I went to the theater on Sunday. Just before show time the house lights dimmed and the stage manager announced, “…Please turn off your cell phones.” I’m highly addicted to my phone. I’m a social media butterfly. My phone is my mobile office. It’s my third opposable thumb. And yet I did the unthinkable. I turned off my phone and put it away. There was no one I wanted to text, tweet, or talk to while I was sitting in the dark enjoying a play I’d bought tickets for. But not everyone felt that way.
In the row directly in front and to the right of me a woman not only chose to keep her cell phone on, but she looked at it often. In the darkened theater her screen was a bright, retina-searing beacon. And this wasn’t just any cell phone. It was one of those Samsung flat screen TV-sized phones. I thought, “Did this chick come out to watch Netflix in public?” I’m surprised ships weren’t veering off course and docking in the lobby. Where’s a light-swallowing black hole when you need one?
Everyone in the orbit of Ms. Samsung couldn’t help but look at her and her giant phone screen instead of the actors on-stage. Due to the screen’s impressive resolution, I could see she was busy doing the very important and urgent work of flipping through family photos. And, unfortunately, they were not good-looking people.
I was hoping that she’d go into the phone’s settings and at least reduce the screen’s brightness. That might have given our eyes a chance to adjust. But that was too much to hope for since concern for others didn’t seem to be Ms. Samsung’s thing. I’m sure if her cell phone had rung during the show she would’ve taken the call, and had a long and loud conversation about the play we were all trying to see.
Part of me admired her misplaced moxie. Didn’t someone get killed in a movie theater for having the temerity to text? What chance would Ms. Samsung have stood against an angry mob? Perhaps this would have been an opportunity to live-tweet her own ass whipping. But I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say if you can’t be off the grid for two hours then maybe you shouldn’t go to the theater.
At intermission instead of bolting to the bathroom I went to see the manager. There was already a line of angry people with the same complaint. Apparently there were other Ms. Samsung’s sprinkled throughout the theater making a nuisance of themselves. The stage manager had to make a second cell phone announcement at the end of intermission.
Technology notwithstanding it’s not cool to inflict yourself on other people. Nobody wants to hear your favorite song blaring through your headphones. I love “Purple Rain” but not when you’re singing, humming, and whistling along with it.
Don’t have full-throated private cell phone conversations in public. I’m sorry he broke up with you. I really am. But listening to you cuss out him, his momma, his grand momma, and his cat while you stomp up and down on a busy sidewalk makes me inclined to take his side. It also makes me miss phone booths.
And if you’re going to be looking at pictures of people on your cell phone in a dark theater that everyone within six-feet can see over your shoulder, they should at least be attractive. What have I learned from all of this? Cell phones don’t irritate people. People irritate people.