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Phone Drinking Game

I’m a woman in my early twenties, and I was recently in a situation that I’d appreciate some insight on.

I have a fairly large group of friends whom I’ve known since high school. Some of us have now graduated from college, but we still get together on a regular basis. A few people in this group have a bit of an obsession with their phones, and always have for as long as I’ve known them. Whenever we’re together, they’re constantly texting, checking social media, or playing games. It’s annoying, but I usually just shrug it off and focus on the people who are willing to give me their full attention.

Recently, I was out to dinner with this group of friends. After we’d all sat down, one friend suggested that we play the “phone game.” I’d never heard of the phone game, so I asked what it was. She explained that everyone puts their phones in a stack in the middle of the table, and if anyone takes their phone out of the stack to check it at any point in the meal, that person has to pay for everyone else’s drinks.

I had mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I appreciated the fact that someone was making an effort to get everyone to pay attention to each other instead of their phones. But on the other hand, we’re all adults. Do we really need the incentive of a free drink before we’ll put away our phones at the dinner table?

Another issue is that my job requires me to have access to my phone as often as possible. I’m a substitute teacher, and I often get calls in the evening asking if I’m available to work the next morning. If I don’t take the call, I potentially miss out on a day of work—and I’m paid by the day. Because of this, I do keep my phone on me during things like this, but it’s always kept on vibrate in my purse or pocket, I never take it out unless it rings, and I try to answer it as discreetly as possible.

I ended up declining to participate in the “phone game,” but I kept my phone in my purse for the duration of the meal. I also had a glass of water with dinner, and if I’d ordered something fancy I would have paid for it myself. (For the record, several people at the table ordered rather pricey cocktails, because “they weren’t going to be paying for them anyway.”) This did not sit well with some of the other attendees, who seemed to believe that I was just trying to get out of potentially having to buy everyone drinks. What do you think? Should I have played along? 0131-17

No, you did fine.  Other people’s failure to restrain themselves from constantly checking their phones for texts and answering unnecessary phone calls does not constitute a reason why you must participate in  a drinking game.


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  • pennywit February 6, 2017, 8:11 am

    This, IMO, is a big complication with phone etiquette these days. A couple weeks ago, I was at a social gathering where I had to keep an eye on my phone. I’m one of the key people on a work project. Other people were working on the project at that time, and my co-workers have a habit of sending time-sensitive emails in the evening around dinner time. Yes, it was rude to glance at my phone when it buzzed. On the other hand, I couldn’t exactly leave work folk hanging if they needed input on something.

    • Dee February 6, 2017, 9:53 am

      pennywit – Did you let your dinner companions know you would possibly be working through dinner? Because that’s what you’re doing, and you’re not really free for the night. Or, you could let your coworkers know you will not accept calls during dinner. If a dinner companion has a compelling reason why they must answer their phone during a social event then the interruptions can’t be helped, can they? But I don’t know if I’d accept your excuse, though.

      • pennywit February 6, 2017, 2:45 pm

        A few months ago, I was on the road when my phone buzzed. I glanced at it, and I noticed it was from a client who was in the middle of a mini-crisis. It was an easily resolved mini-crisis, but it nevertheless needed a few moments of my attention to help the client.

        I work at a law firm. Not everything that pops up on my phone demands an immediate response. However, it nevertheless requires that I at least look at the message and decide whether it requires an immediate response (even if it’s just “I’ll help you later this evening”) or if I can let it lie for a while.

        Regardless of whether you “accept [my] excuse,” I have clients and co-workers who occasionally have urgent needs. Sometimes I am more “on-call” than at others, but thanks to modern technology, I am always “on call.” If you plan to socialize with me, then you have to accept that sometimes I’ll have to assist, or merely placate, the people who sign my paycheck.

        And, no, I don’t make a general announcement. If somebody inquires, I just say, “Sorry, work” and attend to my business. If somebody asks when I check the phone, I simply say, “Sorry, work.” Given that most people in my social circle are in similar lines of work (law, consulting, government contracting, etc.) and have similar electronic leashes, they know exactly what I’m dealing with.

        • Dee February 6, 2017, 4:56 pm

          The people I’ve encountered who check their phones constantly are not in such a position as yours. I only speak from experience, that most people manufacture how indispensable they are when it comes to their “need” to constantly check their phones. But I do wonder, for people in your position, how they are able to attend such places as libraries, hospitals, concerts, and so on, where cell phones are not permitted, or even take long showers. It would seem to me that there would automatically be times and places where they can’t be reached and that life goes on just fine when that happens.

          • pennywit February 6, 2017, 7:25 pm

            Dee, if you worked in the field, you would understand how the balance is reached.

          • NostalgicGal February 7, 2017, 2:57 am

            I own a slab. Nice high tech toy. That is also an indispensable working tool. I at times am on call too, where I need to respond to it as needed. As you mention, to check if it is a NOW or can it wait. If I am dining or socializing with others, I do warn them if I’m ‘on call’ or not. If it goes off, I try to be discreet on checking and if I need to, EXCUSE MYSELF and step away to handle it. I am NOT constantly dealing with idle texts or a social media feed, I do not need to check my phone a lot. It lets me know if I need to check it. If you need to check it constantly then you are not using it right. Log off your social media for once and deal with the person in front of you instead.

            Due to the nature of possessing a large high memory and full of apps phone, I will NOT participate in ‘put it in a pile’. It is too easy for someone to step by and snatch. A thousand bucks doesn’t grow on trees, and I refuse to put it where it could be snatched. Let others play their game.

          • pennywit February 7, 2017, 8:02 am

            Nostalgic — I typically keep my phone in my pocket or on the table, and check it quickly when it buzzes and the “work email” icon shows up. As I’ve said, where I live, virtually everyone in my social circle deals with these work interruptions.

          • KellyK February 7, 2017, 8:34 am

            For venues where phones aren’t permitted, unless bags are actually being checked, they probably put their phone on vibrate and step out if it rings. Or they ask a coworker to cover for them during the couple hours they’re at a concert or are visiting someone in the hospital. (Those rules are also not universal. At the public library in my area, free Wi-Fi is available and people are frequently using their phones.)

            For long showers, obviously, the phone call is going to wait 10 or 15 minutes. But that’s a lot different than ignoring your phone for two or three hours during dinner.

