Dealing with phone calls during a meal


Dear Miss Manners,


My husband and I may be old fogies. We own cell phones, and we use them to contact each other, our friends, our family members and to conduct business. We know that cell phones are useful, but I think there is a time and place for them.

Recently we took my husband's son and the son's girlfriend out to dinner. While we were seated in the restaurant, the "girlfriend" asked the son for his phone so she could text a friend. She used the phone to text her buddy, right in the middle of our conversation, and effectively excluded us, acting like it was the most natural thing in the world. I was sorry that I hadn't brought my latest novel with me, so that I could exclude her right back.

Is it because my concepts of acceptable behavior are so old fashioned that I found her behavior terribly rude, or was she actually being rude? What is cell phone (texting) protocol? If it had been an emergency, I could have overlooked it. But right in the middle of a conversation (that she must have found boring), she chose to contact her friend. Isn't it rude to make a cell phone call or text someone when you're at a table in a restaurant, having a conversation with the individuals who are hosting you and paying for your meal?

I understand that she might have taken a call if her phone had rung during this little evening out, but I think a polite person would have said that she would call back in a little while. Should I keep my lips sealed and forget it happened? The next time it happens (because it's happened before), should I say something to her? And what would you suggest I say to her that would be effective and not alienate her altogether?



Gentle Reader,

Of course it is rude to ignore your dinner companions, by whatever means. Miss Manners knows that you don't really mean all those coy remarks about being behind the times.

However, another timeless rule forbids correcting the manners of others if they are not minors under your jurisdiction. And there is no point in antagonizing a potential daughter-in-law.

What you should do is to say to your husband's son, "I don't think Arbabella likes us." When he protests, you add, "She's so restless when she is with us -- using any excuse to get away from our company by communicating with people who aren't even there."


ANOTHER ALTERNATIVE IS TO SHOOT THE DUMB BASTARD DEAD...but, on the other hand, maybe that's a an overreaction...yeah, yeah, its definitley an overreaction...never mind