One Boomer’s cell phone irritation: Call It Echolalia

We baby boomers have seen a lot of changes. One of the biggest is the ubiquitous use of cell phones. Not just talking on them, but having to hear everyone else talking on them too! Author Roz Warren of Philadelphia, a town where people speak their piece, speaks hers about That Cell Phone Irritation.

Are you troubled by people who blather away on their cell phones in public?

I propose a new medical condition, which I’m calling Cell Phone Echolalia. Cell phone echolalia causes the sufferer to repeat everything a person who is talking on a cell phone in public says, at first in a whisper, but escalating in volume until it becomes a shout.

cell_phone_rantThis is how it plays out:

“I’m on the train,” the person in the seat beside me says.

“I’m on the train,” I echo quietly.

“I’ll be home at around six.”

“I’ll be home at around six,” I echo in normal speaking tones.

“Should I stop for take-out on the way home?”

“Should I stop for take-out on the way home,” I say loudly.

“I don’t know. Moo shoo?”

“I don’t know,” I shout at the top of my lungs. “Moo shoo?”

It's worldwide. Here are businessmen in Rome.

It’s worldwide. Here are businessmen in Rome.

At which point, the cell phoner will interrupt his phone conversation to demand, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

When confronted by the cell phoner, you say, “I am terribly sorry, but I suffer not only from having to listen to your insipid blather, but from a dire and incurable mental condition known as cell phone echolalia. As long as you are within hearing distance of me and continue to yammer away on your cell, I have no choice but to repeat whatever you say, however boring and banal.

They may continue to protest. Your response?

“I’m not sure why you’re affronted — clearly you think that every word you speak is a pearl of wisdom that everyone around you should be delighted to share. Otherwise, wouldn’t it be incredibly rude for you to inflict your inane chatter on the rest of us?”

Roz Warren, writer and literary critic.

Roz Warren, writer and literary critic.

Will this cause cell phoners to come to their senses, apologize for being a source of annoying noise pollution, and put their phones away? If only. These folks are far too addicted to the sound of their own voices to ever behave this sensibly.

However, given that there is no cure for CPE, you leave them with one option, which is to move, until they’re so far away you can no longer hear them.

Problem solved! (You’re welcome.)

Roz Warren’s piece first appeared on


  1. I get closer & closer to the person. I figure they will get the message. I was at the doctor’s office recently and this guy was walking around the office talking on his cell for a long time. I was standing in the corner reading my paperback (no electronics for me, I still don’t own a cell either …). Every time he strolled talking to near my corner of the room I came up to him and started walking by him and he would then go back to the other side of the room. I don’t think it worked very well though, he kept coming back, so I’d quickly walk to a spot I could block his way. When you are sitting next to someone talking on a cell, it works better – I just lean into them more & more 🙂

  2. I ALWAYS enjoy your viewpoints Roz! Love this…..Just happened to me waiting for my car repair. Inner rage starts building inside…..luckily she got my vibe of completely ignoring her and sighing heavily and she stepped outside….40 min. later still yapping as I Ieft. PEOPLE!!!

  3. I just start singing movie & Broadway show tunes–old, new, whatever, gradually escalating my volume.
    “Cheek to Cheek,” by Irving Berlin, yesterday in the bank made my teller laugh.
    But the guy on the cell phone, who was on the phone at a top volume all during his transaction, didn’t get it at all.

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