EDITOR’S NOTE: This essay was originally posted on March 4, 2015
WARNING: Rant with harsh language
I just attended one of the most amazing musical performances I have ever witnessed. It was The Indigo Girls playing with a full orchestra on the stage of the Mahaffey Theater here in St. Petersburg, Florida. Every song was a dramatic journey from start to finish. It was enchanting, and I was mesmerized.
The only thing that could’ve made this performance better is if the two inconsiderate asshats sitting next to me had not been so disruptive.
When you live in a city, you are in close proximity to people on a regular basis. Living in a city can be noisy; no one expects a perfectly quiet existence. But inside a theater (of any kind), away from the hustle and bustle of the street, people sometimes forget that they should stop being their loud, selfish, obnoxious selves and enjoy the art in front of them. And, more importantly, allow those around them to enjoy it also.
My seat was amazing – about 4-5 rows back from the stage. The action was right in front of my face. The first half of the show was mostly free of rudeness, but as the second half started, the two douchenozzles in question were having a loud conversation well into the start of the show. These two people (a man in a grey jacket and white turtleneck; and a woman with straight, black hair, jeans and black boots) did not know each other before they arrived, and now they were apparently discussing the finer elements of every f-ing subject on the planet right next to me.
And the phones… Do you realize that when you turn your wicked bright cell phone screen on in a dark room, it actually is NOT invisible to everyone else? In fact, it’s like a flashlight, and everyone can see it out of the corner of their eye. So, when you keep that screen on for almost an entire music show, it’s REALLY F-ING ANNOYING to those around you. (This, along with regular talking, was happening on both sides of me.)
Is everyone so unable to concentrate that they can’t sit still for a few hours to watch a mind-blowing art performance without constantly being in motion? If Mr. Turtleneck wasn’t talking, checking his texts, taking photos, shooting video, shooting audio or drinking wine, he was singing along to the songs and occasionally yelling at the performers. Listen, I’m not a schoolmarm. If you want to make a comment now and then to your friend in a low voice, that’s fine. But long, involved conversations do not belong in a theater. Watch it on your TV if you are unable to stop talking for any length of time.
If you want to take a photo, I’m fine with that. But holding your arm next to my head for 5 minutes taking video is not OK. Neither is turning your phone’s screen on every few minutes to check your email. Neither is screaming demands at the musicians during the show in a voice that sounds like your abusive, alcoholic uncle.
Do we need to teach a class in high school or college to help people become more self aware in public? Or how to concentrate? Or how to enjoy art? (Yes. Yes, we need to do all of those things, in fact.)
If it were up to me, theaters would:
- have a “check your phone at the door” policy
- not serve alcohol (because it makes you chatty)
- train their ushers to administer stern words to patrons who talk during shows, offering to escort them to the hallway where they might hear each other better
I feel pity for the folks who cannot take a few hours to be still and fully experience a performance like this. They likely left feeling no more relaxed than when they arrived because they didn’t quiet the noise of the world while they were there.
But that isn’t an excuse. People should be considerate of how their actions affect the experiences of others. Clearly, there are much less patient folks than I who would just as soon shoot you as watch you turn that startlingly bright phone screen on every five minutes while they’re trying to enjoy a show.
We’re all in this together, people, so please don’t be a douche.