          • Goldie February 7, 2017, 9:46 am

            When I was on call one week on/two weeks off, I did not go to concerts, movies etc on the weeks that I was on call. Missed a lot of movies and kids’ school events because of that. I still went to parties at friends’ houses, but brought my laptop and warned them that I was on call, and might have to log into work. Half of the people present at the party were usually in the same position, so everyone understood. But yes being on call really does interfere with one’s work-life balance and family time. We had a fifteen-minute window to call back, so a shower would not be a problem. TBH, my shower would probably run out of hot water anyway if I went over fifteen minutes!

      • Owly February 6, 2017, 3:15 pm

        Well, by those standards some people are never really “free for the night”, since they are pretty much always on call in case of emergency. This describes a large chunk of my social circle, actually. Luckily we are all very understanding about it, and don’t tend to see it as an excuse.

        • Melissa February 7, 2017, 1:09 pm

          I feel the same way, Owly; most people will at least have their phone nearby/available in case of some kind of emergency, especially those with kids. It’s one thing to ignore your present company because you’re browsing social media or texting other friends, but it’s completely another thing to have your phone available so that you can answer a quick work text/email, or be notified if something happens to your kids, or in the case of the OP, find out about potential work. I would never begrudge a friend who needs to take a work call or anything along those lines while we’re together.

          Fortunately I don’t really have any friends who ignore me in favor of their phone for no reason, but what’s funny is the main offender is my own mom! And I swear if we are talking on the phone, she’s on her computer scrolling Facebook while we talk. It drives me crazy! Sometimes I say something, but I let it go a lot because she’s my mom and a very awesome person, she just has the attention span of a squirrel on espresso!

    • DaDancingPsych February 6, 2017, 10:36 am

      I would not find what you did rude, pennywit. Depending on the size of the gathering, you could have either made a general announcement at the beginning “Please forgive me, but I am “on call” for work this evening and may need to check my messages.” Or if the gathering was too large, maybe just say something to the host as you enter and then if it happened to buzz when you were with someone give a similar apology. People who peek at their phones in discrete ways do not bother me; I assume that they are watching for important messages like work or babysitter related. It is those who are scrolling on their phone while we are talking that is off putting to me.

    • livvy17 February 6, 2017, 3:30 pm

      One of the problems with being constantly accessible is this….people wind up being unpaid, on-call workers, whether they want to be or not. Just a note to you, or anyone who is paid by the hour (and/or paid less than $47k/year) – you’re entitled to overtime for answering work calls / email. If you’re salaried, try not to get roped into this too much of the time….I find that many employers now seem to expect employees to be “checking in” all the time – nights, weekends, vacations. I tell people that when I’m on vacation, I’m on vacation, and unless it’s a real emergency, don’t expect that I’ll be checking in. Otherwise, I’d never be able to really relax.

      From an etiquette perspective, I think you were fine. There are times you do have a time-critical situations at work. I’d just recommend trying to be as discreet about it as possible….if it’s a text or an email, you can certainly wait to slip away to read something. If it’s a call, then you might not be able to avoid a quick glance, but a quick explanation should hold you in good stead.

  • Cleosia February 6, 2017, 8:21 am

    If you didn’t participate and didn’t order drinks in order to have someone else pay, you’re fine. I assume they just wanted to increase the odds of someone other than themselves being the one stuck with the drink bill.

    • Anon February 6, 2017, 11:48 am

      I think the game is only fair depending on what the rules are. For example, if it’s only for drinks but “everyone” has to participate, whether they drink or not, that’s not fair. As a non-drinker, I’d probably get up and leave. I don’t stay on my phone eating out, but I’m not going to risk the chance of paying for everyone when I don’t even drink what they are.

      • NostalgicGal February 7, 2017, 3:05 am

        Just like I really can’t eat out anymore, or drink anything, so if I’m there it’s for social or because it’s work related. There are 8 of us, someone grabs and says let’s split the check equally and splits it 8 ways, sorry. I didn’t eat or drink so I’m not subsidizing someone else’s. Oh.

        We had one on here were a work group would go out, split the check, and two participants were both rather ‘tight budget’ AND one didn’t drink and the other one was pregnant so the couldn’t drink. They got tired of paying roughly double for their meal because of the drinks the others had being part of the split. And got told ‘that’s how we ALWAYS have done it’ when they complained, so. The two saved up and ordered about 3 non alcoholic drinks apiece (expensive), appetizers each, a few entrees to share between them and dessert. And drove the bill WAY up, over double the average the others had been paying. When it came time to split and a few complained they pointed out the ‘that’s how we ALWAYS have done it’. Most paid without complaint after that little gem, and the next time, the two got separate check from the main group. No more subsidizing everyone else’s alcohol…..

  • Cat February 6, 2017, 8:24 am

    Business calls are not social calls. Your income was at stake, not your popularity.
    I don’t care for the ordering of expensive drinks to take advantage of a friend any more than I care for those whose hands cannot be pried from their phones. Good manners seem to be at a premium among this set of friends.
    You behaved correctly.

    • Mustard February 6, 2017, 9:50 am

      I entirely agree.

    • Rebecca February 8, 2017, 12:11 am

      Yes. I am appalled that some ordered pricier than usual drinks thinking their friends would be paying, and also appalled that no distinction was made between checking to see how many likes they got on Facebook for pictures of their dinner, and a “can you work tomorrow” call, especially since the OP was able to say in advance that she might get such a call.

  • lnelson1218 February 6, 2017, 8:35 am

    My family has put all their phones in a pile when we go out to a restaurant. When in a group I tend to leave mine in my bag so it is a non-issue. And if I were expecting a call, I would announce to the group that I might have to take a call.

    At home my SIL doesn’t allow phones at the dinner table.

    The two exception for having your cell out in a classroom situation I remember were theses. Evening classes. One of the students was a fireman and sometimes was on-call, so he could have been called away. The other happened, when the student’s wife was truly due “any minute”, but the guy did apologize at the beginning of the class that this could happen.

    • Stephenie February 6, 2017, 9:04 pm

      OH!! Classroom phone etiquette reminds me of a jaw-dropping display of chutzpah I witnessed once.

      I was in a college computer programming course so the class was held in a computer lab. We arrived for class and there was a young woman (early 20’s) sitting at the computer in the front row, dead-center seat. She asked if she could stay and continue what she was working on during our class. The instructor agreed to let her continue typing on her document while he taught the class. I sat down in the seat next to her.

