Please don't listen to YouTube in a crowded train wo headphones
December 5, 2018 10:39 AM   Subscribe

Writing from a crowded waiting room where four (4!) Phones are competing to fill the airspace with (variously) 2 news programs, one makeup tutorial and one video about a bouncing dog teaching multiplication. I know that cell phone blockers are illegal, but does anything exist that would allow me to electromagnetically block cell phone speakers?
posted by arnicae to Technology (26 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
If it was me, I'd use my mouth app.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:49 AM on December 5, 2018 [64 favorites]

For certain values of electromagnetically and block, noise cancelling headphones.
posted by zamboni at 10:50 AM on December 5, 2018 [11 favorites]

Sadly, it is against the law to block/jam cell reception. I don't know how you could block/jam speakers without a giant electromagnetic pulse weapon, which seems infeasible.
posted by Mid at 10:51 AM on December 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

No, but noise-cancelling headphones are a godsend to those of us who dislike being treated to an impromptu concert every time we're on public transportation. Even without music playing through them they do a good job of blocking sound.

Also feeling that cudgel suggestion. Big mood.
posted by ananci at 10:54 AM on December 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

Unfortunately public/civilian use of EMPs is also illegal in the US, and I'm sure in other countries as well.
posted by muddgirl at 10:55 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Using your own mobile device, Google "Gummi Bears theme song trap remix explicit lyrics version," (or, you know, something equivalent that actually exists) click play, crank your volume up to max, point your speakers out toward the center of the room, and make scary eye contact with each of the audio offenders in turn, jerking your head from one to the other sharply, like a robotic owl.

Hopefully, the next time you return to this particular waiting room, there will be a sign posted explaining their new "please set your cell phones to silent" policy.

Alternately, you could directly ask the receptionist/office manager there if they can do something about the noise problem.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:57 AM on December 5, 2018 [34 favorites]

I sympathize. The sole time I tried “using my mouth app” (in my therapist’s waiting room, no less, where you’d think I’d get a better response) I asked if someone could use headphones and they didn’t respond well.

Noise-cancelling headphones are expensive and it seems vastly unfair that that should be the go-to solution for this kind of intentional noise pollution. In some cities I’ve at least seen signs posted on buses saying that you are not supposed to play music without headphones, although there are none in the city I live in now.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:18 AM on December 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

Uh, sound waves are not electromagnetic. So no.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:31 AM on December 5, 2018

Don't bother confronting anyone blasting their media. They know they're contravening the social contract.** Don't bother competing with them noisewise, they will win, and I imagine the fact that you want to quietly disconnect them implies that such a confrontation is unimaginable. Noise cancelling headphones. Like Stuart Smalley said, "it's easier to put on slippers than it is to carpet the world."

**I think most of the people who do this are oppressed by the social contract and the status quo, so I find it difficult to disapprove.
posted by turkeybrain at 11:37 AM on December 5, 2018 [22 favorites]

I also got a hostile response on the subway once for using my mouth app. I feel your pain. I think one’s own headphones are the only solution. It solves the “hearing other people’s noise” half of the problem but doesn’t do much for the “I really want you to know you’re being a dick” half.
posted by Smearcase at 11:40 AM on December 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

Shoot - sorry - I read the title, and skipped over the fact that it's more like your peers that are doing the noise pollution. Anyway, aside from the socio-economic stuff, I still say sound-cancelling headphones. Also maybe hack the router if people are using the free wifi. That's not as illegal.
posted by turkeybrain at 11:45 AM on December 5, 2018

AliExpress has headphones for less than $1.50, including shipping. You could buy a couple and then hand them out, saying something like "I noticed you forgot your headphones. Here, I have an extra pair."
posted by andythebean at 12:12 PM on December 5, 2018 [14 favorites]

Honestly, if noise-cancelling headphones are too expensive you can just use earplugs or regular headphones playing some alternative sounds to focus on. (In the latter case the trick is to give your brain a few minutes to stop focusing on the noise and refocus on your preferred inputs.)

