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Texting at the Table


Waitman
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Dinner 2.0?

I fucking hate this -- texting, taking calls, consulting your e-mail...I almost left a close friend to finish his dinner alone because he wouldn't get off the damn phone; my kids finally have had it beaten into them that their friends can wait an hour to have whatever vital and breathless dispatch they've dispatched returned; and if you tweet your fish course while dining with me, I will punch you.

This isn't a question of the loud jerk at the next table. It's not even a question of six people in a loud bar trying to figure out where to catch up with Jamie and Mark -- though that gets old fast, too. It's a question of whether or not people who choose to dine with you have some social, if not moral, obligation to love the one they're with, as it were, for 90 minutes or so. The linked article suggests that those of us who cling to this quaint belief are intolerant fogies (which I can't entirely deny), and that the times, they have a-change -ed. I suggest that this guy is a self-centered asshole.

Forgive me, but it’s Dinner 2.0. And again, I’m having more fun at these dinners than I ever have.

If I was this guy's friend, I'd let him stay home and buy him carryout. He'd have a blast.

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Taking the bait with a partially different view.

On one hand, sure, if two friends, partners, spouses can't stand to actually talk with each other over a meal they've both agreed to have, that's sad at best and, well, something more extreme I won't state at worst. Personally, I'd hate to think the art of conversation never becomes a relic so long as the earth is dominated by humans and not robots.

On the other hand, it's of course not that black and white:

1. If some amount of quiet checking (not talking on phones or doing anything to disturb others nearby) is understood to be okay between the dining partners, so be it. Who is anyone else to judge?

2. There is some generational divide on this but I suspect it isn't simply generational but rather more around philosophy concerning personal technology. While maybe offensive to some (clearly including Waitman), this is seen as very normal by many others. And they're not all twenty somethings.

3. If you and I go to dinner and we agree to leave personal electronic devices at home, is it okay for me to ask the waiter to borrow a pen to note on a napkin the name of a film you've just suggested to me? Well, if that's okay, that's what I might be doing on my iphone while you, at a nearby table, are feeling your temperature rise assuming I'm doing something else. A smart phone can be a note taking device and something used for many, many purposes aside from checking email, texting or tweeting. If we list out all the possible uses (a video feed to my childrens' room where I can see them sleeping soundly?), who gets to decide what's okay and what isn't? Of course, my view is that as long as we're a free country...well you know where that goes. And that goes for the restauranteurs also. If a chef/owner institutes a no cell phone policy (or uses readily available technology to disable them in her dining room), that's their right and I can choose whether or not to dine there once aware.

At the end of they day, we all have all manner of things we hate or cite as pet peeves. If something really bugs you that your dining partner might do, then raise it prior and make sure you can reach agreement before dining to avoid getting up in a huff once at the table. Different strokes? Respect for all? Informed empathy?

For what it's worth.

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Another thing I've seen that's related to what Waitman brings up: wearing bluetooth headsets at the table. It must have been around 2005 when Michael Jordan and Charles Oakley were club fixtures, with MJ blinging a lit blue headset in his ear. Of course, just like when he shaved his head, half the male world follows suit.

I've seen countless dates between a well-dressed lady and some dude with a bluetooth headset in his ear, pretty much signaling that he's a button away from blowing her off. I realize it's a fashion statement, but I'd be pissed.

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If I understand you correctly, you are mainly railing at dining partners who seem unable or unwilling to tear themselves away from their electronic opiate for the length of a meal and not the solitary diner that may be using his or her device at their own table? If so, I wholeheartedly agree and am a recovering offender.

Solo diners can do whatever they would like as far as I'm concerned, however. My droid has a kindle app on it that I use all the time when I am out by myself. Sometimes, it's even a great way to avoid the attentions of the annoying barfly in the seat next to you.

And yes, wearing bluetooth devices anywhere in public is pretty much the epitome of douchery at this point.

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I can't understand how people can relativize this kind of behavior, and it is significant that they need a great deal of words to do so. Life is full of distractions, technological or otherwise, but anything that you intentionally do to divert yourself from someone you have chosen to be with is rude.