      Part way through the class, as the teacher was standing directly in front of her desk lecturing, she pulled out her cellphone and made a call and proceeded to have a social chat. (“Hi… what are you up to? ” type of call). The instructor stopped talking, folded his arms, hovered over her and just stared at her while she ignored him and kept talking. I put my head close to her phone and loudly said “You need to get off the phone or leave. ” She had the nerve to put her finger up at me in a “shushing” gesture so I proceeded to repeat “you need to leave” so that she couldn’t hear the person on the phone until she finally gave me a dirty look and got up and left.

      • NostalgicGal February 7, 2017, 3:18 am

        Woman pulled over by highway patrol because she was on phone and driving somewhat erratically. It took the officer awhile to get her to pull over, and he’s standing there and she’s just chatting along. He asks her to get off and she shushes the officer because she’s talking to someone. He asks her three times to hang up, she ignores and shushes him, and he finally takes the phone FROM HER, tells the person that he’s the highway patrol and she (the one stopped) needs to call back. Then turned the phone off. She flipped her widget (it was a social blather call, not about your son was in an accident level of urgency) and sued and LOST (she also went ballistic on the officer so she was arrested).

        OR the woman on the commuter train that sat in the quiet car and carried on for hours loudly, and when she was finally removed by officers was screaming about how they were DISRESPECTING HER. She needed to go to another car, there were plenty of others that were NOT the quiet car….

        • Kay February 8, 2017, 10:04 am

          So tired of these self absorbed a——s!

          • NostalgicGal February 9, 2017, 5:04 am

            Oh verily. That’s why we have this site. To try to survive the towering wave of such offering to inundate us all the time.

    • Lerah99 February 7, 2017, 10:48 am

      Women in my office tend to talk on their phones in the restroom.
      Which I find weird and awkward.

      But apparently they don’t want to take the elevator down to the 1st floor and head out to the patio or into the cafe to make their calls.

      But the absolute limit for me happened when I flushed the toilet in my stall and the women in the next stall said “OMG! So rude! I’m on the phone!”

      And I thought, “Ummmm, what did you expect to happen in here? I’m using the room for it’s intended purpose.”

      I didn’t say anything. I just washed my hands and left.

      • lnelson1218 February 7, 2017, 2:51 pm

        There is a woman who uses the fitness center in this office building.

        I have seen her on the phone a lot during her workouts. On top of that I have witnessed her on a conversation in the locker phone, will actually put the phone down to take a quick shower and then pick up the phone and continue the conversation when done showering. No joking.

      • NostalgicGal February 7, 2017, 5:18 pm

        I would’ve faked hurling really loudly and flushing a few more times, just because. What does someone expect IN a bathroom?

      • Kay February 8, 2017, 10:06 am

        I like to flush several times. What a disgusting thing to do…and so unsanitary

      • Darshiva February 16, 2017, 7:32 pm

        Once, I was in the ladies’ room, and the woman in the stall next to mine started a conversation. Something along the lines of, “Hi! How is your day going?”

        Well, I answered her.

        She sort of laughed, and then continued the conversation, and again, I answered.

        After about the third time, she said, “Sorry, I have to call you later. This weirdo in the next stall keeps trying to talk to me.”

  • Marie February 6, 2017, 8:51 am

    The phone game is fun if you’re out for lunch and everyone orders a coke. That way it also doesn’t matter that much why you grab your phone: it could be to check Facebook, it could be a work related call, but the tab will be a few dollars and if you all have jobs that is an amount you can cough up.

    The “game” however, is not fun when you’re out for dinner where inevitably some people will drink a lot more than others, and also because the duration of dinner is longer, the bill will not be fun to pick up. It already raises eyebrows if people order pricy cocktails while you intent to split the bill equally.
    OP, you officially don’t need to explain yourself, but I think it would be best if you explains to your friends why you need to have phone available, but at the same time tell them you won’t grab your phone for social media – just when there’s a call for work. The phone addicted friends won’t mind you having your phone, and your non addicted friends will understand that your income relies on jobs they will call you about in the evening. They will not pressure you into the “game” if they realize it can cause real problems for you.

    A quick word of warning though: friends who are constantly on their phones in your company on multiple occasions, or friends that order expensive drinks with the intention of mooching of their friends when the bill comes… please be careful with them. They do not sound like good friends to me.

    • Michelle February 6, 2017, 2:40 pm

      Totally agree, especially with the last paragraph.

    • Darshiva February 16, 2017, 7:35 pm

      The whole argument about some people ordering more pricy things is one reason I never do “split the bill” arrangements. I ask for a separate check, right from the get-go.

      If a server told me that they can’t do separate checks, I’d ask if they could do a separate table.

      Yes, I HAVE moved to separate table.

  • Liz February 6, 2017, 8:55 am

    I’ve seen this done, and I’m ok with it, as long as everyone there is on board, an no one orders a fancy, pricy drink they normally wouldn’t, just because they know someone else will be picking up the tab. I’d be fine with it since my phone usually sits in my purse, and if I’m with friends, i’ll only bring it out if something comes up, and I want to show someone something, a picture, whatnot. But back in it goes after that.

    But in your situation, i think you were fine. Yes, some people have their noses stuck to the phones in social situations, which I can’t stand. Yet others need to have it available, for cases like yours, or say a dr. who may be on call, those type of things.

  • Outdoor Girl February 6, 2017, 9:17 am

    My Dad has a lifeline service that will call me if he either presses his button or if he falls. I’m not putting my phone in the middle of the table on the off chance that I will get a call from them. But nor would I expect anyone to pay for my drink, even if I did order a big, fancy drink.

    I really hope that no one answered their phone that evening and the people who ordered the drinks had to cough up on their own.

    I don’t think the phone game itself is rude, if those who opt not to play aren’t given a hard time about it. I don’t think it is rude to opt not to play, for any reason, but especially in cases like the OP’s and mine. It is rude, IMO, to order above what you would ordinarily order and be willing to pay for yourself, in expectation that someone else will have to pay for it.

    • The OP February 7, 2017, 2:11 am

      You’ll be happy to know that those who ordered expensive drinks did end up having to pay for their own!

      And yeah, I don’t think the game itself is rude. If you want to play and/or you think you need the incentive, that’s fine. But it’s just a game and we’re all adults. No one should be forced into doing something they don’t want to do, especially when it comes to potentially paying for expensive drinks you might not be able to afford.

