The Curse of the iPhone at the Dinner Table

Categories: Complaint Desk

iPhone diner.jpg
Two men and an iPhone
"Is it just you dining?"

"Yes, my waitress, I'm a sorry solo sap. Thank god my iPhone can keep me company."

I tweeted that exchange from Princi Italia, the subject of this week's restaurant review, while enjoying one of the nicer lunches I've had in some time. Two days later, a story ran in the Washington Post about diners dating their iPhone's. The article explores solo diners who turn digital devices into companions while eating. Several chefs interviewed in the story expressed disdain with the practice, and some, including four-star chef Cathal Armstrong, admitted to indulging their devices while dining themselves -- but only between courses, of course.

Tim Carman, the Washington City Paper food critic turned Washington Post reporter, jumped into the mix, offering his own thoughts about his iPhone supplementing a date night with his wife. He's been advised that the behavior is frowned upon.

I thought about Carman's article while eating at Jackie's in Oak Lawn. Across from me two men sat at a table -- one in a suit, the other in a ball cap, one eating fruit and yogurt, the other drinking only coffee. The suit had a nifty little stand for the phone he consulted often. Way often. At least once a minute the gentleman poked, swiped or adjusted the device, all while maintaining a constant flow of dialogue with his table mate.

Is this OK?

I've had friends in the past who have buried their nose in their phone while we're out for dinner or drinks -- the practice made me want grab the device and punt it. And then, in perfect hypocritical fashion, I've found myself doing the exact same thing while out with other groups. When I do put the device down, it starts an itch, and soon I find myself running to the bathroom to check for texts, Facebook updates and tweets. ("Hey, look Leslie Brenner is tweeting about the exact same meal. Super.")

When dining alone I'm twice as bad. And it makes me wonder how many people, stories and other experiences I'm missing because I have to check my email, even though I just checked it five minutes ago.

Does the presence of your iPhone reflect your interest in your present company? Would you pull it out (your phone) with your parents at the table? What about a lifer friend you haven't seen in a few years? Would you pull it out (your phone) on a bad date? What about a good one?

Or is the presence of an iPhone at our tables just a sign of the times -- not an indicator of the level of importance we assign to our present table mates, but instead an indicator of the growing (perhaps perceived) importance of technology in our lives. Either way it's hard to disagree that we could use a bit more eye contact when dining out -- solo or otherwise.


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30 comments
mynameisURL
mynameisURL

I will eat your iPhone if it ends up on my table.

*NOM NOM NOM*

I just loves me some Apples!

Ralphy
Ralphy

I find it as annoying as noisey kids and over attentive parents.

Nancy Nichols
Nancy Nichols

I date my iPhone. Full confession: I slept with my best friend's iPad.

Querying Solo Diner
Querying Solo Diner

"Siri, where is this 'Jackie's in Oak Lawn' that Scott Reitz frequents to spy on nearby tables?""I don't know. It looks kind of like Lucky's to me."

MattL1
MattL1

I frequently dine alone, as I'm rather a misanthrope, and I see no problem with using my phone to read news articles and stuff.  

However, my rule when dining with others is, if you want to use your phone for any purpose, excuse yourself, leave the table, and do so outside of the dining room.

Simple.

Sturms_Bloody_Rectum
Sturms_Bloody_Rectum

Mrs. Rectum doesn't have a problem with me using my iphone while getting dinner. What's the problem, I place my order, drive to the second window, pay/pick-up order, and drive off. I'm back to paying attention on the road. #canonlyafforddrivethrurestaraunts

Kergo 1 Sapceship
Kergo 1 Sapceship

Just shut it off you turds....sheeesh; problem is, you people THINK you are important.  Must be an Italian thing.......at dinner, it's off!  I'm eating. When I get I the car to go hiking-it's off.  It can all wait.  Criminy, how did people get by in the 70's?

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Who cares what a solo diner is doing if they're doing it silently?

And I realize that opens the door to many a joke.

@theburbanist
@theburbanist

It is just a sign of the times. A few years ago it put me off; but no more. Perhaps it's because I hang out with social media/app people. I'm not sure what one is supposed to do when dining alone? Stare at your food in rapture? Why not rummage around on the phone and find a good article to read? If I'm with people the phones are always out on the table for easy access.

cp
cp

Replace iphone with newspaper (or even a book) and then ask again.