I have often wanted to give strangers a pair of cheap earbuds but never had the nerve to do it!
posted by trig at 1:09 PM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

The last time I saw someone use their mouth app on public transit to address a high-volume offender, they were quietly warned by said (offended) offender that another kind of man might have assaulted them for butting in like that, like you hear about on the news sometimes, and since you never know who you’re dealing with he shouldn’t disrespect strangers like that again.

posted by blue suede stockings at 1:16 PM on December 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

'Tis the season to retaliate with Pink Stainless Tail's rendition of Jingle Rock Bell at full volume.
posted by essexjan at 1:54 PM on December 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

One of the main problems with this is that it would also cause notification sounds to be blocked, and most often people want to know that their phone is ringing or chirping (I am not one of those people, but I think I'm the outlier here). Though ringing phones aren't great either, it's reasonable use of a phone in public.

I feel you though, it's something that happens in the library at Uni a lot and it is super irritating, but I am not sure that these people are 'wrong' as such. Yes, there is a social contract, but the contract differs a lot depending on where/how you grew up. Unless you are in a space that needs to be silent or very quiet, I'm of the mindset it's about defence, not offence.
posted by BeeJiddy at 1:56 PM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was hoping your question would get answered but since it hasn't, I refer you to my question on solutions for a rude and noisy world. I wound up buying this giant bag of foam earplugs and they have been a godsend. I keep some in every purse, bag, jacket pocket and my life is really better since I got them.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:45 PM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

AliExpress has headphones for less than $1.50, including shipping. You could buy a couple and then hand them out, saying something like "I noticed you forgot your headphones. Here, I have an extra pair."

Maybe this is a cultural difference, as it is commonly recommended on this site, but I'm not sure passive aggression with strangers is going to get good results - in the UK, if you wanted to start a brawl the only better way to do it would be to throw the first punch. I agree with noise-cancelling headphones, earplugs or a meditative practice.
posted by tavegyl at 3:31 PM on December 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

Mass transit, yes, your own headphones or earplugs. This is a waiting room. The people who manage the establishment need to manage. Speak to them, and ask them to address the room, or set up the policy and a polite sign for the future if you have to return frequently. Mouth app or offer of free headphones not recommended.
posted by Gotanda at 3:36 PM on December 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

Noise cancelling headphones
posted by JamesBay at 4:49 PM on December 5, 2018

Before you shell out a chunk of money for headphones know that noise cancelling headphones will reduce the frequency of irritating incidents but they won't eliminate them. I commute on mass transit and I own some fairly nice noise cancelling headphones. The headphones make life much more comfortable but about once a day there will be some jerk who manages to blast their music or worse yet conduct their telephone conversation at a volume level that leaks through the headphones. I've occasionally asked people to turn down their music but that hasn't worked out ever. I mean jerks don't stop being jerks because you ask them politely to stop.
posted by rdr at 7:07 PM on December 5, 2018

Don't noise-canceling headphones only work with consistent sounds, like engine noise on a plane?
posted by jonathanhughes at 8:08 PM on December 5, 2018

"Hey, y'all know that listening to your phone in a public place is super rude, right? OK, sure, but it's still rude. Look, I'm not going to argue with you. Great, thanks, I appreciate it."
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:38 AM on December 6, 2018

Or talk to the receptionist if you're not feeling that confrontational. Managing the waiting room is part of their job.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:03 AM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

To reply to the point about active noise cancellation working best with consistent sounds... Yeh, active noise cancellation works with low frequency, consistent sounds but over the ear headphones also give you passive noise isolation which reduces high and mid frequency sound volume. My experience of using ANC headphones is that they get rid of background noise, which on a bus or light rail is fairly loud. If you're playing music, you'll hear the train announcements as background noise and the bozo with a Bluetooth speaker as interfering noise.
posted by rdr at 7:48 AM on December 6, 2018

Most earbuds have the same interchangable standard for the rubber/foam parts that seal in your ear canal. Some replacement foam tips can be effective at "passive" noise canceling (cheaper than active noise canceling). I think one of the brand names of these foam earbud tips is "Comply," or similar? You need to roll/squeeze the foam before inserting into your ear, like you would do with a foam ear plug, to get a good fit.

You can also wear over the ear "earmuff" style hearing protection, over normal earbud headphones.

You can listen to white noise on the headphones to cover whatever ambient noise comes through.
posted by ethical_caligula at 4:43 AM on December 7, 2018

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