  • Kali February 6, 2017, 9:33 am

    I self-moderate with a really nice little app. You set it to grow a tree, and if you click off the app before it’s done, your poor little tree withers and dies. I know I’m easily distracted, so that’s my personal way of avoiding my phone. I’m definitely not a fan of the ‘phone game’ as described. 🙁

    • admin February 6, 2017, 11:19 am

      Ooo what is the app name?

      • Kali February 6, 2017, 3:34 pm

        Forestapp. It’s available for iPhone and as a Chrome app. 🙂 Useful for classes, studying, and not checking my phone while I’m in bed as well!

  • Dee February 6, 2017, 9:53 am

    OP, if you want to associate with adults you will probably have to find some to hang around with.

  • LadyV February 6, 2017, 10:17 am

    I’ve been in situations where this “game” was played, and politely declined to participate. The ironic thing is, I’m probably the LAST person in any group that would be checking my phone while I was out socializing – so I wouldn’t be at risk of buying drinks. And just like the OP, I find it sad that people need this kind of incentive. If you’re out socially, PUT YOUR DAMNED PHONE AWAY. If someone who NEEDS to have access to a phone, like the OP, can do it, those who are just checking social media, texting, etc. can do it as well.

    • The OP February 7, 2017, 2:08 am

      I’m the same–of course I had to have access to my phone because of my job, but otherwise I’m the last person to get distracted by my phone during a meal. I didn’t NEED the incentive. And honestly? If someone wants to be on their phone for the whole meal, it’s not my problem and it’s not my job to get them to behave better. I might stop inviting them to things, but again, that’s their problem, not mine. You’d rather be on your phone than socialize? Okay. You’re an adult and I’m not your mom. Do what you want.

  • Goldie February 6, 2017, 10:19 am

    I’ve been on call 24×7 for work, I’ve gotten emergency calls when my father was in the hospital and then in hospice during the last few weeks of his life. I’ve had my younger children staying over at friends’ houses where something could have happened that would’ve required the friend’s parents to get hold of me ASAP. I understand the idea behind the drinking game, but if a person is reasonably expecting emergency calls, then he or she cannot participate in the game and there is nothing wrong with that. “Some of the attendees” need to become better acquainted with adult life, and the responsibilities that come with it. You had one of those responsibilities. You did nothing wrong.

    I am also giving a big side-eye to those several people at the table that ordered pricey drinks because they expected someone else to pay for them, that’s just not right! And I am also wondering how the game would’ve worked out if no one had looked at their phone for the entire duration of the meal. Would everyone pay for their own, then?

    • The OP February 7, 2017, 2:02 am

      Yes, if no one looks at their phone then everyone pays for their own drink–and if I recall correctly, that’s what ended up happening. So those who decided to order the expensive drinks and let someone else foot the bill got their karma, at least!!

    • NostalgicGal February 7, 2017, 3:19 am

      Yep, if nobody’s phone gets checked, then each pays their own.

  • Ginny February 6, 2017, 10:25 am

    Last time I was traveling in Boston, I made a notation to myself about how many people were utilizing social media on the subway — out of twelve people in my section of the car, eight were either texting, talking, or listening to something on their phones, two people were talking to each other, and two people were just staring into space — when I described this to my brother, he said “they’re probably thinking: I wish someone would call me.” Just a note about how pervasive the “smart phone” has become in our society – I find it bizarre that groups of people who are out together for an evening will sit right at the SAME TABLE and find it necessary to text each other, instead of looking up and speaking to each other. But I guess I’m just old and grouchy… 🙂

    • Anon February 6, 2017, 11:53 am

      I’m assuming you were talking about the two people staring into space when your brother said they’re probably thinking: I wish someone would call me.” And that is awful, I mean wow, assumptions. Maybe they’re thinking of something, I certainly don’t close my eyes all of the time when I’m thinking of something because I risk falling asleep.

      I think it’s more telling about what your brother thinks that a couple of people staring off into space. And those people doing/looking at something on their phones? Could have been a book. I have them on my phone. What, do we all need to talk to each other on the subway now? Are you a rude person if you don’t have at least one conversation with someone else on the subway car now?

      • pennywit February 6, 2017, 2:53 pm

        On my commute, I regularly stare at my phone. These days, most of my library resides on my phone. It’s far easier to carry the phone than to lug fifty paperback novels with me everywhere.

      • Ginny February 6, 2017, 5:00 pm

        I think you are jumping to conclusions regarding what you call my “assumptions” — The comment I was making to my brother was how many people were on social media – and the JOKE he was making in response was to infer that anyone NOT using media at any given moment probably wishes they were… I did not mean to suggest what anyone SHOULD be doing on a subway — just making an observation about the pervasiveness of these devices… You should certainly feel free to stare into space anytime you like — I would never bother you, for sure.

        • Anon February 7, 2017, 2:14 pm

          Exactly your brother is a jerk for even making that joke. I should say, you’re brother is a jerk for even implying that because it’s not a joke. It’s not funny and it makes a lot of stupid assumptions that somehow, staring off into space for example, is this new phenomenon that people didn’t do before social media came along.

          “You should certainly feel free to stare into space anytime you like — I would never bother you, for sure.” Yeah, but the problem is is that your brother, and probably you since you laughed at his “joke” seem to think that staring off into space could only mean that people are so obsessed with social media.

          And it does imply that to be not “phone addicted/social media addicted” that we have to be doing something else that isn’t on the phone/staring into space. About the only things would be talking to others or doing some crafts project.

          • crella February 7, 2017, 8:43 pm

            That’s a pretty severe judgement of someone you’ve never met, based on the retelling of a joke…

          • Ginny February 8, 2017, 8:39 am

            Odd that you are so offended at such an innocuous comment, but I still wouldn’t call you a “jerk” not knowing much about you other than that you seem a bit obsessed with one’s right to stare into space 🙂

    • Queen of Putrescence February 6, 2017, 12:02 pm

      If I were on a train and didn’t have a traveling companion, I wouldn’t think myself obsessed with my phone if I was on it while on my commute. It’s how I can entertain myself. I can catch up on Facebook, emails, news websites, etc. and then once home with my family, I wouldn’t find my phone to be a distraction. So if I took the train for my commute, I would either be on my phone or read a book.

      • Marie February 6, 2017, 12:25 pm

        I dare to argue those people are more social than they would have been 20 years ago.
        Back then (I feel old now), everyone had their nose in a newspaper or book. The newspapers were especially annoying, as they took up a lot of space and I dreaded sitting next to someone who was invading my space with their newspaper. They probably dreaded sitting next to me too, one of those teenagers with a discman! No one talked to each other more than now, and strangers were ignored just the same.
        The people in the subway, are now using their time to communicate with each other. They have a moment to tell their loved one they’re coming home, they can look at picture from friends that moved abroad and they can’t see often… or they may listen to music or even read a book on their phone. As long as they’re not loud or having their speakers on, I see no harm in it.