I think newspapers are perfectly fine for breakfast/brunch with one other person. And I think that either a book or newspaper is fine for a solo diner no matter the restaurant's pedigree. 

When you choose to go out and spend with others, you should be spending time with others. But often, you get a funny text or a picture or a joke and you want to share with your group. So yeah, I think that maybe it's a sign of the times, but also, good manners should not be left behind. 

Margie Hubbard
Margie Hubbard

My husband and I agree not to have them out the table.  Well, maybe just to send a picture of dinner to our friends in NYC.  Even then, he'll usually ask me if I mind if he sends the shot.  If both parties agree just about anything is OK, don't you think?!

jon from tjs
jon from tjs

disagree!  the iphone IMPROVES conversation.

"so i saw meloncholia last night. great flick"

"really, that chick from spiderman is in it, right? wasn't she in some other serious movie?"

"yeah, lemme IMDB that.  that's right, 'Virgin Suicides'"

"good movie.  i saw that with Brian. what's he up to these days?"

"we still keep up.  Here, i'll share his contact info with you"

JesseHughey
JesseHughey

No problem with people using theirs when dining alone. What else are they going to do, stare at the wall in front of them? But I'm kind of insulted if someone checks it frequently or leaves it out and fiddles with it the whole time. To me it says, "You're not as interesting in person as other people are via 140-character dispatches." Except when my wife does it. After 15 years together, I don't expect her to be riveted by my company.

ConnectiveTissue
ConnectiveTissue

I can't imagine checking your phone if you were eating with other people. It would be like reading a book while your dinner companion looked on. 

But I don't find it offensive for a solo diner to read a book or magazine while eating in a restaurant (depending, I guess, on the quality of the joint -- but I can't imagine eating alone at the The French Room in the first place). Similarly, if you're dining solo, I don't think checking your iPhone is beyond the pale.

Nick R.
Nick R.

Cool post! 

--Sent from my iPhone

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

Maybe this shows my age, but I consider any device (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, tablet) on the table and receiving attention during a social event to be an indicator of the importance of the event to the person with the device.

That is, if your device is on the table, you don't value our time together.

Business situation is totally different if both participants agree.  Those are modern "working lunches".

Mary
Mary

Was it one of those vibrating iPads? They're the best kind.

Jim
Jim

Here here!!!!!

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

I'm more annoyed by the sheer number of people who feel the need to be on the phone in their cars at 7 a.m. Who the hell wants to talk to you before 8 or 9?

Ralphy
Ralphy

I like to see pictures of the meals peoiple are eating;  and I think your phone edicate is both appropriate and respectful.......

leftone
leftone

what are you trying to say sending pictures of your food or dining experience to people? that you can afford your daily sustenance? or that you got a huge pie hole? seriously, before smartphone and facebook, were we all truly desperate to be able to share our half-eaten meals with the rest of the world??

cp
cp

except gay marriage, that's never okay...

twinwillow
twinwillow

Totally agree. If alone in a "casual" restaurant, it's no different than reading the newspaper or a book. And, it can be done with one hand. Thus, leaving the other hand free to fill your pie hole with.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

I agree with PD, when I'm dining alone..everyday for lunch..I have the iphong fired up.  Drinks with the wifey, I check it from time to time (twitter/CoA/Sportatorium).. but I leave it in my pocket when dining with the Inlaws and kiddoes.

Speaking of lunch yesterday, I tried out Redneck Heaven over in NRH..the Bluecheese and Bacon burger was cooked to order and overall OK..homemade chips were decent..but dang boys, if'n you likey your waitresses to look like Jessica Simpson's version of Daisy Duke..I've got a place to send ya!

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

Hey, bro.

Who's gonna take the Big-12-with-10-teams title?  Will OU win Bedlam in Stillwater, or will the little brothers from OSU finally step up and whup Stoops and crew?

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

What's going on PD? Saw your post about moving, Y'all need to come out for some steak (mentioning Steak makes this a food related post) and football watching before you leave.  We're gonna have a few people out for the UFC tomorrow night.  Holla!

I see the Big 12/10 finishing like this: Little brothers go down in a heap (hope I'm wrong), and effing Zero u wins another Big 12/10 title..but isn't close to getting a Natl Championship spot because voters aren't gonna forget about that Tech stinker.

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