Tea and the Cell Phone

Doesn’t this Wedgwood Harlequin Cuckoo Teapot practically demand good manners? (ETS image)
Doesn’t this Wedgwood Harlequin Cuckoo Teapot practically demand good manners? (ETS image)

Someone talking loudly on a cell phone is an egregious behavior under any circumstances, but in a high class tearoom where everything is laid out with great attention to detail and to please the eye as well as the palate, such events are even more annoying. You, though, may not wish to be rude and annoying in return, so I shall share with you my experience and how it was handled in an effective and civil manner.

The Incident

The date had been set several weeks in advance to attend a special Afternoon Tea event at a very nice local tearoom. It was one of those places that was dressed up in lovely tablecloths, floral patterned bone china tablewares, and sparkling things virtually everywhere. It inspired its patrons to dress up, too, just by virtue of its own dressiness (that should also inspire the best manners, but…). Hubby and I came duly attired and with appetites whetted by anticipation of the delights to come. We were seated at a table, placed our order, and were feeling quite content. Then, they came in.

A group of six diners were seated at a table on the other side of the room. They were a mix of two men and four women, ranging in age from about 25 through possibly 50 or maybe 60 (it can be difficult to tell these days), and talked nonstop from the moment they came through the door. We had the impression from the bits of conversation that we couldn’t help overhearing that it was some kind of family reunion. Things quieted down as they studied their menus and then placed their orders. The henhouse-like chatter resumed right away after that. Then they quieted again when the tea and foods were served. Until the cell phone rang.

It was like a scene from a movie. They all started checking their phones until the one that was ringing was identified. It belonged to an older woman. She pressed a button, said hello, and then exclaimed “Haaaayiiiiiiiii!!!! I’m so glad you called. We’re all here and didn’t know what had happened to you…” and on and on at a decibel level that is against most city ordinances.

The Solution

We tried…I mean, we really, really, really tried to shut out her voice while attempting to enjoy our tea and the finger sandwiches, scones, and other savories. Hubby was doing a pretty good job, but I and a number of the other patrons kept throwing her withering looks that were totally ignored. So, what is the solution to a situation like this?

Option 1: Ask for a to-go cup for the tea and a doggie bag for the food, then pay your bill and stomp out in a huff.

Option 2: Stomp over to the rude person on the cell phone, grab the cell phone, and see if it fits inside their pot of tea. No, wait, that’s a waste of good tea.

Option 3: Call over the server or manager to your table, politely ask them to ask the cell phone yakker to tone things down a bit. I find it’s good when bothered by something at a business establishment (even a tearoom) to bring it to a manager’s attention in a helpful, positive way. It give them a chance to address the situation, if possible.

We went for Option 3 (but yes, we were tempted to do Option 2). The manager was very understanding, talked to her in a calm, respectful manner, and she huffed and puffed a bit but put the phone away. Conversation at the table was still brisk but at a sound level that at least let the rest of us in the tearoom feel that our presence was now being acknowledged. The rest of our meal went along much more enjoyably, something for which we are grateful to the manager.

See? A happy ending!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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