?

    1. CheeryO*

      Oh, that’s much worse than a bathroom speakerphone conversation. I’d be tempted to bring that to a staff person at the gym.

  56. DouDou Paille*

    People talking on phones in toilet stalls is a minor offense compared to those idiots who Facetime with their friends in gym locker rooms (despite clear warnings prohibiting it it posted everywhere). The first is merely annoying, the second is illegal and invasive.

  57. Jade*

    I’d be more blunt (but then again I am a rather, um, bold personality). “Hey do you mind not talking on speakerphone in here? I’m not comfortable being privy to your private conversations while I’m stuck in here doing my business.” Or “Hey do you mind taking your phone conversation outside of the bathroom? I’m not comfortable with the idea that the person on the other end of the line can hear me on the toilet.”

    1. Dooty Duty*

      If you must say something about it at all, I +1 this approach. The passive aggressive approach is fun to discuss, but isn’t going to work.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      Agreed. As funny as it is to imagine singing show tunes or something, you’re more likely to get a good result by just talking to the person. Maybe she never really thought about it, or doesn’t have any good options for places to make calls, or who knows.

      Maybe you could ask your employer as a group for a private place to make calls. I think a lot of phone calls are made from strange or rude places because there’s no good place to have them.

  58. Noah*

    Here’s my advice: buy earplugs. Why? Not to drown out the sound of her talking on the phone. The ear plugs will protect your ears when, the next time you’re alone in the bathroom with Talky Jane, you blow an airhorn until she leaves the bathroom.

  59. M is for Mulder*

    Say strange things, like a tiny gasp followed by muttering “Is there supposed to be that much blood?”

    Toss pennies into the bowl, while shrieking about the personal hell that is kidney stones.

    Smuggle a giant convenience store cup into the bathroom, full of water, and mimic a record-breaking pit stop a la Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own.

  60. Dust Bunny*

    Just flush. Not your problem. If she gets her nose out of joint, well, that’s what she gets for talking on the phone in the bathroom.

  61. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

    I work at a University and this happens SO MUCH. We already struggle with the mess the students are leaving behind (stop pulling your loose hairs out and leaving them in the sink!) but when phone calls are made, the faculty/staff have banded together. As soon as someone takes a call or enters the room on a phone call, you will hear multiple voices start chiming in: “Are you actually taking a phone call in a public restroom?” “Why are you broadcasting private bathroom noises on your phone?” “Are you video-conferencing your poop??” Then you hear the toilets start flushing and the hand dryers start going. The idiot student is drowned in a cacophony of noise and usually scurries away.

    One of the faculty members on the floor writes down phrases and practices them. She’s lots of fun!

  62. Lisa*

    Maybe have the admin send out a general announcement that the bathrooms are for their intended use only and should not be used as a break room? Or post a nice notice in the bathroom itself.

  63. MCMonkeyBean*

    I would focus on the speakerphone issue personally. While I wouldn’t normally be comfortable talking to someone while I’m in the bathroom (except maybe my husband), if other people are then I guess that’s fine for them. But by having the phone on speakerphone she is making that decision for everyone else in the bathroom and that’s definitely not okay! You can’t expect complete privacy in a multi-stall bathroom, but you should at least be able to expect that what you’re doing in there doesn’t leave the room.

  64. Shadow*

    I had a client call me from the bathroom once. She didn’t say she was in the bathroom, but I could definitely hear her… uh… doing her business, and the toilets flushing, people washing hands, and so on.

    At one point, when she needed to write something down, she said “I’m not in a position to take notes right now, could you email that to me?” Of course I did, but it has gone down as my weirdest client interaction ever, and it’s gained some notoriety in my office.

    I didn’t want to hear all that! And I certainly didn’t want to hear all that from a client, with whom I need to be able to discuss custom teapot design in the future without thinking about *other kinds* of porcelain.

  65. Grapey*

    I feel weird for not being bothered by this topic. I’ve never been a bathroom caller myself, but I don’t find this any weirder than when two people walk in together and keep talking as they use the stalls.

    Sure, I’d think “people don’t really do that…” but it doesn’t impact me at all, and I’d see no reason to bother them the way some people are joking about here. If anything, I’d be embarrassed to make extra noises in a stall if the sole purpose was to bother other people.

    1. Dooty Duty*

      Exactly. Why should everyone would become mute mimes in the restroom?? LOL. It is sacred ground?

