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Feb 7, 2008 09:37 AM

Cell phones and food

Is it ever ok to talk on a cell phone while at a casual dining place? How about a coffee shop? What if I'm alone at a table in Starbucks? Do you think that's acceptable? How would that be different than if I were having a conversation with someone in person?

Looking for feedback.

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  1. Jfood's position has been stated many time in the past and he usually gets bombarded but here he goes again.

    - It is up to the table participants to set groundrules for cell phone chatter at the table. When jfood goes out with his friends, usually someone gets a call from one of the kids. Always acceptable at Table Jfood for someone to recieve a call. With caller ID each person respects which calls s/he picks up. Everyone is very mature about knowing only certain calls are answered.
    - For the surrounding tables. Speaking on a cell phone, just like speaking to a person at the table should be handled at the correct and respectable decibel level. And keep the conversation in check. Too loud in either case is not proper. If jfood is alone at dinner on the road and is speaking at the same or lower decibel level than the people at surrounding tables, leave him alone. I don't stare at you for speaking too loudly, please do not stare at me for speaking softer on a cell phone.
    - Cell phones should be turned to vibrate while eating out.

    There is the Jfood feedback. He imagines he will be in the minority on these views.

    19 Replies
      1. re: jfood

        We're often out with people with children, and there are also times when my husband or I (or others) need to keep the phone on, sadly, for business purposes. I agree that the phone should be on vibrate. I also think the phone should not be on the table - I tuck mine next to my leg. If the call comes in, I excuse myself from the table to go somewhere discrete to take the call, and wish others would do the same, as I find it hard to continue the table conversation while that call is taking place. For some reason, most people talking on cell phones do seem to be louder than they would be in a conversation at the table.

        My strong feelings may well be coloured by too many experiences with visiting in-laws who have extended overseas conversations in loud voices at the table, and where there are five phones sitting on the table, with the ring tone on. It particularly bothers me in places where the restaurant has written on the menu "No cell phones in the dining room please."

        1. re: MMRuth

          A follow up thought: To me, the at-the-table cell phone conversation is somewhat akin to the arrival at the table of say a friend of one of the diners who comes over to say hello from another table. A quick hello and an introduction is fine, but an extended conversation becomes rude and an interruption to the dining experience, unless that person is invited to join them at the table. The difference with the cell phone is that you actually can get up and go elsewhere to take the call, whereas it would be odd to do so with this hypothetical passerby.

          1. re: MMRuth

            Great analogy MM. The friend showing up. Make the point, thank everyone for allowing the interuption and go back to the fellow diners.

            Soemtimes it is hard to get out of a table in many restaurants.

            1. re: jfood

              And your point about it being hard to get out of a table is a good one too - I know if my husband is expecting a work call that he has to deal with, he tries to sit in a seat at the table that he can easily get out of. And I guess, to finish the analogy - the quick call from the kid asking where the fritos are could be answered with a quick "in the cupboard next to the fridge" and hanging up. I do wonder though - when I was a child, my parents would leave the number of the restaurant with the babysitter - in case of emergency - and though I don't have children, I do wonder about the need for calls from children during the meal, other than an emergency.

            2. re: MMRuth

              Perfect answer, IMHO! Rudeness is always inappropriate, but there are times when the phone needs to be picked up and the matter dealt with. Quickly and quietly shows respect for everyone else within earshot!

          2. re: jfood

            Pretty much on the money. I think some people get so hypersensitive that one is on a cell phone that they don't think about all of the other people who are talking around them at higher decibel levels. I remember this happening to me once on a bus (I was talking at a very low level) when this woman kept asking me to keep it down. After the third time, I asked her if I was talking to somebody sitting next to me would she have done the same thing? She realized her error and apologized.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              There jfood was in a Boston steak house eating solo, reading his book. The mother-daughter to his right are discussing the new husband's inadequacies (OMG) and the couple to his left have come to the conclusion, between the appetizer and the entree, that divorce is the topic of conversation (bookend OMG's). Jfood feels that little vibrate on the belt, thankfully answers the cell phone and quietly says hello.

              The four surrounding customers give jfood "that look." Jfood's ready to introduce husband on the left to unsatisfied wife on the right. A true Seinfeld moment.

            2. re: jfood

              jfood, your last point should be first, and it should be in bold, underlined, capitalized, etc. this is my biggest peeve with phones anywhere in public; i don't have any desire to know when someone is getting a call or what they consider to be the coolest ringtone (nor do i wish to hear the entire effing sample play out before it's answered).

              otherwise, i don't have a problem with it if certain niceties are obeyed: a real person in front of you takes precedence over your call (especially if that person is anyone other than an understanding friend or family member and/or is trying to do something for you and get on with his own life/job); pick it up on the first ring/vibrate; if you aren't going to pick it up, then silence it immediately; use your indoor, polite voice and recognize that, if you are alone, there are no bodies at your table to deflect/absorb your sound waves, meaning that privacy is unlikely, and i have no desire to know anything personal about you; pay attention to yourself & surroundings, if you find yourself yelling to be heard over the ambient noise, then it's an inappropriate place for a call.

              like jfood, i think if it's a quiet, polite conversation that does not compete with any of the face-to-face ones around you, then no problem.

