Do Cell Phones Belong on Dinner Tables?

Photo: iStockPhoto

A fun little conversation has broken out at the San Francisco Chronicle’s Between Meals blog. Responding to a reader who was annoyed by diners who place their phones on the table (making it harder for waiters to put plates down), Michael Bauer takes the hard-line: “I find it both discomforting, depressing and rude. Restaurants, for the most part, should be phone-free zones.” For the most part, his commenters are in full agreement (one writes, “Young people, egotistical, insecure and rude people, will always use technology as a crutch to avoid face to face human interaction. In restaurants, cell phone talkers, texters and such are just oblivious, inconsiderate losers”). Given that we’re the type to demand iPhone chargers in restaurants, we’re more inclined to agree with the comment below.

My, my, my; so much self-righteousness. People who engage in loud, boorish behavior have never depended on cell phones to facilitate their display of self-importance. But if someone at another table is reading the news online on an iPhone, or chatting at a conversational level, what business is it of yours how they’re using their time? Is it all that much more annoying than a seating plan that makes every conversation within a four table radius impossible not to overhear?

As for the staff people who don’t think there’s enough room on the table for four cell-phones and plates and glasses, what created that problem? The guests who dare to claim a 4.5” x 2.5” piece of table top real estate? Or perhaps the business plan that dictates cramming small tables cheek by jowl?

We’re not the type to carry on phone conversations at dinner, but we do have a guilty habit of placing ours on the table — partly because we tend to keep it in our back pocket and don’t want to smush it with an ass that’s about to be made even fatter by the meal we’re eating. Are we asking for a waiter to hock a loogie in our cassoulet?

Do Cell Phones Belong on Dinner Tables?