It is also rude to use audio and video devices, vibrators, ball gags and piss funnels in restaurants or other public places where they are not expressly allowed. This is so basic.

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I can't understand how people can relativize this kind of behavior, and it is significant that they need a great deal of words to do so. Life is full of distractions, technological or otherwise, but anything that you intentionally do to divert yourself from someone you have chosen to be with is rude.

...This is so basic.

If not relative, then absolute? Always and unquestionably wrong Irrespective of any additional circumstances, consensus or information that an angry, judgmental, and out-of-earshot observer doesn't and can't know? That sentiment is the essence of the words I chose as the first responder.

What if I'm using my device to find a digital photo to share with my dining partner? How about if I'm looking up the answer to something my partner and I are both discussing and struggling to recall and both want to know? OK if I'm an off-duty doctor or police officer helping or monitoring something that affects lives or public safety? Etc. Etc.

As always, good and reasonable people will disagree.

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If not relative, then absolute? Always and unquestionably wrong Irrespective of any additional circumstances, consensus or information that an angry, judgmental, and out-of-earshot observer doesn't and can't know? That sentiment is the essence of the words I chose as the first responder.

What if I'm using my device to find a digital photo to share with my dining partner? How about if I'm looking up the answer to something my partner and I are both discussing and struggling to recall and both want to know? OK if I'm an off-duty doctor or police officer helping or monitoring something that affects lives or public safety? Etc. Etc.

As always, good and reasonable people will disagree.

You've missed Waitman's point. What he is describing is exactly like being at a party where you are talking to someone who is constantly looking over the room for someone more interesting (important?) to talk to. Rude. Rude. Rude. Appallingly rude. No excuse.

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You've missed Waitman's point. What he is describing is exactly like being at a party where you are talking to someone who is constantly looking over the room for someone more interesting (important?) to talk to. Rude. Rude. Rude. Appallingly rude. No excuse.

Absolutely no excuses. This is a great example of the disintegration of what used to be called "good manners". Stuff our mothers tried to teach us.

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Dinner 2.0?

I fucking hate this -- texting, taking calls, consulting your e-mail...I almost left a close friend to finish his dinner alone because he wouldn't get off the damn phone; my kids finally have had it beaten into them that their friends can wait an hour to have whatever vital and breathless dispatch they've dispatched returned; and if you tweet your fish course while dining with me, I will punch you.

This isn't a question of the loud jerk at the next table. It's not even a question of six people in a loud bar trying to figure out where to catch up with Jamie and Mark -- though that gets old fast, too. It's a question of whether or not people who choose to dine with you have some social, if not moral, obligation to love the one they're with, as it were, for 90 minutes or so. The linked article suggests that those of us who cling to this quaint belief are intolerant fogies (which I can't entirely deny), and that the times, they have a-change -ed. I suggest that this guy is a self-centered asshole.

If I was this guy's friend, I'd let him stay home and buy him carryout. He'd have a blast.

I totally agree. I used to work with a woman who always kept her Blackberry on the table, even at lunch with colleagues. Mind you, we were all directors at the same organization. If all the top ranking people in the organization were at the same lunch, who was she expecting that was more important? It would be one thing if it was an isolated incident (e.g. child is sick, expecting call from nanny) but she did it all the time. Obnoxious.

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You've missed Waitman's point. What he is describing is exactly like being at a party where you are talking to someone who is constantly looking over the room for someone more interesting (important?) to talk to. Rude. Rude. Rude. Appallingly rude. No excuse.

Thought I acknowledged this scenario (with which I totally agree) with my first two lines in my original response. I was just trying to point out that someone using a smartphone could be doing many acceptable things depending on the circumstances. Maybe that's not controversial?

But, yes, in the scenario of someone constantly checking email, texting or tweeting irrespective of what their dining partner is saying or doing, yes, that's awful and decidedly rude. LIke the party scenario above--also rude. Guess we all strongly agree. Back to restaurant threads... B)

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Sorry but I have to disagree. We as adults can disagree without flaming or being nasty.

I agree that a phone call in a restaurant is inappropriate, and I always step outside for that. There is nothing wrong in my mind with texting or returning an email while having a meal at a restaurant.