              1. re: mark

                jfood ..... as always, your stories are classic and well told. I am loving this one!

                Cell phones are a fact of life, and sometimes the call must be taken. But in social situations I always turn mine off, because honestly, nothing is more important than who I am with at the time. If there IS a reason I MIGHT need to take a call I leave the phone on, and tell everyone around me that this might happen. If the call DOES come, I say :"Oh, here it is .... excuse me" and leave the table as I am answering the call. I've even occasionally scoped out our restaurant for a potentially quiet and unobtrusive place to go for the durating of the call, so as not to bother others.

                I am oh so tired of listening to other people's conversations. I find this most annoying in airports. If we're all together, waiting for our plane, and you need to talk loudly to your BFF about nothing at all, yes, I will stare at you. If Im not part of the convesation, please don't share your half of it with me.

              2. re: jfood

                I agree with jfood's take on this: it's about conducting oneself in a way that respects those nearby. Hold a conversation at a reasonable level.

                I reject the "never acceptable under any circumstances" argument separately from the previous belief because I can think of many examples of a time when it should absolutely be not only permissible but encouraged to answer the phone. For instance, I'm on oxygen all the time, I can't get up very quickly nor move very quickly anymore once I am on my feet. If I were to get a call from the transplant center, I'm taking the call no matter the restaurant (or movie theater or bus or what have you). Unless one wants to argue that I should stay home at all times so as to avoid taking a cell phone call in a restaurant (and I don't think anyone is actually going to argue that) then in order to stick with the "never under any circumstances" argument, you'd have to argue that such a call would not be worth taking/important enough to warrant answering in a restaurant because of the possible intrusion upon others.

                All of this to make the point: sometimes it is OK. At which point it comes right back to individuals making reasonable choices about what times those are and under what circumstances. Rather than a blanket "rule" about what is and it not ever acceptable ,we should urge decorum and awareness of those around.

                1. re: ccbweb

                  Amen. I don't mind people on cell phones if the volume is the same as an appropriate level of conversation. What is unacceptable is loud conversation, whether on a cell phone or otherwise. It does seem that cell phone talk is more prone to high volume levels, possibly because of technical issues, but the user should be sensitive to that.

                  I was once part of a very heated exchange in a casual deli where a woman was on her cell phone for a full 10 minutes, speaking at a very loud volume that would have been offensive whether or not she was on the phone. A diner closer to her than we were asked her to keep it down and the man she was with got nearly violent...... saying something inane like "open your own restaurant, if you don't like it!". Several surrounding tables chimed in with a chorus of boos and the guy just got angrier. Could have been really ugly but the woman finished her call just then and the two left. Some people just don't get it. Or they DO but they get embarrassed and lash out.

                  On that same subject...... I find it odd how some people just talk in an extremely loud voice and seem to have no clue how loud they are. I really don't care to know every detail of someone's day just because I'm seated across an aisle from them at dinner. Hard-of-hearing I understand, and I guess you can never really be sure, but you'd hope people would be considerate no matter what the reason.

                  1. re: Midlife

                    I tend to get loud, especially if I am excited about something or find something funny. It's not intentional and my Dh constantly pokes me or gives me the look, but I am not being intentionally rude or invasive.

                2. re: jfood

                  OCAnn is w/jfood 100%...

                  ...and thinks that jfood should write a book on his food related experiences.

                  1. re: jfood

                    I agree, jfood.
                    -cell phone set to vibrate
                    -speak softly... this seems to be the part that many find challenging... I will give u "the look"
                    -Do Not be on the phone when the server is trying to take your order - rude!


                    1. re: lynnlato

                      Right. Moderation. I'm sure all those who carry their cellphones into restaurants will be happy to cooperate from hereon.

                      1. re: lynnlato

                        oh, i've got to say how much i hate it when a customer wants you to wait for them while they are on a call, but if you have to take a sec to do something that someone has asked you, while you were waiting for the said 'customer' they get all pissy for you not waiting on them right away. double standards...blech

                      2. re: jfood

                        I agree with you, too. Why do you think you'd be in the minority? I'd certainly prefer not to be interrupted by anyone's (mine included) cell phone at dinner, but let's face it, they do exist, everyone has them, and so long as people are reasonably civilized about using them, there are worse things about which to get one's knickers in a twist.

