Tuesday, January 12, 2010

also, that was weird about africa...

Today, the Chronicle's food critic Michael Bauer (I have never met him but I would totally freak out in awe if I ever did) posted a letter on his blog complaining about people who place their cell phones on the dinner table when dining. Apparently, this never happens across the pond. Our dear friend Eve Batey of the SFAppeal begged the question: phones on tables, folks?
It's a good question. And I very much like Eve's post asking that question. She points out that when dining with SFist's Brock Keeling, he bumps into the table and knocks everything over, phones and all.
It's true. Every single time.
Just as fun as Eve's querry, I like Brock's response.

"I do bump the table. Because I have to pee a lot. Especially when I'm forced to drink beer.
Also, phones should be left on the table, period. While I'm all for people not talking on the phone while others are trying to savor their offal-bacon-celery root cupcakes, or whatever, there are reasons to keep your phone on the table. What reasons? Like, not carrying a purse. And a religious-like refusal to wear khakis. (I wear pants the snug my every curve, thank you.) I refuse to appease a few critics who want every meal in the city to be like their families' tables back in the day.
So: no. Mind your business.
Also, people in Europe poop into a hole in the ground."

I'm posting this both as an example of what it's like to have conversations with Brock and because I wholeheartedly agree. Also, that comment should be elevated to a post of it's own. It occurs to me that after spending so much time with both Brock and Eve, I now put my cell phone on the table too. These two specifically gave me the official and unspoken green light on the immediate Blackberry placement (next to my fork, on the right). Only in mixed company do I question Emily Post's approval. And even then, as much as I enjoy sparkling conversation and lightly dressed frisee, what if something happens...

7 comments:

generic said...

This is a serious thing which I have fretted about. On occasion. Thank you.

Beth Spotswood said...

I was surprised to COMPLETELY AGREE with this lengthy comment on Bauer's SFGate post:

bbulkow1/12/2010 2:06:35 PM

I will, apparently, be the one pro cell phone comment.

Michael, of course you want to privilege the dining experience. It's your life. My sister wants to ban cell phones on airplanes; she thinks that should be the one quiet zone. I have another friend who wants to ban them in parks. Clearly everyone can't have it their own pet way.

For me, dining out is an everyday experience. Twice a day, usually. To suggest that I can't have a powered on cell phone for an hour a day is unreasonable. I eat alone at bars, I eat with my partner, I eat mostly at casual places and a few times a week at fancier places.

Some dining experiences are special enough to mandate a "no cell phone" experience. A particular group of friends, an exceptional experience. Maybe once a month.

Here's what I do, and it works:

Turning your cell phone to 'vibrate' doesn't work for those who need to be connected. The phone then vibrates every few minutes, and you have to pull it out and poke at it every 10, an annoying interruption. Instead, I turn it to *silent* and put it face up on the table, so I can occasionally glance at incoming calls and ignore them. Because, in reality, I need to take few calls.

That's why cellphone on table works.

If I need to take a call, or answer a text, I get up from the table and excuse myself, unless the situation is more casual or there are more people. I think it's good etiquette to explain to your companions why you're getting up from the table or going heads down into your device, although sometimes a simple 'excuse me' is kinder. Sometimes, if I'm expecting a call, I'll announce it early on - "I'm glad I can be with you tonight. Normally I'd cancel, because I have a discussion with Taiwan (dinner time is start of business in asia, so it seems like it's always Taiwan) that I can't miss, but I'll simply need a few minutes at some point during dinner. I hope it's not too much of an inconvenience, but I do really enjoy dining with you."

I agree with the comment that cell phone to vibrate only works for men, or at least people wearing shirts with pockets or jackets with pockets. Those pockets allow a quick glance at the phone, but I still find that a ruder experience than phone-on-table.

Regarding the table space issues: I find this problematic too. I think it says more for the size of today's tables, where one can't find a single 5 inch square free space, than anything about cell phones.

generic said...

Yes, yes. On the table, for a quick glance, makes it more UNobtrusive. Absolutely.

Anonymous said...

dinner time (8pm here) is noon in Taiwan, for what it's worth. It's start of the day in Eastern Europe. 8pm here is 7am in Moscow. bbulkow is really bbulshit.

mal615 said...

My stepmother taught me that the fork goes on the left...

Brett said...

I missed the law mandating an 8 pm dinnertime, apparently.

Brock said...

Really, right into a tiny hole in the ground. Horrifying.