Friday, July 07, 2006

The Way of the Dial Phone

When you go to the theater in NY there is always some kind of clever announcement which reminds people that they need to turn off their cell phones. When we saw “The Lazy Chaperone”, the first few minutes were spent with 30 or 40 cells going off. At first I thought someone in the audience really did forget to turn off their phone. But after the 12th ring I realized it was the way they determined to give the audience a nice reminder. It didn’t work and at least two phones went off during the performance. And that has happened at every show I've attended in the past few months. Maybe it's a lack of sophistication on the part of the talker. Who knows But I bet these are the same people who talk on their phones when they drive and don't care if they are going 20 or 90 MPH. Although they can kill people on the road and merely annoy people in the theater, it appears to be a total self centered lack of concern for everyone else in the world.

When you go to the theater in NY you expect that people understand that they are not supposed to talk, they are not supposed to open candy or food wrapped in crinkly paper, and of course, they need to shut off their phones. I have been at a one man show where a woman in the front was coughing and the performer refused to continue. And I have been in a show where when the phone went off the entire cast refused to continue until the person who left it on was removed—And in NY, other members of the audience are not your friends. They will help the ushers drag you from your seat. And yet people still do all the things that the management so nicely asks you not to do.

When you go to the theater in NY you do not expect people to bring a picnic lunch and pretend that they're at the beach. To some degree the management at theaters which allow candy and drinks into the performance space are asking for trouble, but that doesn’t excuse the bad behavior or chomping on chicken in front of total strangers.

The theater, movies or live are not cheap. Tickets to the movies in NY are about $10 and theater tickets are ten times that. Jordan and I have been to a number of afternoon movies. It’s my favorite time to go. And I want to keep doing it -- It's too crowded at night. When I was in Va. Marthena and I would do the same thing. Here’s what I have learned. Older people who can’t hear go to afternoon movies. They often use the preview time to catch up on their recent activities. Then when the movie begins, they can’t hear so they explain to one another what is happening on the screen. Along with old people there are children—in NY accompanied by nannies who don’t care how the kid behaves, as long as they are entertained and occupied. If there are two nannies they will often talk as much as the kids. If you are sitting anywhere near them you can count on distraction from candy popcorn and the occasional soda spill. Then there are the people on vacation who feel that they need to explain, to the entire audience, why they are in the theater in the middle of the day. And, of course, they want you to know they are important so they leave their cells on. These sare not excuses, just reality.

It seems that whether they pay 10 or $100, there is very little respect for their neighbor—or in a live performance, the actors. When people are behaving badly you will often hear, “Oh they’re from Conn. Or NJ.” Like it’s an excuse. I grew up in NJ and if I uttered one sound during a performance of any kind, my Aunt would stare at me and point to the exit. It never happened more than once.

So what is this about? Why is it that when we go to a movie in NY I have to ask the people sitting around us if they intend to talk. I indicate that I will happily move, I just need to know how much they want to converse. When Marthena and I used to go in Va. we moved our seats 3 or 4 times until we found people less likely to have hearing impairments. And when when Jordan and I have gone to the theater there have been times when we have actually had to reprimand grown-up total strangers about the way they or their children were conducting themselves. And may I say you never want to be admonished by my daughter the theater Nazi. Is this part of the new, "I am entitled to do what I want” attitude. I don’t have the answer but it certainly is disheartening to think that at some point this bad behavior will be the norm and the good behavior norm will go the way of the dial phone. We’re just sayin…

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