Today during lunch, I received and returned a couple of emails to help resolve a situation at work. Today I was having lunch with kids while a situation at work came up. If it needed a phone call I would have stepped up, but my tapping on my iphone did not and should not interrupt anyone else besides me and my table.

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Just to clarify my own views since I think we're debating different scenarios to some degree and, even after re-reading, I"m not 100% sure what Waitman's original scenario was:

Scenario #1: my dining partner keeps checking/clicking on a smart phone for reasons unknown to me or for superficial reasons having nothing to do with me making any real conversation impossible. Rude and unappreciated.

Scenario #2: my dining partner is engaged with a smart phone while dining with me for reasons I know, to which I may be a direct party or are exceptional in nature as many of the examples already posted are (including mine or hm212's). OK.

Scenario #3: in a restaurant, I see another table with someone clicking away on a smart phone. No judgment rendered since I can't know the what or why of what's going on there and not my place to judge.

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I use my cellphone every single time I wait in line at Starbucks just to piss everyone else off.

Sitting alone at a bar, I might discretely text or jot down notes, always holding the phone below the bar so people don't have to see it.

At a table? Never.

And sometimes I think I'm the only person in the world who walks outside if I need to take (or make) a call.

I'll never forget the time I was having dinner at Marc Veyrat, and some asshole's cell phone starts belting out Bach's B-minor Badinerie as a ringtone. The whole dining room was stunned into silence - this was over ten years ago, and little did I know it was the beginning of the end.

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I can't understand how people can relativize this kind of behavior, and it is significant that they need a great deal of words to do so. Life is full of distractions, technological or otherwise, but anything that you intentionally do to divert yourself from someone you have chosen to be with is rude.

It is also rude to use audio and video devices, vibrators, ball gags and piss funnels in restaurants or other public places where they are not expressly allowed. This is so basic.

I think this sums it up well. Having done a little hopping last night with my initial post in mind, I recognize that there's a certain amount background noise that needs to be tolerated. A friend wants to join you and wants to know if you're still at The Pug or if you've headed to Granville Moore's; your daughter may or may not have a date with a graffiti artist and you probably should keep a handle on that. But no one voluntarily pulled out a device and, say, updated their Facebook page. Motive is important.

We did have to tell someone at the next table to cut it out with the piss funnel. though.

I use my cellphone every single time I wait in line at Starbucks just to piss everyone else off.

Sitting alone at a bar, I might discretely text or jot down notes, always holding the phone below the bar so people don't have to see it.

At a table? Never.

And sometimes I think I'm the only person in the world who walks outside if I need to take (or make) a call.

I'll never forget the time I was having dinner at Marc Veyrat, and some asshole's cell phone starts belting out Bach's B-minor Badinerie as a ringtone. The whole dining room was stunned into silence - this was over ten years ago, and little did I know it was the beginning of the end.

I believe that you and I were both told to cut it out with the texting by the same well-regarded chef, during dinner. In my case, it was checking up on the kid and I still felt guilty. You were probably just posting to some lame website. B) In either case, his approbation was well-aimed.

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There is no absolute right answer here because it depends on the venue and situation and, although many of you don't want to admit it, age. When dining at Citizen or backroom of Palena it's completely inappropriate but when dining at Radius, who not? It goes along with what you wear-I wouldn't walk in to Citizen or Palena in jeans and a t-shirt and when I have walked into Radius gussied up they all notice. It's about respecting the surroundings.

The exception to the Citizen/Palena rule for me is if it involves something important from a family member/close friend. A relative is currently going through some health stuff and I check her texts whenever they arrive, including during staff meetings I'm leading. (As a side note, I run meetings for a living and if I need to check my cell during the meetings I apologize up front to the parents and other professionals at the table. No one else has ever done the same.) If I were a parent texts from my children would trump any social rule, Citizen or not. A quick text can be read and sent discreetly under the table and everyone involved is reassured. It's one of the reasons phones come with the vibrator setting. (I'll let Waitman and Rocks wax poetically about the other reasons.)

