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Laptop slide show at a restaurant -- rude?

My SO wants to take his laptop to a restaurant where we are meeting his mother for lunch, so that he can show her some vacation pictures while we wait for our food. This will be at a fairly nice, quiet, uncrowded place, not a cafe with wireless internet. He thinks that the fact that it will be uncrowded and at lunchtime, makes it okay. And of course he'd close it and put it away when the food arrives. Still, it seems rude to me. I understand that he wants to have a topic of conversation while we wait, and we've certainly passed around photographs before -- but a laptop? Am I being silly?

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  1. As long as proper decorum is adhered to and the photos are PG rated, you're being silly.

    1. Seems ok to me. Same thing as passing around pictures, or even a solo diner reading a book. I don't see how it would bother anyone else in the restaurant. What about it seems rude to you?

      2 Replies
      1. re: carolinadawg

        I guess I'm (overly) sensitive about using electronics in public. Thanks for the quick reply.

        1. re: Glencora

          As long as your SO doesn't have these photos set to a soundtrack featuring Ted Nugent in a live performance of "Cat Scratch Fever" playing at full volume (because your SO insists that Ted and "CSF" must ALWAYS be played at full volume) then I think you're fine... ;-D>

      2. I can understand why the OP feels self-conscious. Some of us are reminded of work when we see the little screens at other tables. That being said, if the overall atmosphere of the restaurant compensates for the discomfort of the screen being displayed discreetly, I'd probably not mind at all.

        1. This may be obnoxious since others have already said that you can do this if you want but-I'm kind of sensitive to lights in a dark room. I don't usually confront anyone, but I'm usually doing an internal sadface about someone texting in front of me at the movies. But I wouldn't be bothered at all in a restaurant if you tilted the computer slightly away from the floor (toward the wall). Most laptops don't cast a wide swathe of light, and I wouldn't be bothered by your family showing pictures. I would say enjoy your family gathering.

          3 Replies
          1. re: ErnieD

            I would find it fairly obnoxious. Will you not be able to go elsewhere like either of your homes to view pictures?

            1. re: ErnieD

              Well, it's lunchtime so I doubt the dining room will be overly dark.

              To foodsnob, I see no difference in this and passing printed photos around. What IS the difference? And, no, one can't always go to someone's home.

              1. re: ErnieD

                I am sorry, but what place do you dine in that is so dark that a laptop casts a bright light, especially during lunch hour?

                I would find nothing wrong with showing some pics on a laptop, if it makes you feel better, pretend he is CEO and showing Powerpoints.
                yeah I think your're being silly about this. I can't see how it would be rude or to whom it would be rude to, but if he wants to walk around the room showing everyone your morning "Wakee!: face then I see an issue. :-)

              2. I think it might be an infringing distraction for diners seated close by. It certainly has the potential of being perceived as one. It doesn't matter what Chowhounders think. It matters to you what the diners at the resto think. Sounds like you'll be self conscious about coming across as rude. So to avoid, request a corner table in advance or have the resto seat you away fr other diners or or get a private room at the resto.

                Also, there's a possibility the resto may object. Ask in advance.

                2 Replies
                1. re: ilikefood

                  I am not sure how this is any different from a person coming in alone reading a book, paper,or looking at your iPhone. People do business lunches all the time and that has the potential to be a bit more distracting than a few people quietly looking at a laptop. It's one thing if you're going to a busy place in the evening, but this is a daytime lunch in a restaurant that isn't very busy.

                  1. re: queencru

                    queencru, If you can't see the difference, in terms of distraction, between a 15" "TV" on the table next to you and a book, I'm not going to debate the point. But that wasn't my point. My point was: there IS a possibility it might seem an improper distraction to a nearby diner, and the resto might not approve (small chance perhaps but why not easily avoid). Plus the OP, Glencora,seems self conscious about that. What's wrong with taking 1 or more of the easy steps I recommended to avoid any chance of taking away from what should be a totally enjoyable lunch?

                2. On the scale of irritating behavior I'd say this ranks pretty low. I guess if someone who was light sensitive was sitting right behind the person at your table with the computer, it might bother them slightly, but as long as you do it with sensitivity to anyone looking up all annoyed, I would think you should be okay.

                  1. Just do it without volume and you shouldn't bother anyone.

                    1. What ever happened to people using conversation to pass the lull between ordering and eating? That would be the only reason why I would be somewhat adverse to the idea of whipping out a laptop for show and tell...I think it's a good idea to force ourselves to practice the art of conversation sometimes.

                      Also, if you feel strange about electronics out in public, your mother-in-law may also feel uncomfortable.

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: soypower

                        I think the "art of conversation" will be practiced in discussing the vacation that caused the photos to be taken.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Perhaps I'm just old fashioned, but to me, a dining table is for dining and all that entails (i.e., conversing with your dining partners). I'm a little put off by people who feel they need some sort of prop or other entertainment device in order to get through a dinner. Granted, that's not exactly what's being discussed here, merely a device to share some pictures, but if generations before us could have meaningful conversations about their vacations with just words, what's changed so much?
                          Certainly technology enables us to share more things much faster, but is that necessary? At dinner? It appears that most think it's perfectly ok, and after reading this, I'll try to adopt a more accepting attitude to this...however, I don't think I would be comfortable doing it myself.

