I was recently dined with a friend, about a decade my junior, who texted during the course of our entire meal.
Silence was filled in by his fingers rapidly clacking over the keys of his smartphone. He was also able to text and talk simultaneously. We didn't have a conversation, so much as get in a few words between electronic messages. Since texting isn't going away, we need to figure out some rules for the table.
I appreciate that texting is different than making a phone call. The former won't disturb your fellow diners, while the latter can literally take just a few seconds. Regardless, it doesn't change the fact that eating out with someone that is addicted to their Qwerty keyboard isn't a whole lot of fun. But we could take a cue from the cellphone providers and put together a set of agreed upon standards for texting while dining out.
Hands Free -- This one is the least likely option, but the one I'd favor. Your phone stays in your pocket or purse the entire meal leaving your "hands free," to do what people normally do during conversation -- gesticulate wildly.
Family Plan -- If it's not your family or an emergency, a response is not required. I have no problem if someone else feels they need to be able to reached at all times (it's the world we live in today). However, that's only valid to me if you agree to only be reachable if it's actually important.
Limited Minutes -- The appetizer and dessert course are free game. Text. Download a ring tone. Check your fantasy scores. However, the main course is a text-free zone. Give me at least 15 minutes of undivided attention. If Peter could do that in Office Space, you can do it at lunch.
If none of these work, I guess I could always try a different tact. The next time we go out to eat, I'll just text him, "HWZ UR MEAL?"
[Image via Flickr: Clare & James]