Ask a Dilettante – Hang Up and Run

Why do some people talk on the phone when they’re walking/jogging at Memorial Park? Can they not go 30 minutes without their cell phone? The jogging trail seems like the one place you should be able to go without hearing cell phones and people’s annoying chatter. What can I do to solve this annoyance?
— Eric W., Houston

There are a few options at your disposal, Eric. But before we get to those, let’s think about why people make calls from the jogging trail. You know, run a mile in their Nikes. People who talk on the phone while hoofing it down the trail are in desperate need of recognition of their efforts. It’s not enough to be one of the nameless and sweaty going around the track. No, they need the “good for you” of talking to one of their friends who’s NOT exercising. Preferably one who’s sitting in a bar or at Chili’s. Or, better, at the bar at Chili’s. The fastest way to get one of these goobers off the phone is for them to call someone who’s in the middle of a higher cardio burn than they are – at that very moment. Perhaps someone who’s cross-country skiing with a Volkswagen strapped to their back while lifting weights and focusing on the core muscles. Sadly you can’t arrange for that, but there are other things you can do.

— You could strap a bullhorn to your waist and blow it at the jogging jackass as you pass each other. Trouble is, you’ll become more bothersome than the cellphone talker is, and I don’t think that’s your goal.

— An almost noiseless option would be to casually put your foot out as the distracted runner goes by, tripping them up and sending the phone flying. The problem with this one, besides the obvious threat of injury to both of you, is that you’d have to be really nimble to pull it off. Jog, jog, foot out, foot back, jog, all without missing a beat. And then you’d need to run really fast to get away.

— A different approach would be to hand the offender one of these. The issue with this option is you’d have to carry a pad and pen with you, which might require a fanny pack. Fanny packs are almost as annoying as people chattering into cellphones.

I think you should handle this issue by behaving the way that I do when I see someone driving a Hummer. Point and laugh. People respond to humiliation much more than they do a roll of the eyes or a flip of the bird. If enough people point and laugh at dumbasses with cellphones on the jogging trail (and other places where phones are really ridiculous – the restroom, the movies, in bed), those cellphones will dwindle in number. They won’t go away completely, of course, because some people have to talk all the freaking time. But a couple of phone conversations during your evening jog instead of a couple hundred is what I’d consider an improvement. Break a leg. I mean, good luck.

[This column originally appeared in its entirety on Houstonist.]