                          1. re: soypower

                            I agree with you, however I do think that this particular case, primarily because it is lunch in a casual restaurant, is a judgement/style call rather than a potential beach of etiquette.

                            It is a terrible shame that they cannot get together to talk about the vacation without enlisting the aid of a device.

                            This reminds me of a really sad trend I've noticed in families - children using hand held video games at the table in restaurants or older children/teens texting during the meal.

                            1. re: Kater

                              I don't think there is anything wrong with this. Going over to people's houses to view photos isn't always an option, and I don't think in the past people would have complained much about passing around a photo album. If you've visited someplace no one else in the group has seen or knows much about, it's much easier and more fulfilling to show things with pictures.

                              1. re: queencru

                                are they homeless or something?

                                I don't plunk a laptop down on the lunchtable. It's just not necessary. I've also never seen a person bring a photo album to a restaurant.

                              2. re: Kater

                                Yes showing photos instead of just talking about what you saw is a sign of the continuing deterioration of western society. Just like "kids these days" :)

                                1. re: DGresh

                                  OMG!!! this is SO funny! I am thinking of caveHuman drawings on cave walls, thousands of years old picturing a successful hunt! Humans have been using "devices" a LONG time to augment words!!! And I don't think there is a human alive who doesn't in some way augment their words with a gesture, hand motion or body language.

                                  Try it. Tell a story, do not change your voice in any way, use any facial or body motion. Bet you can't really do it.

                              3. re: soypower

                                When I've tried to talk about our African safari with photos, it's a bit lame. Somehow saying "we saw this pride of lions lying around on the side of the road" just doesn't have the wow factor that a photo does.

                                Also it was a casual lunch not dinner at Per Se.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  I imagine pantomiming the animals you saw to your companions at lunch might be even more distracting to the surrounding diners than a computer slide show without sound... ;-D>

                                  1. re: Servorg

                                    They can be rather loud and a few thousand wildebeests going through a dining room would be quite distracting. And other guests should be glad that photos don't have an olfactory feature cause hippos smell REALLY bad :)

                                  2. re: c oliver

                                    Talk about safaris and photos always reminds me of a grad school friend who got to go on a safari as a side effect of a geophysics project in Africa (tough life). She showed us a slide show of her photos when she got back which she entitled "butt shots of africa". Apparently animals don't always show their best side :)

                                  3. re: soypower

                                    people also used to live without electricity, airplanes, or penicillin.

                                    need is a poor guide to life. we need water, air, some food - maybe if it gets really cold some walls or pants. that's about it.

                                    1. re: thew

                                      Good point. And we can make vodka from the potatoes.

                                2. re: soypower

                                  Well, if all they do is talk about their vacation, it's not quite the same as showing some photos. A picture is worth..., so on and so on.

                                  1. re: PeterL

                                    Kinda hard to show off your vacation pics without the pics. ;-)

                                3. I say no problem, but if you're still worried, how about asking for a table in the corner, and make sure that the lap top is facing the two walls (that is, your mil then sits with her back to the corner). Nobody would even be able to see the screen, and be distracted, that way...

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Beckyleach

                                    Maybe her SO has one of those "privacy" screens for using your laptop (without prying eyes in the next seat seeing what's on your screen) on board an airliner, and they can fold that out and hook it on?

                                  2. Is it any different from showing her an album (album, a book like implementation used to store printed copies of photos)?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. Did you ever wonder, how it is that folks that seem to be the biggest tightasses are the ones that get a bug up there the easiest? Bring the damn laptop and try to avoid those folks.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: grampart

                                        OMG That is so funny I will certain be using that line again!

                                      2. OP reporting back. Some of the replies here are really funny! Is it so odd to want to show Grandma some pics of our son's trip to DC? I sort of miss the days of getting rolls of pictures developed, but that seems to be over and my SO has no intention of printing everything off the computer. So we're stuck with the laptop. Going to someone's home wasn't possible.

                                        What happened was that we ended up going to a nicer and more crowded place for lunch and decided not to open the laptop. The tables were small and fairly close together. It might have been intrusive. Afterward, since the weather was lovely (finally!) we had dessert and coffee outside at a nearby cafe. We showed her the pictures there. It was fine.

                                        I was being humorous (or trying to be) about needing a topic of conversation. I guess I'm the only person on the planet who sometimes feels tongue-tied with her MIL.

                                        4 Replies
                                          1. re: thew

                                            another word: ipad (are these actually words?)

                                            1. re: thew

                                              Yeah, its really easy to see those pictures on that giant iphone screen.

                                              1. re: carolinadawg

                                                i love looking at pics on my iphone. and its certainly easier to pass around than a laptop

                                          2. I really dislike other people's holiday photos! To me they are a real yawn. Anyway glad it worked out well for the OP.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: smartie

                                              Funny. I actually enjoy looking at vacation pictures. I'm curious about other people's lives. However, I know not everyone feels this way. I wouldn't "inflict" my son's vacation pics on anyone other than his grandma. Believe me, she was happy to be involved. Not a hostage.

                                              (Edit: of course it can be a yawn if it goes on too long -- but we're talking five or ten minutes here.)