I was in a situation last night where I was sorely tempted to play with my iphone at the table, due to a lack of conversation opportunities available to me. I didn't want to appear rude, but I wasn't sure how long I could smile politely at the centrepiece!
The scene was DH's work Christmas party. I had really psyched myself up for a big night of networking and making DH look good, something I find draining (I have high social anxiety) but am actually extremely good at when I put my mind to it (acting and sales skills put into practise!). During the cocktail hour we mingled, socialised, all lovely. Then we headed through to the formal sit down dinner. Although it was very formal it was not assigned seating, and the table we ended up at included 1 single. Meaning I had an empty seat next to me just due to where I chose to seat (normally I would have paid more attention but I was leaving it to DH to choose where we sat so didn't realise immediately that I'd sat next to a single empty chair!). For quite a long time it wasn't really appropriate to mingle. The whole room was seated during service, and with the exception of ducking out to the restroom nobody was standing. It was formal enough that waiters were constantly come to refill glasses and take drink orders etc. (Open bar!
Here was the setting:
1. To my left was DH. He was engaging in conversation with the single gentleman to his left. He wasn't neglecting me, but I also encouraged him to socialise - it is a work event, after all! Plus there is nothing worse than a couple at a social event ignoring everybody else to socialise only with each other the whole time, so of course spending the whole time talking with him wasn't an option.
2. To my right was an empty seat. The next seat over was the girlfriend of another employee. I attempted to make conversation with her at least twice but was rebuffed. She was not interested. She preferred to talk to her boyfriend to her right. He was also talking occasionally to the man opposite him but I was just far enough away that I could barely hear and it was a very "in" type of conversation.
3. There was a conversation happening at the opposite side of the table, however I couldn't hear as it was a large round table so they were quite far away. Trying to interject to participate would have been rude, I would have had to be very loud and interrupt!
The good news is that awhile after entrée was finished the lady 2 seats to my right went to have a cigarette (her boyfriend went too), and when she came back was noticeably friendlier. I actually wondered if he'd had a word to her about it! So that was nice. After the main course and formalities / speeches etc it was ok to mingle so DH and I visited some other tables and spent time with more people and had a lovely night.
But the question is, during the first hour or so would I have been rude to check my phone a few times? I did check it once or twice quickly (planning on using the "making sure the babysitter hasn't called" excuse!) and scrolled through my facebook. But the last thing I wanted was to be seen antisocial. Do you think that this type of situation is an exception to the rule? Or should I just have sat there smiling and composing stories in my head?