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I don’t want cellphones ruining my party. How do I tell my guests?

The question

I am hosting a catered buffet supper at my home in honour of the 80th birthday of a close friend. This will be followed by bridge. Most of my anticipated 20 or 25 guests are in their 70s or, like me, in their 80s – a couple are even in their 90s (and cracking good bridge players, by the way). While most of us have cellphones (both dumb and smart), we are not glued to them like some of the younger generations seem to be. I really don't want interruptions at this event and I'd rather not have any of my guests disturbed – who might be in the middle of trying to make a grand slam at the bridge table in my basement!

How do you suggest I handle this? Do I let the guests know my views on this ahead of time when I e-mail them their Permission to Park form (on the street near my home) or do I put an "attractive" basket inside my front door labelled for cellphones and iPhones, or what?

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The answer

Terrific question – and I have one for you: Can there be any doubt, in 2014, we are getting dumber as our cellphones are getting smarter?

People walk into poles, into fountains, into oncoming trains; they drive their cars into rivers and pedestrians, as they endlessly talk and text and tweet.

Don't get me wrong. I love my cellphone, too. But my life doesn't revolve around it. Recently, I went on a culinary junket to Mexico with a bunch of "food bloggers," and it was like a glimpse into the future – or present, maybe: either way, a complete dystopia.

As soon as we got to any restaurant, everyone would whip out their smartphones, ask a passing waiter the WiFi password (so as not to get dinged with helacious roaming charges), then check their tweets and Tumblr and Facebook and e-mail and Instagram and Snapchat or whatever.

Then, as each course of our meal came, before we ate, all the bloggers would take a picture of it and "tweet" it to their followers.

"First tweet, then eat" was their (unspoken: actually, I invented it) motto.

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At one point, I asked one of them: "Why not just tweet at the end of the meal?"

She looked at me as if I was nuts: "My Twitter followers don't have the attention span for that."

Then, throughout the meal, if anyone got a call or text or e-mail, that would take precedence over any live, real-time conversation she might be having.

So I sat, slumped in my chair, bored out of my mind, staring at 14 other people all staring at their phones, tapping at them with their thumbs, or turning aside and muttering into them if they rang.

Me thinking: "What have we, as a species, become?" And "For this God gave us opposable thumbs?" And: "Why does someone somewhere in the world punching 10 digits or thumb-typing a message beat out a face-to-face interaction?"

So yes: Anything you can do to stem this moronic tide gets two opposable thumbs up from me.

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But you have to be realistic. Most people simply cannot be pried from their devices, and have varying degrees of need to keep them on their person at all times, and to keep checking them. So maybe find a middle ground – e.g. append a gentle reminder to your Permission to Park form (whatever that is) reminding everyone to keep cellphone usage within reason.

I'm thinking of something with a bridge theme, e.g. "Unless you're the dummy, don't be a dummy and yak on your phone during the game." Or: "Don't let your phone trump your fun." Or: "It's not that big a trick to leave your phone in your pocket." Um hey this is fun: "It's ruff if you …"

Anyway, you get the idea. Maybe your guests will get a chuckle from the puns and perhaps they will share your views and self-censor.

Let's hope so. I don't know about anyone else, but I still look to those older than I am for guidance, wisdom and to set a good example.

Show the rest of us the way, seniors! With your rudimentary cellphones, long memories, and superior bridge skills, lead us out of the moronic inferno of modernity.

What am I supposed to do now?

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