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Screen Bloody Murder: My Latest Annoyance

So I'm at a high school band concert last night, seated comfortably in the darkened auditorium, when out of the corner of my eye I see someone playing solitaire. On her laptop. While the concert is going on.

The human brain has evolved to the point where it is impossible not to look at a lighted screen in a dim room. Call it the Sports Bar Complex. No matter how scintillating your experience may be--how attractive your date, how compelling the band onstage--if there is a screen you will look at it. I will look at it anyway, try as I might not to.

I moved seats.

And there two rows ahead was a girl fingering her iPhone. It was smaller than the laptop but it glowed just as brightly and was just as distracting. It was distracting visually (see Sports Bar Complex above) but it was also distracting philosophically. It was so obvious that both girls would rather have been somewhere else. The only way they could endure the hell of the band concert was to gaze into the screen.

I've seen the same thing happen at movies: People text on their cell phones, oblivious to what's happening on the even bigger screen in front of them.

What can we do about this? Am I wrong to be so irritated? What do you think?

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By John Kelly  |  May 1, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
 
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Comments

This is just as rude as talking during a performance. This is just as rude as taking out your phone and answering it in the middle of a meal at a nice restaurant with someone. Rude because you are disturbing everybody around you and rude because of your obvious disregard/disdain/disrespect for the person to whom your attention SHOULD be directed. I swear people are devolving.

PS--I did notice at my last trip to the movies that they have now added "no texting" to the "silence your cell phones" reel before the show.

Posted by: breitz | May 1, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Unless the light from the screen was distracting to other spectators (and it might have been), I don't see a problem. Quite different from people in a theatre talking on cell phones, or to each other. I've had this happen while watching a movie, and also had the people-- when I asked them to be quiet or go to the lobby-- react indignantly.

Posted by: Sutter | May 1, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

My major public annoyance is still people talking on cell phones anywhere in public. I take a commuter bus to and from work 5 days a week. I sit in the back and try to catch up on reading, since I'm taking college courses in my 'free time.' Invariably cell phone addicts plop themselves down in front or behind me and whip out the old hell phone and start a boring harangue about their day, what to fix for dinner, when to meet at the bus stop. One day I had 2 in front of me, one beside and one behind me, all trying to out-talk each other. Another habitually gives a progress report about his way home: 'leaving Andrews now,' 5 minutes later 'just passing Upper Marlboro. Finally 'we just pulled into ________'. I certainly hope my reading doesn't disturb anybody, because these hell phone users annoy the heck out of me.

Then we have the ones whose cell phones erupt during our regular club meetings. I think it is especially rude when we have a speaker up there trying to talk when it happens. Or the women pushing a grocery cart jabbering away while they pick cans of fruit off the shelves. For Pete's sake, what is so urgent you can't wait an hour to discuss. Unless the house is burning down or somebody just died, just wait until you get home.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | May 1, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Here's one thing you could try - blatantly stare at them, or stare over their shoulder at what's on their screen, until they get annoyed and say something to the effect of "what's your problem". Then you say, since you're being rude and distracting me from what I'm trying to do, I'm going to do the same to you. They'll either get the point and put it away, or go somewhere else because they think you're nuts, but either way you win. I figure this would work pretty well too on people on the metro that turn up their headphones so loud that everyone has to hear it, if you had the guts to do it.

Posted by: dr_klahn | May 1, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I hate it when people in a dark theatre hold up their cell phones. The light is incredibly bright and distracting. If your expected call is that important, stay out in the lobby - or better yet, STAY HOME.

I am also driven crazy by cell phone users on the subway. I have NEVER heard a conversation that sounded like it truly couldn't wait until they reached their destination. Trust me, your life doesn't interest me.

Posted by: swissmiss150 | May 1, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

You could always try talking back to the cell phone users and if they say something like "I wasn't talking to you." just answer that it sure sounded like they were, so maybe they should talk quieter if they aren't trying to talk to all the people around them. It might at least make them self conscious.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | May 1, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Unless the light from the screen was distracting to other spectators (and it might have been), I don't see a problem.

------

It's always distracting.

While I would tend to have more patience in a movie theater, a live performance, especially one put on by young people, is absolutely disrespectful.

Again, I may have more patience for a brief text (who knows if it's important?) as opposed to extended toying/text conversations.

Posted by: crs-one | May 3, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I was at Constitution Hall on Friday night for Placido Domingo's performance. In spite of multiple requests, people persisted in taking flash photos (evidently they're too stupid to realize the flash is of no help if you're seated in the top row). Thankfully, the flashes didn't seem to distract him, nor any of the other performers, but it struck me as horribly rude to both the performers (who have to endure the blinding flashes in a dark auditorium) and the other patrons (who risk having the show ruined if a performer is thrown off by the flash).

Posted by: 1995hoo | May 3, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

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