Friday, July 29, 2011

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS: What Has Happened to Our Culture?

This question might come up several times when I write this weekly column.  But this week, I am referring to a specific subject matter.  One that I know is a blight on our society that is hard to stamp out no matter how many pre-movie/play announcements a theater makes.  My friends, I speak of the scourge that is: Cell Phone OVERUSE!  Now, the incident to which I am referring happened on Monday when my father and I went to see the last Harry Potter movie for the second time (I really do enjoy that film!).  We arrive at the theater and a man is sitting there talking on his cell phone.  Now, it is before the movie, so his talking (seemingly to himself, but that's another matter!) doesn't quite bother me...yet.  Our local movie theater is part of a chain (Century) that insists on doing these insipid commercials and featurettes (that's movie previews with cast interviews!) that bore my father to tears and so he pulls out his Droid device and begins fiddling with it (I know that sounds dirty, but only to those of you with filthy minds!).  Remember, this is all before the previews have begun and the lights have been dimmed, so it is still not bothering me...yet.

So, watching these inane ads for TV programs I don't care about and products I may use or never plan to use is wearing on me too; but as my father is otherwise engaged, I have to rely on the old standard habit of people-watching.  In front of me is the man who was talking on his cell the minute we walked in, only now he is not talking: he is playing games, checking text messages, using a search engine, mapping a location (WOW, what these damn phones can do now!).  He is doing everything with this phone except turning it off.  Which, at this moment, is not a problem.  But the little voice inside me is saying: "He is going to f--- with his device for the entire f---in' movie, isn't he?"  Experience (and therapy!) have taught me to ignore that little voice often.  Unfortunately, this time, the little voice was right.

As the lights dimmed, his phone didn't.  My dad's did.  I heard other people's phones turning off.  They were reading the big screen that said "Silence and Turn Off your Cell Phones!" and "Respect your fellow patrons."  Apparently these were concepts that were lost on our good buddy with the "I-can-do-everything-with-this-phone."  For the duration of the previews, the phone remained on and I could clearly see the light as I was right behind this inconsiderate doofus.  He was checking messages, playing Scrabble and probably ordering take-out for when he leaves the theater (Who knows? And more importantly, Who cares?).  As the movie began and we see Harry Potter and his friends come on the screen, his phone light went off...for a minute and a half.  I don't know what it was, but it seemed there was something in this man that he just couldn't turn off that phone.  It went on like this for the duration of the movie: Off...On...Off...On...MADE A PHONE CALL!!!!....Off...On...Off...On...Off...End of Movie and Lights return!  Oh, did I bury the lead there?  Yes, the man made a phone call during the movie!

What has happened to our culture?  Are we so obsessed with cell phones and internet usage and being "connected" that we cannot do others the common courtesy of shutting down for 1 or 2 or 3 hours and watch a movie or a play or a musical?  I remember when cell phones were just something you had in case of emergencies!  (And with that statement I officially sound like my late Grandmother!)  Did this man have some important job he should be doing or some emergency he was concerned about that kept his focus away from the world of Hogwarts?  And if so, WHY was he at the movie in the first place?  If I have a job to be at or had some emergency going on, the movie theater is the LAST place I would think I should be, right?  And why is it when other patrons speak up to these scatterbrained nincompoops or the theaters proceed to escort their butts out of the venue, that these people become defensive and angry?  It's like they feel entitled to act like spoiled brats who don't want their shiny toys taken away.  I seriously want to discuss this (from all angles, because the nincompoops have a right to be heard too!).

NOTE: I did not confront this man about his inconsiderate behavior as he was very large and seemed like the type who would fight to the death for the "free" use of his cell phone.  I don't know about you, but I didn't want my obituary reading: He died at a Harry Potter film!  But it's good to ask the question: Would you have said something?  Or would you, like me or the other patrons (including my father!), just let the a--hole have his precious phone?

What is it about our culture that has allowed this kind of behavior to fester (like a fungus!)?  I really want to know.

2ND NOTE: Even though I have allowed myself to break my own rule and use swear words (although censored!), I will delete any comments that cross the line and are just tirades filled with gratuitous language.  Let's keep it classy folks!

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