My husband and I have noticed that we're becoming cantankerous. We will catch ourselves complaining about some young driver or a rude cashier or our noisy children, then laugh uncomfortably at how we must sound. Neither one of us wants to turn into a curmudgeon, but it's a slippery slope. What starts out as a legitimate gripe can morph into close-minded, old-fashioned thinking expressed in a critical and unkind tone.
So. Last weekend, as I sat in a darkened auditorium next to a young woman who texted throughout the entire first half of the performance, I struggled internally with my irritation. I have no problem whatsoever turning to someone and asking them to please refrain from discourteous behavior, but on this occasion I bit my tongue.
I sat there and wondered if it was just me. No one else in my row seemed to be bothered. Why was I so annoyed? She wasn't loud or wiggly. Part of my aggravation was the bright light of her phone screen. When I pay good money for a seat at a live performance, I want to be carried away by the magic and get lost in the illusion. But the woman's lit-up phone kept pulling me back to reality. Now that I think of it, one of the twins did yell out at one point, "Who turned on that flashlight?"
Part of my grumpiness was at what I perceived to be her disrespect for the performers. I think that because I have a background in acting and dance, I may be hypersensitive to how spectators behave in a theatre. I mean, here were these beautiful young acrobats literally risking their limbs as they entertained us with their feats of strength and balance and contortion, but the texter beside me couldn't be bothered to put her phone away and grace them with her undivided attention for more than 20 seconds. TWENTY SECONDS. I'm not kidding. I started counting. She'd text, then turn off her phone and place it in her lap. One, two, three . . . eleven, twelve, thirteen . . . eighteen, nineteen . . . right around the 20 mark, she'd snatch up her phone and turn it on to check her screen. Once she went as long as 52 seconds before she could stand it no longer.
I usually don't have a problem with texting; to be honest, I actually prefer it to live calls. It's so much easier to text a friend, Can u bring H home after game? than it is to phone, make small talk, and try to ease out of the conversation so we can hang up. I think my friend appreciates it, too. All she has to do is text back Yes, no prob. If I'm feeling particularly charitable, I can reply Thanks! End of exchange. Easy-peasy. Cell phones have become more than mere mobile telephones. They are indispensable for most people, especially the younger generation, who use their cells not only as personal communicator but as computer, camera, calendar, address book, and game center. I get that.
I tried to give my rowmate the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she was an overworked physician on-call, answering life and death questions from the ER. I started reading her texts. Hey, our shoulders were touching, so it was easy. She was just chit-chatting with a woman named Linda, who was urging the texter to "take lots of pictures!" Unfortunately for me, that's what she decided to do for the entire second half of the performance. She'd hold up her cell phone with its bright screen and take a fuzzy photograph of the performers on stage. And then another. And another. It could have been worse, I suppose. She could have used flash, but didn't, so I should have been grateful. Or at least unconcerned.
But I wasn't. Harumph.
Dinner last night: tuna noodle casserole