KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Where the Blackberry is Never in Season
Bay Area Bites: culinary rants & raves from bay area foodies and professionals
Previous Posts
Two Artisan Distillers
More Chocolate Cookbooks & Double Chocolate-Hazeln...
Spring at the Farmers Market: Fava Beans
Corn Art: The Great Tortilla Conspiracy
Cold Comfort Charm: Fondue
Depression (Era) Food
The Ahwahnee Dining Room
Burgers or Steak?
Starbucks acquires The Clover: Good news or bad ne...
BO-DE-GA: Food Choices at the Corner Store
 
 
BAB Guidelines

'Bay Area Bites' is part of KQED's Blog Authors Collaborative. Blog contributors and commentators are solely responsible for their content. If you're interested in writing or contributing to a blog on kqed.org, email us with your idea.
 
Friday, April 04, 2008
Where the Blackberry is Never in Season


Dear Miss Manners,

"When dining, does one place one's Blackberry to the right of the plate, or to the left, near the salad fork?"

The answer to this unsent question is, of course, never. I don't care if you're the Pope. Of course, popes don't use Blackberries. They use people who use Blackberries.

Hey there, Mr. Business Guy. Ho there, Little Miss Connectivity. You want to see a hand held device appropriate for restaurant use? Look down and to your right, it's called a table knife.

It looks a lot like the one with which I'll impale your (expletive) PDA if you use it one more time during your meal.

At some point a decade or so ago, P.D.A. went from meaning an improper "public display of affection" to "personal digital assistant." The employment of either P.D.A. is rude at the table, displaying a certain lack of respect for your dining companions. Would you like to watch your mother give good old dad a hand job during the salad course? No? Then what makes you think they want to see you texting friends or fielding phone calls over dessert?

It's not just Blackberries. Last night, I watched as two men ate dinner together. Not such a strange occurrence, except for the fact that one of the men did not take his iPod headphones out of his ears for the entire duration of the meal.

I saw a woman who was so busy texting someone as she walked through our very busy dining room that she hit the chair of a man who was rising from his seat. There was no, "Excuse me, I'm sorry," from her. She didn't even bother to look up. I was tempted to trip her to see what it might take to make her drop her machine.

It's certainly annoying when I have to repeat a litany of specials to guests who are too busy on their phones to pay attention to me, but I take that as part of my job. After describing something a second time (unless there is a genuine communication problem), I consider myself done.

But I'd be happy to text you about today's whole fish, if you like, you self-involved (expletive).

Like I said, it's an annoying aspect of my job, and I deal with that type of rudeness in my own way. What I find so terrible about all this abuse of take-it-with-you technology is the toll I see it taking on the other diners, and on basic human interaction in general.

For example, on Tuesday evening, I waited upon a young woman, her boyfriend, and her mother. The young woman kept her Blackberry on the table to her right. She'd eye it occasionally as her mother or her French boyfriend spoke. When dessert time rolled around and I came over to the table, the boyfriend said they had made their selections. The girl didn't take her cue to order because she was busy texting someone. He gave her a soft, sing-songy "Heeeey!" and waved his hand in front of her face as one does when one is uncertain of another's consciousness. She pulled away like a sulky toddler. I could see the mother squirm. I felt terrible for the boyfriend, but I wanted to smack the girl. Hard.

What's getting me so angry is that no one is doing a god damned thing about it. As a server, it's not my responsibility to teach people lessons in manners. At the restaurant, I will just give you a wan smile if you misbehave, though some days the urge is more difficult to resist than others.

I am not seeing the recipients of this technological rudeness-- the boyfriends, the business clients, the parents-- call these idiots to task about this bad behavior. Maybe it's because they themselves are too polite to say anything. Whatever the case, their silence is sending a very bad sub-text message.

How long has this complacency been going on? Not forever, fortunately...

True Hollywood story--

In the days when cell phones were called mobile phones and still somewhat of a novelty, John Lovitz, Julianne Moore, Phil Hartman, and two people I did not recognize sat down at a booth in my section of the slick Beverly Hills eatery I worked in while at university. Mr. Hartman entered talking on his phone. When I approached the table, I asked quietly if I should come back when he had finished. Miss Moore nodded. Perhaps, I thought, it was a very important phone call.

After a while, it became quite clear to me that he was just yammering away on his new gadget, rudely ignoring his dining companions, but I stayed away from the table, nevertheless.