What drives me crazy is when people sit down and automatically put their phone on the table. If we are dining together then why do you need to know who else is calling (excluding exceptions noted above)? I have a friend who routinely does this and it has effected our relationship.

What about listening to a mp3 player or reading an electronic device when dining alone or at a bar?

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What about listening to a mp3 player or reading an electronic device when dining alone or at a bar?

This is just me, but...

Listening to an MP3 player? That's very rude - you cannot interact with the staff or neighbors should that be necessary.

Reading an electronic device? I take my Kindle with me everywhere. I don't use the light on it, however, when I'm out.

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What drives me crazy is when people sit down and automatically put their phone on the table. If we are dining together then why do you need to know who else is calling (excluding exceptions noted above)? I have a friend who routinely does this and it has effected our relationship.

I do this sometimes in case my co-parent or babysitter needs to reach me and the place I'm in is very noisy. My phone is too large to fit comfortably in a pocket so setting it to vibrate doesn't work.

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What drives me crazy is when people sit down and automatically put their phone on the table. If we are dining together then why do you need to know who else is calling (excluding exceptions noted above)? I have a friend who routinely does this and it has effected our relationship.

Everyone I know does this except in certain situations (say, the bar is packed, and you don't want it stolen or beer spilled on it).

Let me rephrase that: most of the people that I hang out with regularly do this. The exceptions are typically when it's somewhere that it feels inappropriate. This weekend, when I had stops at Ragtime, O'Sullivan's, Mad Rose, Eventide, and a few other joints? Our phones were out. If we hit Ray's, or I'm on a date? Put away.

But we also had people we were trying to meet with, arguments about factoids, and other such electronic detritus of our lives. The work culture that I'm in, and the friends that I hang out with - I don't see it as rude if their phone is out and even being used occasionally. It's not the "you have to spend every second paying attention to me" just...the majority of the time with the group.

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I find texting rude – but then both my wife and I don’t use cell phones much at all.

I don’t really eat out much that much, so mostly I see it at group dinners where I’m not really close to the others in the group. It feels odd, I believe that everyone is at the dinner supposedly be there to eat food together and meet new people, but some segment of the group feels the need to escape the event they choose to attend and play on their phone rather than making the continual the effort to create/join conversations.

Generally I find it hard to create conversation but I still expect the others to stay attentive to the group as a whole – otherwise why not just eat by yourself? Sort of like I could only talk to my wife – which I do a lot despite trying to minimize it – but I still make the effort talk to others and add to the group.

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And sometimes I think I'm the only person in the world who walks outside if I need to take (or make) a call.

Well, not the only person, if I can find a quiet corner away from everyone else, I will take it, but failing that it is out to the sidewalk for me.

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How about this quote from the TechCrunch article? "Whats more likely? In ten years, everyone goes to a restaurant and talks to one another without pulling out their phones at the table or in ten years, the table is designed in a way to enable you to more easily use your phones? Thats an easy one."

I don't see that happening. "We'd like a table for four, with everyone looking away from one another."

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I put my phone on the table only if there is someone else joining my party who hasn't come yet, or if my Mother is on her way to meet me ANYWHERE because bless her heart she could get lost in a paper bag. But that is because I just generally cannot hear my phone in noisy places and am normally the person called for the I'm lost or where do I park, or I am running late calls (why am I this person?). I don't mean it to be rude, but if one of my dear friends is meeting me in the city and hopelessly lost and I don't pick up the phone say hold on walk outside and guide them in they are way less likely to do it again. I normally tell this to any other companions there with me, an excuse me I am going to keep this out in case so and so calls.

I also sometimes use my phone for taking pictures or calculating something. And on occasion to look up a debated subject. If it is a work time lunch I almost always need to check for any emergency work emails real quick. The you need to file something in such and such court for me by this time or a we just received an emergency motion or etc.

And when I am alone and dining or at a bar you will almost always find me playing Tap Zoo, Scrabble or reading on my iphone or ipad. I don't hide it, I am alone and keeping myself occupied, much like with a book or newspaper.

But other than some of the above few exceptions I generally agree that dinner is to be spent with your dinner companions whether at home or out, dinner is sacred.

