Should Dinner Guests Check their Phones at the Door?

A few weeks ago we flew back to New York City to meet up with old friends. Having moved from Brooklyn to California almost a year ago, we were eager to catch up, face-to-face, with a lot of folks who had come to be family. Obviously all our reconnections revolved around delicious dinners at some of the yummiest Brooklyn restaurants, and while the food was delectable we were a bit dismayed by what our friends considered to be perfectly reasonable dinner table etiquette -- glancing at their cell phones after almost every bite.

At one such dinner, with 3 out of the 7 folks at our table with their faces in their mobiles, we became so irate that we slammed our fists down on the table and yelled, "No phones at the table!" Unfortunately, no one took us seriously. A similar scene unfolded at our last meal, delicious Indian food delivered to the apartment we were staying at. While our hosts were kind enough to keep their Blackberries and iPhones tucked away, one of our friends couldn't resist pulling out her Blackberry during parts of the dinner conversation to check her email.

While we completely understand that there are some folks whose jobs require them to be "on-call" at all times (my husband is one of those people, though, possibly because of this very fact, he hates his cell phone and only looks at it if it's beeping for his attention) we knew that none of the people we dined with had jobs that would ever have an emergency requiring their immediate attention. Our only conclusion was that our friend's other friends were more important than the very pal sitting right in front of them.

Now, not to sound too Andy Rooney about the subject, but this type of behavior just isn't acceptable to us anymore. We too have busy lives, and because of that we don't want to waste time with people who can't give just a few hours of their full attention to us. Sure, we're not about to start boycotting certain friends, but we are starting a mental list of folks who may not be worth carving out time for.

Speaking of carving, this shocking introduction to modern table manners got us wondering about what would unfold at Thanksgiving this year. While half the folks at our family's dinner wil be over 60, and likely to not even remember to bring their cell phones, the other half are in their mid 20s and early 30s. Is it time to start asking dinner guests to check their phones at the front door? We're considering putting a bowl at the front door where people will have to leave their phones before entering. Plus it may lead to some funny hijinx at the end of the booze-filled fest when people go home with someone else's contact list. Or can we expect a modern day key party? Either way, we'll be entertained.

How do you deal with cell phones crashing your dinner party?

Image: Sonia Zjawinski