After a few more minutes, Miss Moore motioned me over to the table. She quietly asked for a piece of paper and a pen. When she had finished scribbling, she handed the paper back to me with a "thank you" and a sidelong glance at Mr. Hartman. I nodded and excused myself to read the note. On the paper were Mr. Hartman's name, his phone number, and instructions for me to call him.

I marched over to the hostess stand at the front of the restaurant, dialed the number, and held my breath. He answered up my call with an abrupt, "Yeah?"

"Mr. Hartman? This is your waiter, I was just wondering if you'd decided on your order yet..."

Silence greeted me on the other end. Then a loud burst of laughter from both the receiver and the back of the restaurant. When I returned to the booth, Moore beamed, Hartman glowered. Fortunately, Moore picked up the check.

My love for her has never wavered since.

I think what the world needs now is more people like Julianne Moore. I'd suggest putting her at every dinner table in America if I didn't think it would be both exhausting and physically impossible. I'm sure she's busy enough as it is.

My point, of course, is that she got it. And she found a way to correct the bad behavior that was both funny and very effective.

I think that's what we all need to do.

I realize I've done a lot of name-calling this morning. I don't necessarily think the perpetrators are bad people, but their behavior is soul-killing. You want to invest in some great personal connectivity devices? How about turning off your iPhone for two hours and start using some eye contact instead? Face-to-face communication is far more effective than interface-to-interface.

As TennisPeter from Andover, Mass commented at Ask Annie, "Checking your Blackberry 24/7 doesn't make you important. It means you are insecure and lack the confidence to say, 'I'm not working right now.' " I am inclined to agree.

Oh, and while I'm on a rant, take that ridiculous Bluetooth thing out of your ear. It makes you look like some crazy homeless person who happened upon a dumpster filled with business casual clothing in his size. Sometimes, I like to pretend that these devices are hearing aids. I mouth my words with care-- slowly and with volume. And then I tilt my head and smile at the wearer in a way that says, "See? I'm sensitive to your special needs."

Can you hear me now?

I feel much better getting that off my chest. There is, however, one little favor I'd like you to do for me...

The next time you dine with the technology-addicted, kindly remind them that, for at least the duration of the meal, the phone gets locked back in its cell, the "i" retreats to its Pod, and the only blackberries allowed on the table have been baked into a cobbler. Smile when you say it.

If that doesn't work, gently place a ball peen hammer next to you on the table. Every time your tablemate touches his or her device, gently finger your hammer. If they pick up their phone, you pick up your hammer, and so on.

I think that might be one message they're sure not to miss.

Labels: , , , , ,

 
 

6 Comments:

Blogger Amy Sherman said...

Michael you are getting funnier by the minute. As in 500 anytime minutes.

4/04/2008 8:23 AM

 
Blogger Jennifer Maiser said...

OMG YES. I love this post.

The worst to me is having someone at a table constantly check his/her Blac kberry at a table and then tell you later that he didn't receive your email. Hello? I know you stop everything for every. single. email.

The lack of respect people have for the service industry never ceases to amaze me - I practically get ill imagining that people stay on their phones + PDAs while you are telling them the specials. Egad.

4/04/2008 9:04 AM

 
Anonymous Fatemeh said...

I know I am occasionally guilty of this, and have been trying very hard to curb the habit.

Blackberry was the best and worst thing to happen to me, professionally. While I'm no longer tethered to my office and laptop, I am rather addicted to my crackberry.

4/04/2008 10:47 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dining alone, for me, often means dining with a paperback novel or with an e-text on my PDA. I look up for the waiter or waitress, though! Bit different from the social situations described in the post and the comments so far.... I'm not always at a restaurant where the food captivates me. :P

4/04/2008 5:25 PM

 
Blogger Michael Procopio said...

Amy-- Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Jen-- Yeah, it's bad enough when I am not shown enough courtesy, as though I have nothing better to do than wait someone to finish a text. I am always polite, but extremely firm on these issues.

Is someone on the phone at the table when I am delivering their main course? I tell them, "So sorry. I'll just keep this warm for you in the kitchen until you're ready." When they have gotten off the damned phone, I'll bring the food.

Fatemeh-- Thank you for owning up! That is the first step towards recovery.

Anonymous-- Dining alone is rather a different story. You are not shutting anyone out (especially since you give your server your attention when necessary), you might be having "me time".

So sorry about the unexciting food. I think we all know what that is like.