Although I did have a lunch last week where we were exhausted and hanging out and I had out of town guests here for work that needed to check emails and asked if it was alright so then we all pulled out phones for a few minutes. But then we were done and devoted ourselves to a nice lunch conversing with one another.

And if you have kids, I would totally understand keeping your phone on the table in case of an emergency, or putting it on vibrate in your pocket (I often times have no pockets and won't hear it in my purse). But I think that is reasonable, especially with younger children.

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How did people ever manage without phones?

It's called planning. B)

My problem with cell phones (besides their placement on tables or worse yet, use, while dining)is their contribution to the obsolescense of the public phone. I'd much rather carry a couple of quarters than a a tether.

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How did people ever manage without phones?

It's called planning. B)

My problem with cell phones (besides their placement on tables or worse yet, use, while dining)is their contribution to the obsolescense of the public phone. I'd much rather carry a couple of quarters than a a tether.

Planning? Since just about everyone has a cell phone I think folks plan/cancel/modify with much more flexibility and don't think twice about late changes.

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My problem with cell phones (besides their placement on tables or worse yet, use, while dining)is their contribution to the obsolescense of the public phone. I'd much rather carry a couple of quarters than a a tether.

I'm also concerned about cell phones' effect on driving, sperm production, and brain tumors.

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Since just about everyone has a cell phone I think folks plan/cancel/modify with much more flexibility and don't think twice about late changes.

Guess I'm not just about everyone and I get along just fine.

Even if I did bother to carry around a phone, last minute changes would disturb me and not only do they make me think twice, they make me think I need more reliable friends. They're rude, just like talking on the phone at a table. B)

(not that I haven't ever made last minute changes myself, I just have the luxury of doing it by mail)

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How did people ever manage without phones?

It's called planning. :D

My problem with cell phones (besides their placement on tables or worse yet, use, while dining)is their contribution to the obsolescense of the public phone. I'd much rather carry a couple of quarters than a a tether.

I'm not a phone person at all. I hate talking on the phone, though it is sometimes necessary. I got a cell phone after a trip I took to Austin in 2002. I needed to contact people when I was there and couldn't find pay phones. Most of the ones I did locate were broken. It's amazes me now to realize that I drove back to DC alone on that trip without a cell phone. (And I drove Austin-San Antonio-Houston-Dallas at the beginning of the return trip.) That was a little more than 9 years ago but it seems like an eternity. Things have changed a lot in that time. I hardly ever use my phone (which is not a smart phone but closer to obsolete) but always take it with me in the car in case of an emergency.

I generally don't mind if people pull phones out in restaurants. I usually have mine on vibrate and rarely get calls, unless it's a situation where people are traveling and meeting up somewhere. Then I have it out and that's about the only time. I suppose if I were sitting with someone in restaurant, bar, deli or whatever and that person pulled out a phone the way someone would pull out a book or a newspaper and ignored me, then I would feel offended. If, on the other hand, they were checking a story in the paper on a subject we were discussing, I wouldn't be offended. Maybe if I had a smart phone and wanted to look things up, I'd be pulling my phone out (discreetly) too.

On a parallel (?) note, I've been wondering if it was tacky that I slipped away from the table a few times during a recent meal at the Oval Room and used the opportunity to check the basketball score on the tv at the bar B) . I was with my husband and he didn't care. I tried to stay out of the way of the servers and preserve decorum, but I really wanted to know the score and that tv was right there...I wouldn't say that was any better or worse on balance than earlier in the tournament when we were at a group business-related dinner and one of the bosses kept checking his phone under the table for the scores. He was polite and interactive about it, asking people which scores they were particularly interested in so he could update them.

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How did people ever manage without phones?

It's called planning. B)

My problem with cell phones (besides their placement on tables or worse yet, use, while dining)is their contribution to the obsolescense of the public phone. I'd much rather carry a couple of quarters than a a tether.

