Excuse Me Waiter, There’s a Flashlight Shining in My Face

Is it acceptable to use blinding phone lights at nice restaurants?

Last night, my husband and I stopped by CBD Provisions for a post-work bite. We were seated at a corner table and chose to sit on the bench together with our backs to the wall. We had a superb view of the open kitchen and bustling dining room. We were lapping up the final drops of our cocktails, and scraping morsels of chicken liver mousse out of a glass ramekin with a butter knife when my husband groaned and threw his hand up to cover his eyes. Before I could ask him what was wrong, an icy white light shot straight into my line-of-sight.

The blinding ray, which was coming from a diner’s cellphone, bounced back and forth between us before stopping. Right in my face. The man had taken a break from looking over his menu  which he apparently needed 300 watts of power to read to have a conversation with his dining companion. All the while holding his phone steady with the LED attachment pointing directly at our table like a spotlight from hell.

His carelessness was so absurd that I couldn’t help but laugh. My husband, on the other hand, was deeply aggravated. I posted about my experience on Facebook, and like most things that are shared on social media, my rant was met with a handful of folks in agreement and then some who were sympathetic toward the flashlight wielding jerk. It got me thinking about phone etiquette.

Maybe I’m a fuddy-duddy but I feel that people should be aware of how their electronic devices — be it phones, iPads, laptops — are affecting those around them. If you can’t control your blinding LED flashlight, then maybe you shouldn’t use it?

Can’t read the menu? Then put on your reading glasses, hold a votive candle over the fine print. Heck, use the screen of your phone for additional light. There are other options. People have been dining by candlelight for centuries. If you must use your intrusive pocket flashlight, then at least have enough decency to place your menu in your lap and shine it down rather than in faces of powerless diners trying to unwind from a hectic day in a relaxed environment.

So, how do you feel about phones at the dinner table? Is it acceptable to shine a light on the menu if the restaurant is dimly lit? What is proper dinner table phone etiquette, anyway?

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