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Nina In New York: Could You Dine Without Your Cell Phone?

(credit: ANA AREVALO/AFP/GettyImages)

(credit: ANA AREVALO/AFP/GettyImages)

NYC Breakfast

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York.
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By Nina Pajak

You know the feeling.

You’re at dinner with a friend, and there’s a lull in the conversation. Maybe you’ve just finished a course and you’re both marinating in your food coma. Maybe the laughter from that anecdote about a run-in with an ex just died down. Maybe you’ve hit an awkward silence after realizing for the tenth time that you two will never agree on Seinfeld v. Friends. Whatever the reason, your fingers begin to itch. You wonder if anyone has emailed or texted you. You wonder what’s going on with the game. You want to call a mutual friend to tell her you’re at dinner with so-and-so and, so, yeah. You wonder if you should be live-tweeting the argument going on at the table next to you. It’s rude! It’s so rude. You know that.

But . . . you . . . just . . . can’t . . . resist . . . the . . . phone.

But what if you reached over and remembered that you actually checked your phone in when you sat down, jury duty-style? That’s the concept at Eva restaurant in Los Angeles, land of inappropriate restaurant-related cell phone behavior.

More: Would You Give Up Sex To Keep Your iPhone?

If you surrender your device for the duration of your meal, you will be handsomely rewarded with a 5 percent discount on your bill. But, is it worth it? Can you bear to give your dining partner your undivided attention in exchange for a small savings? I mean, we’re far past the point where anyone would be asked to do such a thing in exchange for nothing, though some establishments still vainly try to impose rules to that effect.

But how would you settle the argument at your table of whether “Glycerine” by Bush came out in 1994 or 1996?* And how would you text your friend to give her real-time updates on the status of your dinner’s progression so that she may plan to meet up later at the precise moment you’re arriving at the bar?

More: Is Your iPhone Making You Dumb?

It’s hard for some of us of a certain age to think back to a time when we had no cell phones, and a plan was a plan, and dinner was dinner, and all sorts of questions went unanswered but endlessly discussed and debated.

But I suppose that’s all moot, and we are where we are. But that doesn’t make phone usage in restaurants any less obnoxious. I have to say, while I’d be loath to hand over my phone, it’s hard to admit that keeping it by my side during a meal out is literally worth a few dollars. This seems less about the money, and more about putting things in the proper perspective. Your friend can wait until you’ve finished eating to know whether it’s time to put on her shoes yet. And you don’t need to tell your mom that funny story you know she’ll love before you forget. And you can probably wait to find out whether Kevin Bacon was in A River Runs Through It.**

We can do it, you guys. I know we can. If our Bluetooth big shot cousins to the West can manage, we certainly can.

*It was 1995.

**Nope. You’re thinking of The River Wild.

So, what do you think? Would this ever work in New York City? Would you try it?

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Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

 Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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