        • NostalgicGal February 7, 2017, 3:25 am

          One job I had was an early morning 25 min bus ride. There were 3-4 of us that did crafts on the way in, I sewed stuffed animals from fake fur, one woman did the most beautiful hmong embroidery strips (she said to decorate her granddaughter’s fancy clothes) and another knit. We all sat together and crafted, and I paid extra mind as people passed back and forth on when my needle bearing hand was stuck into space to pull the stitch. The driver watched one morning for a few moments and realized I was pausing when needed so as not to injure anyone else and relaxed about the little crafty group. Beat reading a book and in a week or so I would have a teddy bear ready to stuff and sell so making money during my commute… (#4 was irregular and usually knit as well)

      • EchoGirl February 6, 2017, 1:06 pm

        Agreed. It’s one thing if you’re at a social occasion, but work commutes are often solitary times. I don’t find reading on a phone any less worthy than reading print media. (Though I do think it would be nice if people realized that they’re in a public and enclosed space before they use their phones on a commute; one of my pet peeves is having to spend a bus ride home trying to tune out someone loudly yakking away on their phone about something that is clearly non-urgent.)

        And I agree with Anon also; it’s quite a big assumption to think that the people staring into space would be thinking about phone calls. That would probably be me, and I sure wouldn’t be wishing for someone to call me. More likely thinking about my day, what tasks I have to get done, wishing those talking people would keep their voices down and realize the whole bus doesn’t need to know about their personal lives, and if I’m really in a good head-space, I might even be mentally working out some details on the novel I’ve had in the back of my mind (and my hard drive) for years.

      • Stephenie February 6, 2017, 9:09 pm

        On public transit you really should be aware of what’s going on around you (“you” as in people in general… not pointing directly at you). When I was in Barcelona, they have a high rate of pickpocketing on the subway and I noticed that not a single person on the trains were staring at their phones. They all had heads up and paying attention around them.

        In Chicago, there was an incident in the last year where a guy was pacing back and forth on the el while waving a gun and NO ONE on the train car was noticing because they all had their heads down in the mobile devices. There was security footage showing this guy walking back and forth in the aisle in front of people and no one noticed.

    • Goldie February 6, 2017, 1:39 pm

      I think it’s different on a train or in a similar public place. Lately, I notice that there’s almost an expectation that you’re going to be on your phone. I’m not comfortable staring into space on a train and such, because on a few occasions when I’ve done this and a person happened to appear in my line of vision, they looked like they suspected me of staring. I’d rather stare at my phone, or pretend to.

    • Rattus February 6, 2017, 2:27 pm

      I’m old and I utilize my phone when I’m in transit. As well as being a phone/text device, I listen to music and use the e-reader app, much like I would have used a Walkman and a book in the old days. That’s not actually being obsessed with one’s phone, that is doing what one has always done using current technology.

    • L.J. February 6, 2017, 2:40 pm

      My husband and I were able to buy a house farther out from Boston (and thus get more house for less money) because we have our phones and mp3 players for entertainment on the commuter rail and subway.

      • Kirsten February 8, 2017, 1:38 pm

        This is weird to me. If you didn’t have phones and mp3 players could you not read a book?

    • Devin February 6, 2017, 4:51 pm

      As a daily commuter on The T, I dont think using ones smartphone to pass time is a problem. Before them people listen to ipods/disc man/cassette players or read books/papers/magazines. The smartphone does all that and more. I listen to podcasts during my commute to learn something new when i would otherwise being on team staring out window blankly. My commute is time to turn on brain in the morning and off in the evening. Sometimes its my only downtime during the day. I think use of smart phones on public transit vs while socializing is comparing apples to elephants.
      **unless you are the borish people who play their music on speaker phone and disrupt everyones commute!!

      • lnelson1218 February 7, 2017, 2:54 pm

        Also a T-rider. On the way into the office, my ride is just long enough to read the Metro and do their crossword.

  • Michelle February 6, 2017, 10:41 am

    For me, these were the key words in the OP “…we’re all adults. Do we really need the incentive of a free drink before we’ll put away our phones at the dinner table?”

    If you are out to dinner with friends I think you can strike a balance between constantly checking your phone and participating in the socializing. If you get a text, you can glance at it quickly to see if you need to answer it right then or if it can wait. If you get a call, I think you could answer it to see if it’s an emergency and if it’s not, then tell the person you will call them later.

    If you have to basically be bribed with the possibility of a free drink in order to interact with your friends at dinner, instead of interacting with your phone…………

  • Daniotra February 6, 2017, 11:23 am

    You did fine. My son is special needs, plus I’m always on-call for work, so I need to have my phone on me at all times. I typically have my phone muted and only answer if it’s from a number that is critical.

  • Devin February 6, 2017, 11:42 am

    I’ve played this game with frienda before over drinks but we play rounds so no one is stuck with a large tab, but it keeps everyone mindful of their phone use. Even those not drinking participate. We do allow for ‘breaks’ between rounds for everyone to call the sitters, check that important work email, post a pic or status update, or whatever. Alternatively, everyone has an ’emergency’ ringtone, and those are the only calls you’re allowed to pick the phone up for. We’ve done this for dinners, coffee, drinks, and we’ve made up versions for at home get togethers. It works for my group because so many of us tend to work round the clock if someone doesn’t remind us that, while important, a work email at 9pm on a weekend can probably be handled just as well, if not better at 8am the next day.
    I think thats bad form that someone would purposely order a more expensive drink on the chance someone else has to pick up the tab, but if that is their normal drink order thats then part of the game and more of a reason not to lose. If you explained to your friends ahead of time you need to keep your phone on for a work call and then dont pull it out except for work calls you’re fine, but if you use that excuse then keep checking your phone you are being rude.

  • Harry February 6, 2017, 11:46 am

    Ugh…. Maybe I’m just old, but I don’t understand this mentality. When I was growing up all phones were connected to a cable and mounted to a wall. People were able to go about their business, weather it be going out to dinner or the grocery store, and I am here to testify that we survived, and I’m only 55 so not as old as you think! Yes, the advent of the mobile phone has plenty of advantages, and I have one myself, but I am not so desperate that I cannot enjoy a meal with family or friends without constantly checking it. It’s a bit of a shame really.