Last week, or was it now two weeks ago, with the government shutdown looming our friend who worked on the hill was stuck at work late and not at happy hour with us. She could more easily text us from work to tell us her status. I guess in the olden days we would have just had to assume where she was and what we should do to respond, or she would have called the bar who would have tried to find us. But after a bit she finally said she might be free in 30 minutes so we took the car and headed over to Capitol Hill to meet her for dinner instead, after all she had just had a long night at work. I think texting all this was probably less intrusive to the people around us than phones ringing, getting out of our small table to talk on the phone and come back.

All good no one disturbed and successful use of cell phone to make someone's night just a little better. And since her cell phone number is not a DC number, could not have used a pay phone, and trying to call her office = not fun. When I was 16 I was trapped in Denver due to a plane cancellation and at the time cell phones worked in a state only. Pittsburgh being the closest airport to Western Maryland my parents were on the road and across the border before we could reach them and let me tell you they were upset when their baby girl did not get off the airplane as scheduled. Hours later we finally connected, my Mother was bawling her eyes out at that point. I would rather have the convenience and annoyance of a cell phone rather than not.

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Guess I'm not just about everyone and I get along just fine.

Even if I did bother to carry around a phone, last minute changes would disturb me and not only do they make me think twice, they make me think I need more reliable friends. They're rude, just like talking on the phone at a table. B)

(not that I haven't ever made last minute changes myself, I just have the luxury of doing it by mail)

I wasn't saying that I think this is a good thing, just pointing out what I have experienced. Being a tech geek I certainly, heaven forbid, use my phone to text/search/surf/read articles when at a bar by myself (is it any different than reading a book or newspaper?) I don't like that aspect of the tech age. I am actually surprised that nobody has bitched about iPads yet. :D

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I wasn't saying that I think this is a good thing, just pointing out what I have experienced. Being a tech geek I certainly, heaven forbid, use my phone to text/search/surf/read articles when at a bar by myself (is it any different than reading a book or newspaper?) I don't like that aspect of the tech age. I am actually surprised that nobody has bitched about iPads yet. :D

Whereas I just don't take my iPad out to dine because I'll spill on it.

:)

In all seriousness, when I'm dining alone, which I almost always do so at the bar, I interact with the staff, but I do keep my phone handy for notes and for information. By contrast, when I'm dining with someone, I only pull out my phone when it's part of the interaction. Perhaps it's generational, but with a dining companion (singular), sometimes we have fun looking up the answers to conundrums. With a group, the only reason I would ever have my phone out is because I'm expecting some kind of incredibly urgent communication. Recently, at a team dinner, my boss -- one of the biggest Blackberry addicts of us all -- decreed "phones away" and we all did it, no problem. Then, at the end of the meal, for those of us who needed to determine if we had to get a cab one way instead of walking home the other way, the phones came out, with boss approval, and life went on.

The point of all that long-winded blathering is that, at least for me, there's a calculus involved as to what's appopriate. Yes, I was raised with good manners (this may surprise some of you B) ) but I believe there are times and places that using a smartphone -- which is what we're mostly talking about -- is ok. But I also know there are places where and when it's not, and I abide by that.

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It is also rude to use audio and video devices, vibrators, ball gags and piss funnels in restaurants or other public places where they are not expressly allowed. This is so basic.

Whoa!! Have you seen this stuff? If so, hope you had the sense to tape it for Youtube.
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I hate cell phones and then because of this I missed out on the chance to fuck Paris Hilton.

Waitman is pissed.

btw. People need to unplug just as much as musicians do. Try it, it doesn't suck - really - it's okay. Go without the damn thing for a bit. Bake some cookies or make a pate without being distracted, without even thinking about being distracted. Throw it into the Potomac and pretend you work at the Harbor! My sincere sympathy goes out to all the workers there. I hope they don't spend their down time yakking on their cells.

ps btw. Spend a little time watching all the droids people walking down the street with their cell out spending no time whatsoever observing where they are and making special connections with something someplace else. B)

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Whoa!! Have you seen this stuff? If so, hope you had the sense to tape it for Youtube.

I only heard of a piss funnel for the first time--I had to Google it--when I was offered a role in a baroque opera. I feel very sheltered very ashamed.

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Summary: As individuals, we're all wonderful people; as a group, we suck.

I've usually taken it as "As individuals, we suck, as a group, we're #%*-ing idjits" - but that might also not be helped by my general garrulous yet vaguely umbraged mood today.