  66. Robin*

    I think the initial advice is way off base. Why create a confrontation with a person who is obviously rude and oblivious to common decency. It could easily backfire and get ugly. Also, why descend to their level and behave badly? A few years ago there was a woman in my office that was making a mess of the stall. I mentioned it to the office manager. She posted signs in the bathrooms…. by the sink and one in each stall that said “Please be neat, wipe the seat”. This took care of the problem, and the bathrooms are have been clean ever since.

    So basically, hopefully there is someone in your office who can post a professional and polite notice/reminder in the bathroom. I would seek out this person and diplomatically explain the issue and ask them for assistance. If no such person exists, just discretely do it yourself, but make sure the keep the note polite and professional. Nastu notes will be ignored and discredits the point you are trying to make.

    1. Been there*

      That was my thought too. Obviously the phone talker doesn’t see a problem with this and they will not suddenly see the error of their ways if someone points it out to them. It’s unnecessary drama to engage directly and very unlikely to be effective.

      I’m generally a direct, take your issue to the person directly kind of person. But this one I wouldn’t. I mean besides the obvious problem of talking to someone while they are on their cell phone I just don’t see any good coming from it.

    2. SAHM*

      I like the idea of a sign, because then you can say “Hey, you’re not allowed to talk in here.” And point to the sign (even if you’re the person who posted it). Usually people back waaay down when there’s a sign up.

  67. Prince of Snarkness*

    I’m one of the few that can, has and will make noise for rude cell phone users.

    Rude and obnoxious people only respond to the same. When I was in between regular jobs and worked as a cashier, I would always chat up (loudly) the person on the phone and ask tm as many questions as I could. If I were in the bathroom with this person, I’d probably yell out randomly something about not remembering eating corn or something of that nature.

    A person like this isn’t going to stop unless their own comfort is compromised.

    1. Dooty Duty*

      To be fair, they probably dont care that you ate corn or have to poop. They’re using their phone in the toilet, they know what that entails and they’ve decided it’s not a big deal to them. You’re kind of spending more energy than they are, to be passive aggressive and snarky. They don’t care. I wouldn’t. I’d probably ignore you, or laugh or tell the person on the other end of my phone what you were saying/doing, if they couldn’t hear you themselves.

      Just giving an alternative perspective in regards to the want to be passive aggressive in this scenario and wasting that energy. lol.

  68. ScoutFinch*

    I’d be singing at the top of my lungs – something like “High Hopes” (not the Pink Floyd song – the old one) or “We Are The Champions” or “Don’t Stop Believing” .

    Not polite, but would definitely give her a taste of her own meds.

  69. MashaKasha*

    This is on my top 5 pet peeves list. Makes me so mad when people do this.

    Only interaction I’ve had in an office bathroom that made me more mad than that was when I was in a stall, and a coworker was standing outside, wanting to know, “What are you working on?” As any sane person would, I assumed that someone else had walked into the bathroom and the inquiry was directed at them. But then when I said nothing, she started repeating her question louder. I don’t remember what I said to that. A friend later advised that I would’ve told her, “today’s lunch burrito! PFFFFT” which is brilliant, but did not occur to me at the time.

    And the only time I gave a coworker a break for making a phone call in the bathroom was when, I was again in a stall, and a woman burst into the bathroom, dialed a number, and started crying into the phone. “They gave him five years, THEY GAVE HIM FIVE YEARS.” Walking out of that stall was beyond awkward. We did not look at each other as I very rapidly washed my hands and dashed out of there.

  70. desi*

    I’d like to think I’d have the guts to speak loudly, to the person on the other end, and say something like, “I’m sorry, but Catlyn needs to go now, so that I can take a dump in peace! Byeeee!”

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      I’m from near Glasgow (currently in England) – I’d be tempted to emphasise the weegie accent and say “Excuse me pal – there’s people tryin’ tae shite here!”

  71. MommyMD*

    Tell your coworker you’d like some privacy and will she please take her call elsewhere. And don’t smile while you’re doing it.

  72. AKchic*

    I had a supervisor that was notorious for his consistent use of “bathroom meetings”, as we’d dubbed them. He had absolutely no situational awareness in regards to the bathrooms.
    If he was on a call, he’d go ahead and go to the bathroom while on the call (and wouldn’t mute), even if he was on a teleconference. Government agency, federal licensing board, interstate cooperative, board member, employee, politician who was wanting to help us secure funding – didn’t matter: They went to the bathroom with him. They were either on his Bluetooth headset or on speaker phone.

