Hump Day: Serial cell users: let’s find a way to endanger this species

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript

I went to a play the other day by a local theatre troupe. I really enjoyed it. It was quite funny with a number of laugh-out-loud lines and the plot included a number of twists and turns that kept the audience wondering how it would end. I thought it was pretty clever – and I really liked the ending. I remember thinking, “Oh now that’s a nice way to bring it all back together.”

Now, before any theatrical performance (or concert, movie screening, etc.), someone will usually stand up in front of the crowd or a voice will come over the speakers asking members of the audience to turn off their cell phones. Although I thought I’d turned off the volume on my cell phone, I was surprised to find out that I hadn’t already done so when I double checked. I usually make a habit of doing so as soon as I sit down at any type of public presentation.

Indeed, one of my pet peeves is someone whose phone goes off when it isn’t supposed to. Of course, we all make mistakes, and we’re all guilty of forgetting to turn down the ringer and then frantically trying to mute the phone when it eventually starts ringing at the exact moment it isn’t supposed to. “And the murderer’s name is (telephone rings so you can’t hear the name)! Goodnight, everyone! Thank you for sitting through our four-hour production!”

After I turned down my phone, I looked around the auditorium and bunch of other people were doing the same thing. No one wants to be ‘that person’ who disrupts the entire play with a cell phone ringing.

Part way through the play, the inevitable happened. A cell phone went off a couple of rows behind me. We could hear the person mumbling in frustration and a few people mumbled back. Mostly, though, it was good-natured chuckling, like the reaction after breaking a glass in a restaurant or something like that. We shared in the person’s embarrassment and felt empathy for what was likely just an honest mistake. Those things happen.

While the audience member was trying to turn off their phone in the dark, the actors on stage continued without missing a beat. Yup, they were real pros! This was the final performance of four, so they were probably used to a cell phone going off in the audience by now.

cellphone banWhen the phone rang in back of me for the second time, there was a bit less good-natured chuckling. The third time, there was no chuckling and some outright anger. Who kept calling this audience member? And why couldn’t they turn off their phone? By the fifth time (maybe sixth, I lost count) the phone rang, there was downright overt anger toward the audience member.

Finally, they got up and left their seat (causing everyone in their row to have to stand up and lose track of the play) to get to a better-lit area so they could figure out how to turn off their phone. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” People were not happy. Their theatre experience was being ruined. Mistakes happen, but five or six times in a row?

By this time, there was frustration bordering on fury. It’s not often that I’ve heard an audience turn on someone, but you could just feel the collective blood pressure of the crowd about to burst like a slow cooker that explodes from built-up heat and steam. While it was clear that the phone owner was just as frustrated as anyone that the phone wouldn’t shut off, you’d think that after three calls they would have left to properly turn off the device.

At least the person felt bad. That was obvious. It’s just too bad that the thought of leaving the theatre to take care of the problem only came after five or six calls came in. People need to just get up and move to a private area sooner in situations like that.

There’s a game people play in restaurants now. Everyone in the dining party puts their cell phone in the middle of the table. The first person to get a call because they left their ringer on or check their email has to pay for everyone’s meals.

Perhaps we should implement that same rule inside theatres and cinemas If your cell phone rings, you have to give everyone back their money out of your own pocket. If you hit people in their wallet, maybe then and only then will they finally figure out their phones. It’s an idea whose time has come.

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