I don’t own a cell phone. I used to but I got rid of it. It never worked during those “emergencies” mobile carriers try and convince you are survivable only if you own one of their phones. Has anyone done a study proving cell phones make life safer and better? When you factor in the high bills, distracted drivers, traffic accidents, rude behaviors, and the occasional bout of brain cancer I doubt that it has.

I know most people can’t dream of life without cell phones. Personally I think they’re contraptions whose true value’s been ruthlessly marketed to separate people from their money. Ringtones for a buck? Data plans? Text messaging? Video and TV? In the words of Warren Buffet, “You make a product for a penny, you sell it for a dollar and you sell it to addicts.” And make them addicts while they’re young! Don’t believe me? They have cell phones for toddlers now!

I am not, however, a total antediluvian. Cell phones are miracles of technology and I know they’re here to stay. One day I might even have to break down and get one. But as a waiter I find cell phones a great annoyance. People using cell phones often think they’re creating a bubble of personal space within the public domain. Inside that bubble people think they can act like they’re at home – complete with yelling, inappropriate language and subject matter they’d normally whisper in private. Of course the bubble’s an illusion. There’s no private space – we can hear every word they’re saying! And if you ask someone talking on a cell to lower their voice or go outside what happens? They get all pissed off! This is very similar to what happens when people are confronted inside another artificial zone of personal space – their car. Ever heard of road rage? It’s the same principle! Talking on a cell phone while driving is like mixing Valium and Jack Daniels – not a good idea.

The development of technology has always outstripped the development of manners. Maybe, one day, social mores will evolve with technology and we’ll live in a quieter, more civil world. But until that day arrives I’ve decided to bitch about cell phones and share the hard won etiquette tips I developed after watching restaurant patrons act like idiots for years. So, without further ado I present….


1. Do not use your cell phone while driving. Pull over. Even hands free phones are distracting.

2. Refrain from using the cell phone on the subway, bus, airplane, and train.

3. When eating out do not use your cell phone at the table! (Unless you’re using the web browser to read Waiter Rant.) Go outside. I don’t care if it’s raining.

4. Talk normally. There’s no need to yell. If your surroundings are too loud maybe you shouldn’t be using your phone.

5. If you have to say, “Can you hear me now?” five times – they can’t. Hang up.

6. Do not interrupt a conversation with a real live person to answer your cell phone. (Transplant surgeons are exempt from this rule.)

7. Do not use your cell phone to talk to someone in the same room.

8. When out with coworkers or friends, constantly checking your phone for messages is annoying.

9. Text messaging while talking to another person is rude.

10. Your kid’s text messaging at the dinner table is rude! I can make them stop with a look. Why can’t you?

11. If your call gets dropped wait a few minutes and get into a better coverage area before calling back. Don’t frantically try calling me back NINE times in thirty seconds forcing me to listen to static. I don’t like you that much.

12. If you see a number you don’t recognize in your phone’s missed call log, don’t ring it at three AM saying, “Yo! I got a call from this number! You call me? Who’s this?” Pathetic.

13. Stick with one ring tone – you all know what I’m talking about.

14. Stopping abruptly in the middle of the sidewalk to answer your cell phone is moronic.

15. Make sure the thing’s charged when you leave the house. Restaurant outlets are not for your cell phone. Fluvio’s cell phone chargers already use up all the Bistro’s available outlets. (He has 5 cell phones, 2 Blackberries, and 2 PDA phones!) You knew this post was coming Fluvio.

16. Guys – when eating with other men in a restaurant don’t whip out your cell phones as you sit down and put them on the table. Nothing says “Gee, I wonder if his is bigger than mine?” than that little maneuver.

17. Put the phone on vibrate in a restaurant. Actually put it on vibrate everywhere. Put the damn thing in your pants if you’re looking for a little fun.

18. Unless you’re expecting a call from God – turn off your phone in church, synagogue, or the mosque.

19. Set the ringer volume below an ear shattering 200 decibels.

20. Don’t use the phone’s video camera in inappropriate places. Try using it in a strip club and see what happens.

21. Don’t keep the wireless headset plugged in your ear when not using the phone. The coolness quotient on that expired years ago. And while you’re blabbering into space don’t be offended if I mistake you for a schizophrenic. Sometimes I can’t see the headset.

22. If you’re running late the ability to call your boss from the road does not magically make your tardiness OK!

23. Having a cell phone does not mean you can change your plans nine times before actually meeting up with friends. Pick a time and place and stick to it.

24. Don’t have your friends call you with an “emergency” to extricate you from a bad date. Be a grownup and deal with it.

25. If you’re going to be late for a restaurant reservation please use your cell phone and tell us!

26. Turn off your cell phone at the opera, ballet, movies, live theater, and concerts. Again, transplant surgeons are exempt.

27. Turn off your cell phone before doing anything romantic – use your imagination.

28. Cell phones shouldn’t be allowed in schools. If parents are so concerned with their kid’s safety they shouldn’t vote down the school budget every year or elect local Mussolini clones to the Board of Education. Cell phones won’t teach a kid how to read or make then any safer. Besides – it makes cheating so much easier.

29. Answering your cell phone at a wake is the pinnacle of self involvement. You’re going to hell. Sorry.

30. Just turn the thing off.

Man, it felt good to just rant for a change. Feel free to add your own etiquette tips in the comments section!

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