    • Vicki February 6, 2017, 1:00 pm

      I’m only a couple of years younger than you are, and yes, we survived, but people also survived without grocery stores, without automobiles, without indoor plumbing. Or, well, some of them did, and dead people don’t pop up in comment sections to tell you that they died because they weren’t able to call an ambulance.

      Also, when I get out my phone at the grocery store, it’s to check my grocery list, because that’s easier than having it on a separate piece of paper; or to look at my list of which brands of bacon, or varieties of apple, we like; or to call home and ask whether I should buy milk. That’s a convenience rather than a necessity, but being in a store where nobody is calling home or looking up a cookie recipe isn’t a necessity either.

      If I get out the phone while having dinner with family, it’s usually connected to the conversation: someone will say something, and I’ll wonder idly when Ireland joined the EU, or what the tallest building in the world is, and since it’s easy to check that now, I will, and then we’ll go on with the conversation. Twenty years ago, some of that would have led to checking a printed reference, and some of it might have led to arguments of the “I think it’s X.” “No, it’s Y, I’m sure of it” sort.

      • Dee February 6, 2017, 5:07 pm

        Vicki – Harry wasn’t referring to the 19th century, he’s only 55 years old! I’m close to his age and of course we always had grocery stores, cars, indoor plumbing, and phones to call an ambulance. We also had pay phones, so that you could call anyone no matter where you were. But if you are close to our ages then you know all this, so I don’t know why you are pretending our younger selves all ran around trying to escape from dinosaurs.

        • CPete February 6, 2017, 8:44 pm

          She’s not saying that Harry didn’t have grocery stores, et al. when he was growing up. She’s saying that, just as Harry grew up without mobile phones, there were plenty of people throughout history who did grow up without the modern conveniences she listed. I’m reminded of the Anne of Green Gables series when some of the older characters bemoan how the younger generation relies too much on sales catalogues and that so many houses in their village have phones installed. In the end, new technology becomes a way of life, and it’s becoming just as silly to complain about people using cell phones as it would be to complain about people using wall-mounted phones, or grocery stores, or (fill in the blank).

          • Dee February 6, 2017, 10:56 pm

            Nobody’s complaining about cell phones per se; the problem is people being rude with their phones. Cell phones are handy but should never be used to ignore the people with whom you’re supposed to be socializing. Good manners are never old-fashioned; conversely, rudeness has always been an issue, and every generation needs to value courtesy.

        • Lady Catford February 7, 2017, 1:32 am

          When I am telling my grandkids stories about their parents when the parents were younger I tell them that this was after the Dinosaur Extinction. This has put an end to, “Were there dinosaurs around when you were a kid ,Grammy?” I have no idea why the Grandkids think this is funny, but they do.

          On topic, I do not share much of my time with people who are on their phone all the time, fortunately, my friends understand. Even the Grandkids lol

        • Ajay February 20, 2017, 9:03 pm

          But… But… My mother still tells me she used to have to roll her pterodactyl egg into a geyser to hard boil it… ;-D

    • Dee February 6, 2017, 1:16 pm

      I’m with you, Harry. I don’t think the phone itself is the problem but it has become the thing people use to be rude to each other. Over the years social occasions have been interrupted many, many times by people taking or making “extremely” important calls that were anything but. I can’t remember any time when someone truly had a need to return a call. It’s not that extenuating circumstances don’t exist, it’s that so many people feel the need to, I don’t know, validate themselves? by pretending life will stop if they don’t return every call IMMEDIATELY. It makes me feel sorry for the person who has such low self-esteem and such poor friends that if they don’t respond very quickly to the latest invitation they will be excluded, or that they live under the aura they are indispensable at their workplace and no one can handle things on their own.

      Businesses ran just fine for years without workers being on call. They must be run very poorly now if everybody has to be available 24/7 via their phone.

      My son and his girlfriend like to respond immediately to all calls/texts, and they get a lot of them. I just sit and watch them closely while they talk to whoever, and then ask questions about the call after. They don’t like that very much and it does help curb their obsession, at least a bit. I don’t make/take phone calls when we are together so I expect the same courtesy.

      • ladysprite February 6, 2017, 8:05 pm

        Businesses have always had people on call – it’s just that now, instead of either carrying a pager the size of a brick and having to be physically at home in case a worker got paged, or having to physically be in the office in case of an emergency, people can be available for any potential need while still being able to go out into the world, socialize with friends and family, have a life, and triage urgent situations.

        I’m a medical professional; I work in hospice, as a solo practitioner. Many of my patients have the potential to go into a life-or-death crisis at any time. While I advise my clients that I’m not an emergency service, I do at least engage in triage – when a call or email comes in, I take a few seconds to see if it’s something that can wait or whether I need to respond urgently. Luckily, my friends and loved ones all know what I do for a living, and are understanding when I need to either take 30 seconds to make sure something isn’t serious or, on occasion, leave an event to help a client through an end-of-life emergency.

    • Goldie February 6, 2017, 1:42 pm

      Well, thing is, our employers, our children’s babysitters, our parents’ caretakers etc are in on the secret that our phone is no longer attached to a wall. They know we’re available at all times, so they will try to contact us at all times. It’s not mentality, it’s how people and businesses operate these days.

    • Shoegal February 6, 2017, 2:17 pm

      I completely agree and I’m of the same mindset. I don’t need my phone constantly – and I don’t choose it as an entertainment if I am alone or on my own somewhere. I get along just fine. There were times growing up when I was definitely unavailable and I too lived. Now, even at family gatherings – all of my nephews & nieces are all on their phones and there is little interaction. I find this really sad.

    • CW February 6, 2017, 2:28 pm

      Except for before it was cell phones it was something else. People would take out books or newspapers on public transportation instead of talking to strangers. I’ve seen plenty of TV shows where someone has a newspaper at the dinner table. How do I know someone isn’t reading a book on their phone? That’s what I do when I fly. It’s none of my business how people spend their moment of free time. If my friend casually checks their phone at dinner, I’m assuming there’s a reason. Now yes, if they’re playing a game for 20 min straight, that’s a different story but otherwise I don’t care. I have a toddler, I keep my phone available whenever she’s not with me and yes I will answer in front of you if someone calls about her and I will not care how you feel about it.

