Bluetooth Zombies Stalk Our Travel Spaces

no bluetooth sign arinell pizza If you’re a frequent traveler you’ve seen them. Unlike real zombies, they don’t just come out at night; they stalk airports, hotel lobbies and various modes of public transport everywhere. They’re Bluetooth zombies, roaming our travel spaces, spewing words forth, loudly, into our public spaces.

This morning, at a business class hotel in the Midwest, I had breakfast next to a woman who spent her entire breakfast, and mine too, making a series of hands-free calls loud enough for the entire room to hear. I’m not sure why, but there is something about travelers who are constantly on the phone as they walk through airport corridors, eat their breakfast at the hotel or stand in line at the car rental counter that is disconcerting to me.At first, you hear them talking but see no phone and wonder if they’re talking to themselves or someone else in the vicinity. How are these folks any different than any other travelers who walk around using mobile phones? It might be my imagination, but it seems like they tend to talk louder in public spaces than normal callers. I’m not sure if this is because they’re overcompensating for the fact that they aren’t directing their voice into a device or if they only seem louder because their voice booms out into the air, rather than into a device.

zombies at mcdonaldsAlso, Bluetooth zombies are more empowered to multitask, since they aren’t using their hands to hold a phone. This means that many think nothing of continuing their conversation while ordering their coffee or meal at the airport, checking into or out of a hotel, renting a car and so on. Some businesses, like Arinell Pizza in San Francisco, refuse to serve people who are talking on Bluetooth devices, and I don’t blame them (see their illustration above).

If you have to physically hold a phone, it’s a bit more cumbersome to be taking your food tray, digging into your wallet or purse for ID, credit cards or money and the like. The Bluetooth zombie is free to keep talking, oblivious to the world.

I know that business travelers have to make calls while on the road to earn a living. I worked in sales for a time right after college, so I know how that goes. But I think this particular piece of technology, while perfect for making calls in a car, is a bit of a scourge in terms of inflicting noise into our public travel spaces.

If a traveler plans to make a longish call, or a series of calls, why not go to a spot in the airport with some privacy rather than doing so seated, in a crowded area, right next to a variety of other travelers waiting to board their flight?

Virgin Atlantic is already allowing in-flight phone calls on at least one route, and according to CNN, in-flight calls are going to be par for the course everywhere soon. That might seem like a frightening development, but there are two rays of hope. First, the calls will be expensive, so hopefully people won’t talk that much, and second, people are talking less and texting more anyway.

Some young people are barely capable of conversation, while old-school business travelers use new technology to inflict noise on the rest of us. But why is it that a traveler having a loud conversation on the phone seems more intrusive than two people having a face-to-face conversation at the same volume level in the same space? I have no idea, but there’s something about the army of Bluetooth zombies that march through our travel spaces that rubs me the wrong way.

[Photo by Disrupsean on Flickr]