4/05/2008 3:28 PM

 
Blogger Matthew said...

I've never worked in the food service industry, but I always try to treat my waiter/waitress like a fellow human being...not just a food serve-motron. That concept is a little unusual for some patrons.

Gizmo abuse in restaurants hurts the servers, other people with the perpetrator, and nearby patrons who may have to listen to annoying convos.

Not to mention while some of these people are on their gadget, their kids are causing havoc.

4/07/2008 9:51 AM

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Locate CP Restaurants:
Check, Please! Google Map
 
KQED Food Sites
Check, Please! Bay Area
Jacques Pépin Celebrates!
Jacques Pépin:
Fast Food My Way
Jacques Pépin:
The Apprentice
Jacques Pépin:
The Complete Pépin
KQED Wine Club
KQED.org Cooking
Weir Cooking in the City
 
Tasty Food Sites
CHOW
Chowhound SF
Crushpad
CUESA
CulinaryCorps
Eat Local Challenge
Edible San Francisco
Epicurious
eGullet.org
Food Network
Food Talk
Group Recipes
Hungry Magazine
KTEH Food
Leite's Culinaria
Locavores
Mighty Foods
NPR: Food
Om Organics
Serious Eats
SFGate: Food
SFGate: Wine
SF Station: Restaurants
Slow Food SF
Top Chef
Wikimedia Commons: Food & Drink
Yahoo! Food
Yelp: Reviews
 
Tangy Food Blogs
101 Cookbooks
A Full Belly
Accidental Hedonist
agoodfoodblog
An Obsession with Food
Anna's Cool Finds
Becks & Posh
Between Meals
Blogsoop
Bunny Foot
Butter Pig
Cellar Rat
Chez Pim
Chocolate & Zucchini
Confessions of a
Restaurant Whore
Cooking For Engineers
Cooking with Amy
Cucina Testa Rossa
Culinary Muse
Denise's Kitchen
Digesty-SF
Eater SF
Eggbeater
Extramsg.com
Feed & Supply
Food Blog S'cool
Food Musings
Food Porn Watch
Gastronomie
Hedonia
I'm Mad and I Eat
In Praise of Sardines
Jatbar
Knife's Edge
Life Begins at 30
Love and Cooking
MeatHenge
Mental Masala
Moveable Feast
Nosheteria
Organic Day
Passionate Eater
San Francisco Gourmet
SF City Eats
Simply Recipes
Spicetart
The Amateur Gourmet
Tablehopper
The Ethicurean
The Food Section
The Grub Report
The Petite Pig
The Wine Makers Wife
Vin Divine
Vinography
VirgoBlue
Wandering Spoon
Well Fed Network
Word Eater
World on a Plate
Yummy Chow
 
 
   
Search BAB

Eye Candy: Food Photos
BAB on flickr.com
Join Flickr for free and share your photos with the Bay Area Bites and Beyond group pool.
 
Food Books
 
The Moosewood Cookbook
by Mollie Katzen
 
Baking: From My Home to Yours
by Dorie Greenspan
 
Grand Livre de Cuisine: Alain Ducasse's Desserts and Pastries
by Alain Ducasse, Frederic Robertmison
 
The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking and Entertaining
by Cheryl Alters Jamison, Bill Jamison
 
Tasty: Get Great Food on the Table Every Day
by Roy Finamore
 
Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way
by Lorna Sass
 
The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa
by Marcus Samuelsson
 
Michael Mina: The Cookbook
by Michael Mina, Photographer: Karl Petzktle
 
What to Eat
by Marion Nestle
 
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan
 
Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate
by John Scharffenberger, Robert Steinberg
 
Romancing the Vine: Life, Love, and Transformation in the Vineyards of Barolo
by Alan Tardi
 
What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea -- Even Water -- Based on Expert Advice from America's Best Sommeliers
by Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page, Michael Sofronski
 
The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners
by Matt Lee, Ted Lee
 
Bread Matters: The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking Your Own
by Andrew Whitley
 
Coloring the Seasons: A Cook's Guide
by Allegra McEvedy
 
All-new Complete Cooking Light Cookbook
by Anne C. Cain
 
Modern Garde Manger
by Robert B. Garlough
 
The Spice and Herb Bible
by Ian Hemphill, Kate Hemphill
 
The Improvisational Cook
by Sally Schneider
 
Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children
by Ann Cooper, Lisa M. Holmes
 
Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia
by James Oseland
 
My Life in France
by Julia Child, Alex Prud'Homme
 
A Passion for Ice Cream: 95 Recipes for Fabulous Desserts
by Emily Luchett, Sheri Giblin (photographer)
 
Au Pied De Cochon -- The Album
by Martin Picard
 
Memories of Philippine Kitchens
by Amy Besa, Romy Dorotan
 
Simple Chinese Cooking
by Kylie Kwong
 
 
An Invitation to Indian Cooking
by Madhur Jaffrey
 
Hungry Planet
by Peter Menzel, Faith D'Aluisio
 
Sunday Suppers at Lucques : Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table
by Suzanne Goin, Teri Gelber
 
Simple Soirees: Seasonal Menus for Sensational Dinner Parties
by Peggy Knickerbocker, Christopher Hirsheimer (Photographer)
 
The Cook's Book
by Jill Norman
 
Molto Italiano : 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home
by Mario Batali
 
Nobu Now
by Nobuyuki Matsuhisa
 
Cheese : A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best
by Max Mccalman, David Gibbons
 
Bones : Recipes, History, and Lore
by Jennifer McLagan
 
Whiskey : The Definitive World Guide
by Michael Jackson
 
The New American Cooking
by Joan Nathan
 
ChocolateChocolate
by Lisa Yockelson
 
Easy Entertaining: Everything You Need to Know About Having Parties at Home
by Darina Allen
 
Cooking at De Gustibus: Celebrating 25 Years of Culinary Innovation
by Arlene Feltman Sailhac
 
Dough: Simple Contemporary Breads
by Richard Bertinet
 
Chocolate Obsession: Confections and Treats to Create and Savor
by Michael Recchiuti, Fran Gage, Maren Caruso
 
The Food Substitutions Bible: More Than 5,000 Substitutions for Ingredients, Equipment And Techniques
by David Joachim
 
Recipes: A Collection for the Modern Cook
by Susan Spungen
 
Spices of Life: Simple and Delicious Recipes for Great Health
by Nina Simonds
 
Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent
by Jeffrey Alford, Naomi Duguid
 
Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light
by Mort Rosenblum
 
Vegetable Love: A Book for Cooks
by Barbara Kafka, Christopher Styler
 
A History of Wine in America: From Prohibition to the Present
by Thomas Pinney
 
Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years Of Food And Art
by Tom Gilliland, Miguel Ravago, Virginia B. Wood
 
Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South
by Marcie Cohen Ferris
 
Washoku: Recipes From The Japanese Home Kitchen
by Elizabeth Andoh, Leigh Beisch
 
 
Weir Cooking in the City: More than 125 Recipes and Inspiring Ideas for Relaxed Entertaining
by Joanne Weir
 
Rick Stein's Complete Seafood
by Rick Stein
 
The Great Scandinavian Baking Book
by Beatrice A. Ojakangas
 
Serena, Food & Stories: Feeding Friends Every Hour of the Day
by Serena Bass
 
John Ash: Cooking One on One: Private Lessons in Simple, Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher
by John Ash
 
The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook: Eating Well for Better Health
by Donald Hensrud, M.D., Jennifer Nelson, R.D. & Mayo Clinic Staff
 
Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions
by Fernando and Marlene Divina
 
The Provence Cookbook
by Patricia Wells
 
Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World
by Gil Marks
 
Last Chance to Eat: The Fate of Taste in a Fast Food World
by Gina Mallet
 
Bouchon
by Thomas Keller
 
A Blessing of Bread: The Many Rich Traditions of Jewish Bread Baking Around the World
by Maggie Glezer
 
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
by Molly Stevens
 
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
by Harold McGee
 
Entertaining: Inspired Menus For Cooking with Family and Friends
by George Dolese
 
The Breath of a Wok: Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore
by Grace Young, Alan Richardson
 
Cooking New American: How to Cook the Food You Love to Eat
by Fine Cooking Magazine
 
The Japanese Kitchen: A Book of Essential Ingredients with 200 Authentic Recipes
by Kimiko Barber
 
Arthur Schwartz's New York City Food: An Opinionated History and More Than 100 Legendary Recipes
by Arthur Schwartz
 
Poet of the Appetites: The Lives and Loves of M.F.K. Fisher
by Joan Reardon
 
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes
by Jeffrey Hamelman
 
Everyday Dining with Wine
by Andrea Immer
 
 
Copyright © 2005-2008 KQED. All rights reserved.