    If he needed to speak to someone and THEY were in the bathroom? If it was a man, he’d go pester them in the bathroom. If it was a woman, he at least had the sense to wait outside the door until they came out of the bathroom so he could pounce on whatever it was he needed.

    He was my boss for 3 years. I wish I could say that was the oddest thing about him.

  73. Stellaaaaa*

    I’ve done similar things when I worked in buildings that didn’t have dedicated break areas/when my break wasn’t long enough for me to bother leaving the office/when the office is in the middle of nowhere and it’s too hot or cold to sit in my car. Believe me, I’d have left the building if there was anywhere reasonable to go in the amount of time I had available. Sometimes there’s no other place to make the 2 pm call that you need to make.

  74. Wrench Turner*

    Ain’t that some shit.
    (Sorry, I really have nothing more contribute. That’s nuts.)

  75. Dooty Duty*

    Why, exactly, is pooping (or peeing) suddenly so sacred that it requires silence? Wouldn’t one rather there be commotion so that fellow bathroom goers don’t have to hear your plops and farts and grunts or even how heavily or quickly, or lightly even, you evacuate your bladder?

    Just thinking more on this and the commentary about it being absolutely horrifyingly rude to be on the phone in the bathroom is coming across as immensely bizarre to me. Why do we want silence in a public restroom? LMAO. This is weird.

    1. SAHM*

      Because you’re trapped trying to use the facilities, and stuck listening to their conversation.
      Because bodily functions are gross (speaking as a mom who literally just wiped her kid’s butt).
      Because the vast majority of people consider their own bodies to be private.
      Everybody Poops! Yes, but that doesn’t mean I want to hear about it or share it with you.

      1. Dooty Duty*

        So silence means I have to hear it…

        if I’m minding my own business and talking to someone else on the phone (I agree speaker is a bit much) I’m less likely to hear you pooping, no???

    2. Wrench Turner*

      Some of us feel immensely vulnerable in that position and relative silence lets us be more aware of our surroundings. I already feel trapped by circumstance, being reminded of someone else there makes it more uncomfortable in public or work spaces.

    3. Windchime*

      You keep saying that. The big problem is the speaker phone. I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with my bathroom sounds being broadcast to some unknown person. It’s rude.

    4. designbot*

      I think the idea of “trying to concentrate” as Alison says felt a bit off to me too, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t really appreciate some danged peace and quiet! This is typically a pretty private function, and having stomach issues I can sometimes be rather noisy. I really appreciate the polite fiction where we all ignore each other until at least the handwashing stage of things if we see each other in the bathroom.

    5. CleverGirl*

      Completely agree! I don’t talk on the phone in the bathroom because I never talk on the phone when other people can hear me ever. That being said, I don’t see what the big deal is. Everybody poops. Why are we so so mortified about it that we can’t handle the idea of someone on the other end of a phone line maybe hearing a noise we make (and having NO way to associate it with us)? If anything, the person on the phone is distracted so THEY are less likely to notice any “embarrassing” bathroom sounds, so it should be comforting to people who really care a lot about that.

    6. MashaKasha*

      Because the phone talker has suddenly turned the public restroom into their private conference room/family gathering, and put us in a position where we almost feel we have to be cognizant of the person on the other end of the phone. I know I’m always puzzled when there’s a phone conversation going on in a stall next to mine, like, can I pee while this is going on? If I cannot pee in the restroom, then where?

    7. Rana*

      I think it’s because it breaks the fiction that bathroom stalls are truly private. We all know that they’re not, that people on the outside of the walls know that we’re in there peeing and pooping and bleeding and blowing our noses and whatnot, but the polite thing is for everyone to act as if no one can hear or smell anything.

      A person talking to another person in the bathroom sort of breaks that barrier a bit, but you can sort of comfort yourself with the idea that it’s still within bathroom walls. Adding a phone to the equation makes it impossible to maintain any sense of privacy because the whole point of a phone is to connect with someone else in another place.

  76. Andy*

    Even before I got to Allison’s reply, I was thinking the same thing re: toilet noises. :p

    My other suggestion would be to join in loudly on the phone conversation until she gets the hint and leaves.

  77. AnotherWomanEngineer*

    This is just one of the issues with the open office concept!! Hoping in our office we add in somewhat sound proof phone ‘booths’.

