In which I have a breakthrough in music-without-headphones-in-public etiquette

Put those headphones on!

You guys. I figured it out. Last night on the bus a woman sat in front of me and was trying to listen to a audio of Fun Home on her phone, without headphones. For the record, I’d estimate she was in her 40s or 50s, so shut up about millennials. She held the phone’s speaker directly to hear ear, but everyone within about 15 feet could hear the audio.

A younger man leaned across the bus aisle and asked if the audio was coming from her, and when she confirmed, he asked her to shut it off. She did, but rolled her eyes, and gestured to my husband and I that that man must be the unreasonable one. “I can’t believe him,” she said. “Well,” I said, “generally you should be using headphones for that.” She responded “If I have to hold it up to my ear I don’t think anyone else can hear it.”


I sort of refused to make eye contact for the next two stops as she continued to grumble, but my mind was racing. This is the problem! I sort of understand it. I’m extremely guilty of eating/crying/picking dead skin off my lips on the subway, assuming no one outside of my personal bubble is aware of my actions. It’s easy (maybe) to see how that attitude can extend to noise. So let us make it perfectly clear in case you were operating under this assumption: everyone can hear you, cut it out.

One thought on “In which I have a breakthrough in music-without-headphones-in-public etiquette

  1. These people are conflating “hearing something well enough to understand/enjoy it” with “hearing something at all”/”hearing something enough for it to be annoying”.

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