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ps btw. Spend a little time watching all the droids people walking down the street with their cell out spending no time whatsoever observing where they are and making special connections with something someplace else. :D

We used to worry about "distracted driving." My latest pet peeve is distracted walking. I was walking down Connecticut Avenue not too long ago behind a young woman who was so involved with her smart phone that she kept bumping into trash cans, newspaper boxes, etc. It's the people who weave all over the sidewalk while talking (and walking slowly), so that you can't pass them and go on your way who really torch my socks. Don't get me started on the people on the bus who loudly conduct their business in earshot of a completely captive audience. B)

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The devices throw off light as well as annoying sounds (even when on vibrate). Those not using the devices can be annoyed when they see/hear others using them so some courtesy should be expected. Well in the old days it might have been expected. Huge numbers of folk do complain about the behavior.

On the other hand, the issues of being with someone who is texting while dining with you can be solved within the party involved: glares, kicking under the table, loud arguments AFTER the meal. Knives and guns seem extreme and should always be left to the privacy of a back alleyway or the home! B)

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The devices throw off light as well as annoying sounds (even when on vibrate). Those not using the devices can be annoyed when they see/hear others using them so some courtesy should be expected. Well in the old days it might have been expected. Huge numbers of folk do complain about the behavior.

Most restaurants, save some of the formal ones, are rather loud and bustling that I cannot believe a vibrating phone or a little light would be a major distraction or even noticed. And if someone talks on a cell phone in a regular volume, how is it different than talking with someone else at the table?

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Most restaurants, save some of the formal ones, are rather loud and bustling that I cannot believe a vibrating phone or a little light would be a major distraction or even noticed. And if someone talks on a cell phone in a regular volume, how is it different than talking with someone else at the table?

People, that is paying customers, complain all the time about cell phone usage. They do complain, but much more rarely, about conversations at the next table. That is how it differs.

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Don't get me started on the people on the bus who loudly conduct their business in earshot of a completely captive audience. B)

just to keep this about restaurants: on the bus on our way to radius the other night for the usual rapturous risotto and papardelle and high-octane martini there was a young woman in the back seat loudly arguing with her mother over the phone, telling her off because her demands at home were eating into the limited amount of time she had to spend with her friends. we got off at the same stop and she shoved and brushed past us, using her oversized purse as a combo shield and weapon, then stalking up the street toward columbia heights.

on my way to work on the bus a couple of weeks ago, i was immersed in my book -- joyce carol oates going on and on and on obsessing about the sudden death of her husband -- when i thought i heard sobbing. pretty soon i knew i wasn't imaginging something, the volume went up and a few rows away a woman was discussing the recent breakup with her boyfriend. it sounded at first like a death, and this went on and on and on. the bus was full, so the audience around her was truly captive, and the person sitting in front of her had to put down his book as she cried into his ear. she was ready to kill, but also shot full of arrows.

my solution when i am sitting next to a loud person on the telephone, and maybe it is uncouth, is to join the conversation. these three-ways can get pretty interesting. the person on the other end, when they hear someone else in the background, will ask who is talking. at that point, the telephoner usually says something lame, code for i think maybe i am sitting next to a crazy person and i had better hang up.

college students especially can get really foul mouthed when they are chatting boisterously with their friends, and sometimes i pretend i find their vocabulary offensive, if they are a seat away, even though i am not. but still, i'm not enjoying what i am hearing.

i don't know about restaurant policies, but there is a rule on metro, right up there with getting hauled off and fined for biting into an apple, about playing radios and loud earphones. some of these telephone conversations are at decibel levels that easily should put them in this category. maybe metro should put up some new signs, like the clever one they came up with this winter about not being able to drive through three inches of snow: keep it down or we will sever your vocal chords.

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Most restaurants, save some of the formal ones, are rather loud and bustling that I cannot believe a vibrating phone or a little light would be a major distraction or even noticed. And if someone talks on a cell phone in a regular, how is it different than talking with someone else at the table?

Because nothing is more annoying than only being able to eavesdrop on half of a conversation. B)

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