Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bluetooth in the Bathroom

Steve Yastrow has an amusing post on Tom Peters' blog (he of In Search of Excellence fame) regarding cell/hand/mobile phone (take your pick) usage. He notes that society is changing as we become more comfortable in using hand phones. People (presumably, he's referring to Americans in particular) are not as embarrassed to be seen talking to an invisible "other."

"Years ago, we started to see people walking through airports talking on cellphones with headsets. In order not to seem like wierdos talking to themselves, these folks would routinely hold the headset microphone to their mouths, so you could clearly see that they were on the phone.

"Then people dropped their hands from their headsets, assuming you'd know they were on the phone because of the cord dangling from their ear. After a while, the introduction of the bluetooth headset took away that cord, but by then nobody was self-conscious anymore, and it became commonplace to see people walking through airline terminals talking without shame to an unseen companion."

Now, it appears that men aren't afraid of talking in the one place that seems to have been the most taboo for guys having a conversation - the bathroom:

"Many times in the past year I've walked into an airport men's room and seen a lone man standing at a bank of urinals, actively engaged in a hands-free conversation with someone hundreds of miles away, presumably with a hidden bluetooth headset in his ear."

The question that struck me about this article is, how will Asian culture adapt to the Bluetooth headset? When I was in Korea, a couple years ago, I was introduced to the custom of covering one's mouth while talking on a hand phone. Speaking loudly in public is considered rude behavior in Asia, and Koreans (and other Asians) try to avoid doing so, especially while talking on a hand phone.

The question now is, how will Asians be able to keep their voice levels down and remain "polite" while using Bluetooth? It's hard to say. Here in S'pore, it's becoming more common to see people (mostly businessmen) talking away somewhat loudly while using their Bluetooth. But Singaporean society, in general, seems to be getting louder and louder (in their speech). It would be nice to see how this issue is playing out in some other countries, like Korea and Japan.

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