Cell phones are lifelines, connecting us with our business partners, our families, and our friends. At times, they are lifesavers, protecting us from danger or helping us to feel safe. They can also be quite annoying when used inappropriately. No matter how childish and tactless their owners are, cell phones themselves shouldn’t be banned from restaurants. They aren’t the guilty party; it’s their impolite owners who are at fault.
People have a right to conduct their personal and/or professional business over the phone in a restaurant, if they so choose. What would be nice is if they used understanding and awareness while doing so. Talking loudly because the person on the other end can’t hear you isn’t appropriate behavior. If you don’t have a good connection, hang up and try again later, or leave the restaurant.
If you’re the type of person who has to take every call, you may need to go see Dr. Phil, especially if you’re having lunch or dinner with family, friends, or colleagues. A phone call is just a phone call; if it’s important, they’ll call back later, and with voice-mail, you’ll at least know who was trying to get a hold of you. The point here is that whoever you are with deserves your attention and time. Don’t undermine them or lessen their worth by having to take every call that comes in. That’s just plain rude.
When dining out in a restaurant, people converse all the time. They laugh, and sometimes they even cry. They argue, and they discuss. Often, they’re engaged in private conversations; discussions that are low and inaudible even to those in the next booth. There’s no difference between these situations and the businessman sitting alone, talking on his phone. If it’s okay for me to hear him talking with a co-worker sitting across the table, then it’s okay for me to hear him on the phone.
The key is appropriateness, and more often than not, that is relegated to the volume of the voice, or the need to answer every incoming call even though you already have people at your table expecting your attention. If you’re truly expecting an important call that can’t wait, put the phone on vibrate. No one minds if you check your caller ID. Tell them. In this day and age, that’s okay.
In the end, there’s no crime in using a cell phone in a restaurant that is already known for being the place of many conversations. The cell phone is innocent; it’s the owner that occasionally needs to be brought to task.