How rude are you?
Manners are on the decline, as discussed in my first article on the subject, “How Rude Are You? Manners for Millennials.”
Good manners aren’t English country-home secrets regarding which fork to use when and where to place your dinner napkin. The essence of good manners is being concerned about others. Your presence affects those around you.
I’ll repeat: Your presence affects those around you. Period. Whether it’s for better or worse is up to you.
Let’s talk cellphones. It’s simple.
If you are in the physical company of another human being, do not touch your phone.
The person in your presence requires nothing less than your full attention, whether it's your spouse, your coworker, your best friend or the cashier at the market.
Really, honestly, the only exception to this rule is if you are a doctor on call. Or the president of the United States. And as one friend who survived cancer corrected me, if you’re waiting for life-and-death test results.
If you have a newborn you’ve left with a babysitter for the first time, fine. Check the phone, but don’t answer every call or text you get from everyone because the babysitter might check in.
Silence your phone in public — on the train, on a plane, in a restaurant, at work, playing tennis, in the grocery store.
Again, if you’re waiting for a kidney transplant, either receiving it or performing it, fine. Let it ring.
If you are with friends and expecting a call from the transplant team or NASA, clarify this immediately upon arriving. If you are at a restaurant, and absolutely must take the call, here’s how.
How to Answer Your Cell Phone Thoughtfully in a Restaurant
- Tell the caller, “One moment, please,” while you ...
- Step outside.
Outside the restaurant. Or the library. Or the church. Let me clarify. Go outside.
What if its 120° degrees in Phoenix or -20° in Buffalo? How important is the call?
You are louder than you think you are. Your voice is carrying to every table where people are paying for peace and quiet and a good meal, or are escaping away from the chaos of life to read a book or say a prayer.
Take the call outside.
Recently my husband and I went to a tavern in my little upstate NY town, the only attempt at a restaurant we have. A musician was playing acoustic guitar. Very relaxing.
The restaurant was mostly empty. Then the woman at the table next to ours — I could reach out and touch it — started watching videos on her phone, full volume. A grown woman.
Once I overcame my disbelief, I made eye contact with the woman and shook my head. She made the universal raised-eyebrows sign of confusion.
And I said, “That’s very loud.”
She turned off the volume. I was hoping for a profuse apology.
Note that I did not start with a diatribe on the decline of manners (I can do that here) or tell her she was rude, despite my strong desire to do so. If you feel the need to correct someone’s use of a cellphone, stick to the facts.
- “Pardon me, that’s very distracting.”
- “Would you mind shutting of the volume?”
- “I’m sorry, cellphone use is not appropriate here.”
Or, like me, you can take a more brittle, aging Dowager Countess approach: Shake head in disapproval while trying to establish eye contact.
Stick to the facts. Don’t die on your sword for civility. Live by example.
Did you learn anything? Have suggestions for future articles on manners, or questions on proper etiquette?
Let me know at ]]>[email protected]]]>
Edited by Jody Smith