                        1. re: jfood

                          Jfood, I would agree with most of what you say if I ever encountered anyone who could have a cell phone conversation anywhere near the decibel level of a normal dinner table conversation. Simply doesn't happen. The one sided shrieking is totally unacceptable. That being said, if I get a call from one of my kids while dining out, I will certainly answer it... and then make a beeline to either the front door or the men's room for the conversation.

                        2. I think when at a restaurant, and you are eating, it is not ok to talk or answer your cell phone. heck, I hate hearing someones phone ring when I am in a restaurant.

                          But, I often go to coffee shops if I have a phone interview to do, I am a journalism student, and I am not at home. I go sit near the back, alone, get a coffee, my pen and pad and talk on my phone there.

                          If with company, I never think it is alright to speak on your phone for an extended period of time. If it rings, sure answer it, see who it is, say your busy and hang up. If it is urgent, excuse yourself from the table, and head outdoors for a second, but please, please, don't be gone for more then 5min.

                          Just my thoughts on the subject.

                          1. I don't think it is ever ok to be on a cell phone while ordering. I think it's rude to the person you're talking to and the person taking your order. Other than that, I agree with the original reply.

                            1. never acceptable, I always either dont take the call, or get up, and go outside.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: swsidejim

                                even if it's just an empty hole in the wall place and you're by yourself? is it also unacceptable to read the paper or a book in such cases?

                                1. re: luniz

                                  yep, unacceptable at a hole in the wall, no one is that important that they cannot either put a call to voice mail, or step outside, even though some in todays world some seem to think they are.

                                  as far as a book or a paper thats fine, unless you read outload you are not impacting those around you.

                                  I am curious how does reading a paper or a book have anything to do with this topic?

                                  1. re: swsidejim

                                    to me talking on the phone would be pretty much the same as reading something. it wouldn't be because it was important, just for the entertainment.

                                    you would never be able to hear me talking on my phone from another table, so i don't see how it would impact anybody. also, i don't see any reason for a phone to ever *not* be on vibrate.

                                    1. re: luniz

                                      someone reading vs someone blabbing on a cellphone at the next table are not even close to being the same thing.

                                      For the record, my phone is on vibrate all the time, and I take work calls from 4 a.m. until midnight somedays, and if I am out, I look at the number, and either pop the call to voicemail, or answer, get up, and go outside to take the call.

                                      I think it is just rude to sit in a restaurant, or a bus, or a mens room, and talk on a cellphone , so I dont do it.. Just my humble opinion.

                                      1. re: swsidejim

                                        If you are by yourself, and If the volume of your cell phone conversation is unobtrusive, what's the difference between that action and quietly conversing with someone eating with you at your table?

                              2. To those who yak away endlessly on cell phones in public places, e.g restaurants, buses, about topics that are not life-threatening or world-changing (I've heard hundreds of them), please know that those condemned to hearing your babble are quietly hoping that lightning will strike your fly.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: Veggo

                                  I'll just add my 2 cents which will reinforce much of what has already been said. If you are alone and you are somewhere casual, what is wrong with having a cell phone conversation at or at a lower volume than those surrounding you? As a parent, wife, sister, friend, whatever-what is wrong with receiving a call and briefly answering? It is definitely rude to be amongst a group socializing and carrying on a phone conversation. It is definitely rude to be on the phone while placing orders (unless the person you are on the phone with is being ordered for). Loud and obnoxious ring tones are...obnoxious. The thing is also not to get too unhinged over it. Say something if you feel it is safe, otherwise, do what makes the most sense.

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    What Veggo, swsidejim and Ashlyn819 said. It's never acceptable. Not ever.

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      Bus/airport does not equal restaurant. You are stuck at table at a restaurant. You can always walk away at the airport and find another seat.

                                      For those whose spouses travel for a living, that 'babble' is the most important topic and is life-saving (ok, as a working mother of toddler, mental health saving). And it often can only take place in public areas.

                                      Yes, be smart, be considerate when on the phone, especially in a confined space...but don't be so presumptuous that the conversation is useless.

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        unless you dine in different restaurants than jfood, there are very few conversations between to people in chairs that are any more "life-threatening or world-changing" than those that people have on cell phones.

                                        It should be the decible level and consideration, not the topic that should be key.

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          If the decibel level were curteously low, I would never know the topic, which would be my preference. Lovers' cellphone quarrels are predictably the loudest and often the longest, sometimes a couple thousand words, contrasted with the Declaration of Independence, which is 1322 words. The next most offensive topic is having to hear about a person's ailing health and all their recent or upcoming medical procedures, while I'm dining. But then I do dine in different restaurants than jfood here in Florida, sometimes called "Heaven's waiting room".

                                          1. re: Veggo

                                            At least once a year jfood does the Delray/Boynton shuffle. Jfood performs a self-lobotomy before going out to dinner. Be there by 530 wait 60 minutes out by 745 and there is no one waiting. You can show up at 730 walk right in have a nice leisurely dinner, Never could figure this paradigm.