In the middle of the second act during a recent local theatre performance, the man in seat D3 receives a phone call. Hey — jazzy ringtone, man in seat D3. I imagine a scenario where his adult daughter is calling him to invite him to a Memorial Day barbecue. Fortunately, he is dexterous enough to turn his phone off after the third or fourth ring. Several words come to mind — negligent, unnecessary, disruptive, disrespectful top the list. But hey, it’s not the end of the world. At least he didn’t answer it in the middle of a Mozart concerto — something I witnessed at Benaroya Hall not too long ago.
The audience seems relieved, our collective attention returns to the stage. It’s at about this time that the daughter decides that since Dad’s not answering, she’ll try calling Mom. Unfortunately, Mom is occupying seat D4. Her cell phone volume control is set at 11 and she allows her phone to ring 10 times before permitting it to spool over to voicemail. To make matters worse, she is somewhat less adroit than her husband.
We are treated to the full 10 rings as she struggles with the decision of what to do. Should she evacuate to the lobby? (the choice I would have favored). Or should she continue her fruitless attempt to unzip her purse? — since somewhere in its deep recesses, among the many essential items contained within, resides the offending object. Sadly, in the heat of the moment, her judgment clouded, all eyes upon her, she chooses instead to sit on her purse. Admittedly, this mutes the sound somewhat. After what seems an eternity, the ringing stops — our collective attention once more returns to the stage. The actors having moved on without us, performing a few pages of the script in our absence. We struggle to regain the thread of the plot. At a hushed break in the dialogue, a final loud notification of her daughter’s lengthy voicemail rings out. Mercifully, that is the last we hear from our neighbors.
Just as one is expected to show some proficiency in operating a motor vehicle before being issued a permit, perhaps some test should be administered to establish cell phone competency.
Something like this perhaps:
1 – Can you follow the clear instructions of the staff at the beginning of the performance?
2 – If you fail to turn your phone off (as we have all done from time to time) can you quickly and quietly do so should your phone interrupt the performance?
3 – Do you at least have the good sense and decency to exit the auditorium should you fail to comply with questions one or two?
If you answered no to each of these questions, it’s time to surrender your phone, or at the very least to leave it at home or in the car.
— By James Spangler