    Unrelated- but related – our ladies restroom has a skinny cabinet/closet where we can stick stuff (only 15 ladies out of 55 employees). Most people have a small pouch- mine has a toothbrush and deodorant in it. But one person recently added a can of FDS. Why would anyone feel the need to stock this in the office ladies room??!! Cracks me up every time I see it.

    1. Dooty Duty*

      I had to google to see what that was! lol and eek. I was always taught not to put extra things in/on my nether regions like that kind of spray.

  78. Anon anon anon*

    I don’t understand the whole bathroom as a social place thing. In your own home or some place you frequent for social reasons, sure. Not at work.

  79. Grey*

    Someone just needs to walk in there and say, “Good god, Jane. What the hell did you have to eat!?”, loud enough to be heard over the phone.

  80. Traceytootoo*

    Mom of 3 boys here. A few years ago, my teenage son installed an app on my phone called Bacon Farts. He and his brothers thought it was hysterically funny and, it actually is. There are a lot of different sounding….well, you know. I would have a great time using something like while next to that horrible coworker, although I am not sure I could do it without cracking up. Good luck!

  81. Starbuck*

    Haha oh, I wish I had only this problem! I work in a building where the only bathrooms staff have access to are the PUBLIC stall bathrooms across the street. There’s a campground nearby. During the summer, I encounter bathroom shenanigans on the daily. Someone is washing their toddler’s feet in the sink? Cool. Someone brought their entire pack of dogs in here and they’re checking me out under the stall? Yep. People often do things like dump cat litter boxes or diapers in the trash, which gets emptied only occasionally. People smoke in the bathroom. You would not believe the variety of fluids I have almost sat on or the strange objects left unflushed. There’s also a shower attached, so sometimes you walk in and the whole bathroom is steamy and shampoo scented.

    And yeah, people absolutely talk on the phone, they talk to the person next to them, they yell at their children, etc. etc.

  82. Candi*

    Talking to her directly might or might not work. In which case, I would be tempted to use my phone to play selected lines from movies scenes.

    For example:

    “Such an interesting name, Latrine. How did your family come by it?”

    “We changed it in the 9th century.”

    “You changed it to Latrine?”

    And so on.

    A big if I didn’t see addressed. _IF_ her long conversations are impacting her work, and *IF* that lack of work directly impacts you, LW, at that point it’s directly impacting you in a work way, and you could elevate it to the manager strictly as a work issue. To borrow some of Alison’s phrasing, “PhoneTalker isn’t getting X, Y, and Z done in a timely matter, and because of that I can’t get A and B done for the clients/customers/other departments.” Same if her work contains frequent and multiple errors, and you have to spend time cleaning it up. Just leave the bathroom out of it; if the manager is any good, when they start looking, they’ll notice the long bathroom breaks.

  83. Jean Lamb*

    I sat next to someone who talked rather loudly in the cubicle next to me. I nicknamed her “General Hospital”, though only to myself, because she was a nice person (we two were often picked to play ‘break the new upgrade’ because if it could survive the two of us, it was going to work for everyone else). I really felt bad for her grandpa in the hospital, and for her numerous other relatives, many of whom also had medical problems. But since I was already writing fiction at the time, not during working hours, I merely took notes.

  84. BemusedBewilderedBefuddled*

    I’m almost entirely convinced OP is someone in my office. The description of the bathrooms match and I’ve seen this exact behavior in the men’s room by several people, including while talking to teapot professionals (we recruit and place teapot professionals.)
    I think they moved to the restroom after the powers that be started locking the “meditation” (in reality, lactation) room to prevent abuse.
    No idea why they can’t use an empty conference room.

  85. JustShutUpAlready*

    I’m not sure I have it in me (no pun intended) to make loud, fake on-demand bodily noises that could potentially scare the offender out of her stall. I think I would start laughing and ruin the effect. However, there are some great fart and otherwise apps out there that, played at top volume on speaker, that could motivate this clueless person out of her comfort zone. There’s that immortal scene from the movie Dumb and Dumber, when Jeff Daniels, who has chugged a drink laced with Turbo Lax, nearly blows up the mansion of his would-be girlfriend. The scene is on YouTube. Playing it at full blast, so to speak, could eliminate this inconsiderate stall hog.

    Finally, I might try, “Lucifer! Bad snake! Bad! I’m taking you back to your cage just as soon as I finish up in here!”

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