    • Kate February 6, 2017, 6:21 pm

      I agree! I honestly don’t understand what people are doing on their phones that they think is more important than actually speaking to and looking at and just generally being with the people in front of them.

      Are they playing games, posting on social media about the dinner they are currently eating, what are they doing???

    • The OP February 7, 2017, 1:09 am

      I’m the OP, and believe me, I would LOVE to have a job that doesn’t require me to have access to my phone outside of my work hours. Yes, I could just leave my phone at home and life would continue to go on, but like I said, I risk missing out on job assignments if I do that. There is no calling back later–if I don’t pick up, they just give the job to the next available sub on the list. Subbing is my main source of income right now, so I need all the work I can get, and in order to get the maximum amount of work I have to have my phone on me. That’s not my choice, though; it’s just how the school district I work for chooses to do things.

  • DGS February 6, 2017, 11:54 am

    You absolutely behaved appropriately. You might simply say preemptively, “I am expecting a phone call for work; if I do get it, I will ask you to kindly excuse me for a few minutes, while I take the call”. This way, you set appropriate expectations.

    I have young children and do at times, receive phone calls from work, so I will say something similar to my dinner companions and excuse myself, if needed, to take a call (e.g. a few weeks ago, my DH and I were on a double date with friends when a babysitter called that our youngest had thrown up, so we apologized profusely for cutting the evening short, paid our portion of the bill and headed home to deal with a toddler who had become sick). I may peruse the Internet and social media on my phone when I am traveling by myself, but when our friends, my DH and I are out to dinner, we are very seldom on the phone.

    And I really dislike the notion that someone might order a fancy cocktail and expect someone else to pay for it – your friends, OP, have quite a bit of growing up to do, it seems!

  • Ashley February 6, 2017, 11:57 am

    I’m sort of split down the middle on this…

    The reason for that is I’ve got one friend who is CONSTANTLY on her phone. If we’re somewhere, she’s doing something on her phone. Texting someone who isn’t there. Playing a game. Checking Facebook. Etc, etc, etc. It frustrates us to the point where we’ve wanted to do the phone game at dinners and stuff…

    But on the other hand, there’s things on our phones we want to share with each other. Things like “Oh I read this news story about that actor we all really like, there’s fun details about his next project, let me read it to you” or our usual round of Let’s All Share Weird Pictures of Our Cats! And, except for this one friend, we’ve all got a decent handle on things, where if we’re on our phone, it’s relevant to what is going on in the group.

    Phones are tricky, because there’s people who can’t handle it and those who can. In OP’s case, I think you handled it just fine. You were concerned about business. It’s not like business was going to dominate the whole night, so you didn’t have to decline to participate in the evening itself, just the silly game that would have caused you to miss a day of work.

    • lakey February 6, 2017, 12:59 pm

      I agree with you. I just think that if people communicate like adults, the phone game is unnecessary.
      What the phone game is doing, is saying to people, “You’re messing around on your phone, rather than interacting with us. So we’ll play a game to bribe you to stop.” How about just telling people that it would be nice to put the phones aside and interact? Adults should be able to understand that certain calls NEED to be taken.

      • The OP February 7, 2017, 1:57 am

        I agree with this. I might say to a friend, “Hey, what are you doing on your phone? Join our conversation!” and if they choose to stay on their phone, well, there are other people there I can talk to. If they don’t want to be social, it’s not my job to “fix” them–I just might not invite them along to the next gathering.

        Another thing about confronting people directly about their phone usage is that it gives them an opportunity to explain if they have a legitimate reason for having their phone out. If the person responds by saying that they have a work e-mail they need to respond to, or they need to check in with their kids’ babysitter, or they have social anxiety and need a moment to breathe, or whatever–then that’s no big deal! Definitely not worth “punishing” them by making them pay for drinks. So many problems could be solved if people would only communicate.

  • lakey February 6, 2017, 12:32 pm

    When you said, “This didn’t sit well with some of the other attendees,” I thought you meant the fact that some of the people were ordering expensive drinks with the idea that they could stick someone else with the bill. That is greedy, self serving behavior. That is like the person who, when you treat them to a restaurant meal, orders the most expensive thing on the menu. Not only were you reasonable, but I respect you for having the backbone to not go along with the crowd.

  • kingsrings February 6, 2017, 1:23 pm

    It is rude for people at a social outing to use their phones for non-urgent reasons. But it is perfectly okay to use your phone for any urgent needs. I was in that position for a long time due to being unemployed for a while and having to be at the beck and call of temp agencies and potential employers. And my phone is not going anywhere where it can be stolen or taken accidentally.
    Adults should be trusted and not treated like children. If someone is just goofing off on their phone too much, then stop inviting them to social events. But people who need to use their phones for urgent needs should be given a pass. No one should be relegated to staying home all the time because their friends can’t handle them taking a phone call once in a while.

    • The OP February 7, 2017, 1:47 am

      Exactly. The way I see it, there’s a difference between acceptable phone usage (answering urgent calls, letting family members know when you’ll be home, taking a few photos, sharing things that might add to the conversation rather than distract from it), and unacceptable phone usage (having personal conversations, taking an excessive amount of photos, playing games, checking social media).

  • abby February 6, 2017, 1:55 pm

    I’m torn on this one as well. It drives me crazy when I go out to eat with someone who is constantly taking selfies or pictures of their food/drink, and then does a dozen retakes to get the most flattering angle. And that doesn’t even count the people who actually sit and text with other people or check facebook updates (I would not be friends with these people).

    I would explain that you need to be able to access your phone right away if it rings, but you will pay for your own drink either way since you aren’t “playing”. It should be pretty easy to see as the meal goes on that you aren’t using your phone, you are just keeping it nearby in case your work calls.

    • The OP February 7, 2017, 1:43 am

      I did explain it that way, but unfortunately they didn’t seem to be buying it. I was biting my tongue so hard to keep from saying, “Well, I’m not the one who needs to be bribed with a free drink before I’ll put my phone away.”

  • padua February 6, 2017, 1:59 pm

    so don’t go. or let them know you won’t be putting your phone in and if they don’t like it, you’d be happy to sit this one out. my last job required me to be on-call 24-7 on a pretty frequent basis. so i would let friends know ahead of time in case me being on-call disrupted their plans. it sounds as if this ‘game’, regardless of how you feel about it, was part of the outing. it would be the same if i was invited to someone’s house for dinner. i would let them know i was on-call that weekend and if that was a disruption for the dinner, i’d be happy to reschedule. find friends who are okay with you having your phone on you instead of trying to change the dynamics of the activity you’re planning to attend.

