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Turn Your Phone Off Loudspeaker, Mum!

She's not the only Baby Boomer to have loud, proud and totally inappropriate conversations on loudspeaker.

28/05/2017 6:13 AM AEST | Updated 28/05/2017 6:13 AM AEST
H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock
When your phone is a megaphone.

Why do older people always have their mobile phones on speaker?

My mum laughs at the question. She's just hung up the phone and begins to tell me: "That was---".

"Lou, I know. I heard the whole thing. You had it on loudspeaker."

She laughs again.

"Well she wants to---".

"Catch up for tea, I heard."

I don't mean to dob in my parents as being old, let alone being old and silly, but I've come to realise they make almost every phone call on loudspeaker -- often with the phone pressed to their ear as though it's a normal call.

And they're not alone.

I have a friend who was telling her mum intimate details of a recent illness when she heard the unmistakable background static of a loudspeaker call.

Another buddy's work colleague has delicate conversations on loudspeaker, only jumping in to let the caller know the entire office can hear once they've already started to say something unbecoming.

Growing up where a home phone was the norm, does the intimacy of a personal mobile phone feel somehow wrong for Baby Boomers?

I've sat next to loudspeakers on the bus, have walked past them on the street and I know it's a terribly unfair stereotype, but almost exclusively the older generations.

I find it totally baffling. Why would anyone share their private and often inane conversations on purpose? Here's what could be going on:

Privacy. Growing up where a home phone was the norm, does the intimacy of a personal mobile phone feel somehow wrong for Baby Boomers? Do they feel they should have their conversation loudly and proudly to anyone in earshot?

Being inclusive. If you went to deportment school, as some Boomers did, surely you were told it's rude to have a conversation that excludes those around you. By having a conversation on loudspeaker, everyone in earshot can be involved. Maybe I should have weighed in on Lou's tea plans. Perhaps shoppers in the dairy aisle want to add their own two cents to that conversation you're having with Aunt Beryl. Really, it's the only polite way to answer the phone in public.

Ineptitude. Maybe they don't know they're hitting the 'speaker' button, and that's why they hold it to their ear. Maybe there's a way to set your phone so every conversation automatically happens on speaker and it's really hard to turn it back. Maybe we shouldn't laugh because, one day, we'll be old too, and have no idea how to work the iPhone 2000.3's hyperbeam without frying our hearing aids.

Hearing. My dad (who is a regular loudspeaker) says he can hear the conversation better from the loudspeaker, pressed to his ear, as opposed to the way the phone was intended to be used. I wonder what Steve Jobs and co would have thought of that theory -- that they got their speakers all wrong. In fact, maybe they should have made an entirely different phone purely for the older generations. The Old Apple (TM) could have extra large buttons, answer every call on loudspeaker and sometimes, as a laugh, sporadically call the owner's children on FaceTime without any prompts.

It could also have a new set of emojis perfect for parents including the I'm-not-mad-I'm-disappointed face and a special love heart, with extra love, to be sent in relation to grandchildren and granddogs.

Perhaps, when you get to the ripe age of grandparenthood, maybe you don't care who hears your conversation, because you've come to terms with who you are and what you think and you don't give a rat's who judges you.

You know what they say: Dance like no one's watching and chat to Lou like no one in the dairy aisle can hear you.

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