Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Nerd phone stack at dinner
Photo Credit: Kate Hartman (http://www.flickr.com/photos/katehartman)
This morning, I was perusing my Twitter feed and saw that Stephen Fry had tweeted a link to a Yahoo News story about a new phenomenon called the Phone Stack Game. The premise is that when you go out to dinner with friends, everyone puts their phone in the middle of the table (in a stack, one presumes) and the first one who gives in to the temptation of checking email or text messages or perhaps even taking a phone call (do people still actually call each other?) picks up the tab for dinner. This apparently makes the dinner more “civilized.”

While this is fine as trends go—and I’m all for people turning off their phones at dinner and other social gatherings, such as symphony concerts—I can’t help but feel that there is still a significant portion of the population who have it in for the poor old mobile phone.

Not that I am such a huge fan of the things (heck, I’m still using an ancient Sony-Ericsson slider phone), but let’s face it, they’re here to stay, and I think eventually our social norms will evolve so that they will be more accepted. This is already old news among young people. They don’t seem to have any qualms about checking their phones and socializing at the same time. Indeed, for teens, the two appear to be one and the same thing. So I think anyone younger than 20 would probably view the Phone Stack Game as rather quaint.

To me the bigger problem is the “loud talking” phenomenon. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Whether in restaurants, on airplanes, or in quiet places like museums—in fact, just about anywhere—loud talkers are incredibly annoying. They cheerfully blather away at 110 decibels, oblivious to the rattling window panes and bloodied eardrums they leave in their wakes. In fact, the only thing worse than a loud talker is a loud talker on the phone, and this is where I think the mobile phone gets a much worse rap than it deserves. 

I’m not sure why this is, but it seems to be a universal human phenomenon that when we are speaking to someone who is not in the room with us, whether it’s on the phone or on Skype, we tend to speak louder. Perhaps because the other person is not right next to us, we feel on some subconscious level that it’s as though they were in the next room, and hence we need to raise our voice to be heard. 

So forget the Phone Stack Game, here’s one bit of cell-phone etiquette that I wish were more common: When you’re on the phone, just speak normally! There’s no need to shout; the other party will hear you just fine, and you’ll avoid so many dirty looks. In exchange, I’d let you use your phone at the dinner table and not make you pick up the tab.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Never played it but I like it. I'll sign up for it.