    • The OP February 7, 2017, 1:19 am

      That is a good point, but I didn’t know until I got there that we were going to be playing the game. (I don’t think anyone had really planned on it one way or the other–it was more of an idea that someone brought up spontaneously.) If I’d known about the game in advance, I might have stayed home, but in this case I was already at the restaurant and it didn’t seem like something worth leaving over.

  • L.J. February 6, 2017, 2:42 pm

    The phones may be new, but the problem of “friends” who try to get others to pay for their expensive and/or excessive drinking is ancient.

  • Kirsten February 6, 2017, 3:09 pm

    I don’t see this as a drinking game, it’s more of an incentive to put the bloody phones away. If you’re worried you’ll get stuck with a bill for everyone’s drinks, don’t touch your phone. It’s not hard.

    (Obviously people who are on call in essential jobs like doctors are exempt).

    • The OP February 7, 2017, 1:34 am

      I may not be a doctor (or, as you put it, I don’t have an “essential” job), but that doesn’t change the fact that I potentially lose a day’s worth of income if I don’t answer my phone when it rings. If I don’t answer, they don’t wait for me to call back; they just call the next available person on the list. I’m not going to miss out on a day of work because of a drinking game, whether or not that’s what you want to call it.

      Again, I was not using my phone to play games, check social media, text, or make personal phone calls. I just needed to have it on me in case I got a call from work. My phone didn’t end up ringing for the duration of the meal, so it stayed in my pocket.

      • Kirsten February 7, 2017, 7:51 am

        Yeah, sorry, obviously losing work is an issue. I’m on your side with that. I have a friend who will not put her phone away – meals, holidays, train trips, she’s texting, posting on facebook throughout. We’ve told her it’s rude, and it is never anything important (sample: text arrives from her mum to say she bought a new potato peeler, she reads it, replies, has entire text conversation while we’re eating) but she won’t stop.

  • Anna February 6, 2017, 3:53 pm

    You can look at it this way:

    What would you think of someone in the workplace who did not respond to a phone message when they were expected to because “my friends made me play the phone game.”

    Not a whole lot, right?

    I think that the phone game can be all in good fun if everyone wants to participate and no one has any expectations of needing to be reached for the hour or so you may be at dinner. It’s a fun way to combat the problem of phone addicts who can’t go ten minutes without checking facebook. But obviously real responsibilities come first.

    • The OP February 7, 2017, 1:39 am

      Exactly. I wouldn’t say it was ideal for me to have to have access to my phone, but this didn’t seem like it would be a good enough reason NOT to answer it if I got a call from work.

  • Yasuragi February 6, 2017, 6:14 pm

    Well, don’t leave us hanging! Did someone end up paying the tab or did everyone have enough will power they ended up paying for their own?

    • The OP February 7, 2017, 1:38 am

      Ha! If I recall correctly, everyone ended up paying for their own (much to the dismay of those who had ordered drinks they wouldn’t normally have been able to afford). Myself included–I didn’t get any work calls after all, so my phone stayed in my pocket.

      • NostalgicGal February 7, 2017, 5:36 pm

        Love that the Karma bit them where they deserved it.

  • JeanLouiseFinch February 6, 2017, 7:53 pm

    I agree that the OP needs to find some adults to hang out with, especially people that don’t order expensive drinks when they think someone else is paying. Better yet, just watch this:

  • BagLady February 6, 2017, 10:56 pm

    Ah, the good old, pre-cellphone days. I’m old enough to remember them. Parents would leave the babysitter the landline numbers of the restaurant/movie theater/friends’ house they were going to be at. Doctors, tow truck drivers and others who had to be on call after hours for urgent work matters carried pagers. I used to carry one, almost 20 years ago, and every time I pass a certain, now-closed grocery store, I have flashbacks to all the times I had to pull off the highway and use the pay phone at that store to call in and answer the page.

    Before that, they had answering services (remember those? I used to work for one) staffed by actual hoominz, who would ring them up at home when Mrs. Smith was going into labor, or a donor heart had arrived for Mr. Jones.

    Times and expectations have changed. Because folks do carry their phones everywhere, I think there is more of an expectation that a time-sensitive call or text will be answered in a timely fashion (i.e., more or less immediately). If I were an on-call substitute teacher, I would hate the idea of missing a day’s income because I didn’t answer the “Can you sub tomorrow?” call within a reasonable (to the caller) time frame.

    The “phones on the table” game needs to be set up with exceptions to those who need to be “on call” for whatever reason.

  • June February 7, 2017, 5:02 pm

    I HATE my cell phone. I flatly refused to get one until my mother became ill. I was her primary caregiver, so I needed to be in contact with home at all times. My phone rarely rang, and answering it was important, because 99% of the time it was about Mom. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t take the call; let it go to voice mail, I’ll check in when I get a free moment.

    Mom’s gone now, but I still feel the same about the stupid thing. I hate it, I don’t look at it unless I must, and if I’m in company, I don’t answer calls or texts. If there’s an emergency, my family knows to text me “*911.” Otherwise, there’s very little so terribly important that it must be answered this very second. It’s probably rude to ignore calls. Matter of fact, I’m pretty sure it’s rude to ignore calls. Right now, I don’t care, though if I’m wrong on that, I’ll own my error.

    • Kirsten February 8, 2017, 1:37 pm

      I don’t think it’s rude to ignore calls. If it’s not a good time to answer it, it’s not a good time.

    • Ginny February 8, 2017, 3:13 pm

      I’m so with you on the cell phone hate! I bought a pre-paid flip-phone to carry in car for emergencies and when I travel – but I’m supposed to add minutes every 3 months and I keep forgetting because I NEVER use it 🙂 — Because I work from home, I’m at my computer much of the day, and I don’t see the need for a “smart phone” for internet access, etc. — everyone at my office has one, and my boss suggested that I could “expense” it as part of my work, but I simply don’t WANT my work following me around 24-7, and frankly it’s just not necessary.

      • NostalgicGal February 9, 2017, 5:13 am

        If you have Tracfone they used to have some really good deals just for SERVICE if you bought online off their website. DH had a disposaphone for some years, and that is how I would charge it up, go online and buy the minutes and usually had a bonus code and buy him a year of service at the same time for dirt cheap. (he gave up his 3 plus years ago for a ‘real slab phone’… “Just like Yours…”