Radical Civility: Let the Sharing Begin
In my column today I announce the start of the Radical Civility movement. This is in response to the growing perception that people are getting ruder and things are going to hell.
We can let that happen, or we can act. There are many places where we can practice Radical Civility--both being polite ourselves and requesting it of others--but I've chosen to start in one area: movie theaters, specifically: trying to end the practice of texting during films. It isn't quite as ingrained as some other behaviors. Maybe we can dispatch it before it hardens into place.
We will track the progress of the campaign here in "John Kelly's Commons." I invite you to add your observations, experiences and suggestions in the comments section below. You may also e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org. While the focus is on texting, I welcome all stories of impolite behavior. Call it "Random Acts of Rudeness."
Here are some responses I received after earlier columns on the topic. Howard Kaplan of North Chevy Chase had this to say:
I applaud your attempt to pull together all of us who are fighting our lonely guerilla war against rampant rudeness. Sometimes, I have, with moderate success, gotten the offender to stop twittering in concert halls or carrying on loud cellphone conversations 2 feet from my ear in restaurants, by politely asking. At other times I’ve stopped them by leaning over and reading their messages or joining in on their cellphone conversations. (As all this is taking place in a public venue, they have no right to expect or demand privacy.
But while my efforts may satisfy me, they have no affect on the behavior of the mob, so what you’re proposing seems definitely worth pursuing. One suggestion: Solicit the names of establishments that have been alerted to rude behaviors and periodically list those that have responded as well as those which have not. You might also compile a list of establishments having, and enforcing, pro-civility policies.
Good idea. Can people recommend such establishments? Add in the comments below or send me an e-mail.
Hyattsville's Linda Keenan wrote: "I hereby join the Radical Civility movement. As soon as you hear of an entertainment venue where 'ushers actually enforce the tenets of civility,' let me know!"
Welcome aboard, Linda!
Richard Rohde of Hamilton, Va., said he has been offered free tickets when he's complained to movie theater managers about disruptive behavior, "but that doesn’t compensate me for my time and aggravation." He added:
While I applaud your vigilantism, I don’t see it as a long-term solution. Patrons need to be forceful. Subscribers to the Kennedy Center can make their voices heard easily by threatening to cancel their subscriptions. Moviegoers have less leverage. I can think of two long term solutions:
I suggest calling up your local movie theater and asking them to institute a policy that anyone talking or using a cell phone during the movie will be subject to ejection without compensation. If they resist and it is a multiplex, perhaps they would consider designating one or two screens to this policy. If they still refuse, organize a boycott. Tell the theater manager you will not attend movies at his or her theater until they change the policy.
The other solution is to scout the audience for the toughest looking person. Right before the lights go down point to this person and announce that if you notice anyone using their cell phone during the movie you will have your friend Bruno take the phone and throw it against the wall.
I like the idea of rewarding theaters that support Radical Civility. I wish all ushers were like "Bruno." If you're a movie usher or theater manager, I'd love to hear about your experiences and whether we expect too much of you.
Lois Lacey is a musician. She's noticed more people in concert audiences ignoring the request to turn off their cell phones.
But what if the offender is a member of the orchestra, band or choir? I play the violin, so I cannot get away with this behavior (not that I would), but those who play in the back, and do not play as often (brass and percussion players come to mind) are not only hidden, but as I said, do not play all the time. I cannot tell you the number of times I have noticed one of these players, and during a performance no less, texting (or reading, eating, dozing). Or choir members (those in the back of course) doing the same. Can we not wait until the concert is over? Maybe it is time to employ monetary fines to these people.
That's what James Brown would have done. He was famous for fining his band members for various infractions.
We will close today's episode with Carol Ruth Axelrod of McLean, who said she was certain her bad movie theater behavior story would top anyone else’s:
I avidly looked forward to seeing “The Queen” a couple of years ago, and went to the recently opened AMC Theatres at Tysons Corner on opening day. I bought some popcorn and went in and found a seat.
The theater was pretty full. Lo and behold, a bare foot comes up over the empty seat adjacent to me, and there it remained, roughly 12” from my mouth and the popcorn. I asked the woman to remove it. She did, but a few minutes later, back came the bare foot. Again, I asked her to please remove it, and she did.
I turned to take a look at who was attached to the offending foot, as I couldn’t believe anyone would do this. The woman was older and nicely dressed, as was the man with her. I tried not to feel annoyed, as it can be so hard to shake that feeling off and enjoy the movie.
I was pretty successful at putting it out of my mind until ..... back came the bare foot again! I turned and said, “Lady, please! I expect the foot to be down on the floor for the duration, and not keep coming back again and again!” After a few minutes, the man tapped on my shoulder and I turned to hear what he had to say.
He said his wife had a bad infection on her foot, that the doctor told her to keep re-applying prescription antibiotic ointment as often as she could, and to keep the foot elevated. Exasperated, he said that was why they went to the movies in the first place, so she could sit for two hours with her foot elevated and rub ointment into the infection. This, inches from my face as I ate popcorn. I did leave and I did complain, and like your other complainants, was given a free ticket to come again, but the foot infection people were not even spoken to.
Yes, Ms. Axelrod. I would say you're the winner.
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