A friend of mine was just telling me about a recent restaurant experience. She and a friend treated themselves to a lavish meal at a Japanese restaurant in which the food is cooked at the table. They were seated facing another party, a family who appeared rather well-to-do and elegant. But that image was soon tarnished when nearly every single family member whipped out his or her iPhone and began playing with it rather than striking up a conversation or even making eye contact with one another. It was almost comical to watch, my friend says.
This continued even as the chef was preparing their meal. Nobody paid any attention to him, and barely looked up when he handed them a plate. At the end of the meal, the young son (who was probably about 12 or 13) ordered an ice cream dish which involves the stovetop being set on fire in a dramatic display. It’s entertaining to watch, but the boy was so engrossed in his iPhone that he almost missed it all, forcing the chef to stop what he was doing and say, “Hey, hey, hey, look.”
The sole exception to this was the father of the family, who appeared to be considerably older. When his wife commented that it was no wonder people get so addicted to their iPhones, as there’s so much information available, he remarked, “Yes, but it’s also why people don’t say please or thank you anymore.” He was the only one not using a handheld device during the meal, and when the family left he said “Bon appetit” to my friend and her guest as he passed by. How classy! He definitely seemed to be part of an older generation that truly appreciated good manners.
As a civility expert, I’m determined to see good manners live on with each new generation. One thing parents can do to enforce this is to ban iPhones and other electronic gadgets from the dinner table. This goes for the parents, too. Turn your phones to silent during your meal so you can take the time to catch up on everyone’s news and actually bond, not silently wolf down your food while you play Angry Birds or text a classmate. It’s important to set a good example!