Observing the formalities

I ventured out of the house today for the first time in a while, just to take the air, as it were. I betook myself down to the downtown area of my little neighborhood of Boston, and wandered up and down the street, and in and out of the shops. At one point in my window shopping, I noticed a woman in her late 50’s, early 60’s, sitting in a booth at the little Thai place downtown. She was alone at her table, and alone in the restaurant, but for the server, so far as I could see. She was sitting there at the table, fiddling with her appetizer, and talking on her cell phone. I was somewhat taken aback, and I stood there for 2-3 minutes longer. She continued to stay on the phone, chatting and having a real conversation, gesturing with her hand and all.

I was so turned off. For some reason this woman’s apparent age made me think she’d have a better sense of public manners, but I then questioned my own sense of what’s proper. I thought this woman should have either wrapped up the call quickly, at the table, or better yet, gotten up to take the call out to the foyer of the restaurant or even outside. It shouldn’t matter that the restaurant was empty but for her– she was not in her living room, and therefore, should not have felt free to have a conversation in a public place like a restaurant.

I’m certainly not perfect. I have forgotten to shut off my phone at a restaurant. I have, on occasion, left it powered up on purpose, because I had to take a call. But I apologize, before I leave the table, and go to the foyer or the front sidewalk to complete my business. I do use my cell phone in public, while walking down the street or in stores. But I do try to pull over, off to the side, and to speak quietly, so that I’m not inflicting my business on others. I’m not trying to protect my privacy– I’m trying to protect yours, your right to not have to know my business, to have a quiet meal with only the chatter of your chosen companion, to be left to your own thoughts amid only the ordinary squeals of car brakes and greetings of in-person meetings.

I don’t know– maybe I’m being too much of a prude?


18 thoughts on “Observing the formalities

  1. Emily

    I dunno. If I was the only one in the place, and the servers had somewhere else to go so that they weren’t stuck, I think I’d do the same thing. I don’t like eating alone and having nothing to do.

  2. jess

    what is rude is when people are oblivious to their surroundings. cell phones are part of our daily lives now…for the most part. when i must use mine in public, i speak in a much lower voice and take care to remember where i am.

    i travel often for work and i’m astounded at how loud people talk on their cell phones…about business and their personal lives…

  3. TIV: the individual voice

    First of all, the server is a person. And people do tend to talk more loudly on cellphones than in the normal hushed conversation of a restaurant. There is something extremely annoying to me in the harsh loudness of people’s cell phone yelling in close proximity to me, I don’t care where it is, it feels rude and obnoxious. People should have to go to bathroom stalls to use their cell phones. Or better yet, they should reinstall those old fashioned phone booths that muffled the callers voices and make cell phone users get inside of those. I’m laughing at myself as I write this, but I ‘m thinking this is a genius idea.

  4. mike golch

    No you are not a prude,you are a kind and cosiderate person.It is my belief that I donot need to hear what you are talking about nor do i want to evesdrop.(that’s the governments business not mine) I thank you for being considerate of others,and I wish everybody would be so considerate of otheres as you are!

  5. CTJen

    BLC, I’m with you. I am sick to DEATH of people and their g-damn cell phones perpetually attached to their ears–always gabbing loudly into the head set or hand set, oblivious to the other people around them. It makes me so freakin’ mad! Even my two best girlfriends are terribly rude when it comes to taking calls and carrying on long, drawn out conversations with other people when they are supposed to be visiting with me. One friend even had a 20 minute conversation on a cell phone while we were driving somewhere together–in ITALIAN. ARGH!!!

  6. thordora

    Depends. If she was a yeller, I’d be annoyed. i cannot STAND people who have conversations on mobiles that are screams. If you need to yell to be heard because of reception, find a land line or go outside.

    Normal conversation volume? Meh. I get more annoyed by yattery women than cell phones. Just so long as it doesn’t become an irritant in terms of volume (or content). (Plus, if she has a job that requires her to be “on call”, then she needs to take the call, regardless. Annoying but true)

    On the bus though….grrr…14 year old girls and cell phones are ANNOYING!!!!

  7. Eleanor

    I think I must have lived in DC for too long, where cell phones are permanently attached to everyone’s arm. I wouldn’t have even batted an eye at this (especially since she was alone in the restaurant). I don’t see the harm. Manners are for the benefit of those around you and are based on the circumstances. If the server wasn’t bothered (and how could you know), what’s the harm?

    Glad you still aren’t numb to this like I am.


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