I could not help myself, I had to post this article I read. Love it, and wonder
just how many of us
feel this way. Or is it all about age and the younger
generation really has no clue about civility
written by Kevin Williamson, writer for the theater column The New
The audiences, unfortunately, are drearily predictable. It's the old
one-in-every-family phenomenon: They will be late. They will talk. Their cell
phones will ring, and some of them, by God, will answer them. They will text,
and they may even play a few rounds of Words with Friends during the third
act. They are the enemy. They are depressing not because their bad manners
surprise us, but because they do not surprise us.
I found myself in the news
this week after offering a surprise of my own at a New York theater: The
woman seated next to me was on her phone throughout most of the show.
(It was "Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812," in case you're
wondering, a musical based on "War and Peace." You know what show you
shouldn't see in New York if you have the attention span of a goldfish? One
based on "War and Peace.") When she was not on her phone, she and her
friends were engaged in a four-part imitation of a "Sex and the City" brunch conversation.
I asked her nicely -- more than once -- but she did not respond
to courtesy. She said: "Just don't look." So I took her phone from her and
There was a moment of wonderful, shocked silence. She salvaged
such self-respect as she could -- which is to say, she slapped me -- and then
stalked off in search of her phone. A few minutes later, I was visited by an
annoyed gentleman in a black suit and soon enough found myself out on the
Yes, it was worth it.
In part, I blame the theater managers. If you seat
people who show up late, they will show up late. One or two high-profile
ejections a month would go a long way toward beating some sense into the
But you can never design a perfect protocol. Audiences must behave. People are \awful, of course -- somebody once observed that every civilization faces a
barbarian invasion every generation in the form of its children -- and the
Broadway and off-Broadway crowd is full of miscreants.
Theater is New York
and New York is theater, and New York is not much like the rest of the country.
New York is one of the world capitals of self-importance. And, with the
possible exception of Washington, there is no city in the country where self-importance is more disconnected from actual importance. If I could buy New
Yorkers for what they're worth and sell them for what they think they're worth,
I'd own Fifth Avenue from Saks to Harlem.
That guy whispering into his
cell phone? He isn't getting the news that little Timmy finally has a donor
for his heart transplant -- he's just another schmuck having a schmuck
conversation with schmucks elsewhere. That guy tapping away on his smart
phone isn't restructuring the derivatives markets -- he's playing "Angry Birds."
The lady to my right, I am willing to bet, was not receiving her orders from the Impossible Missions Force, and her phone did not self-destruct.
I destructed it
. And I am not sorry.
I am advised that what I did was almost certainly a crime.
And if the law, in its majesty, should decide that I need to spend a night in jail
over this episode, then I will be happy to do so.
But I think of it as an act of
criticism. Occasionally, a shocking gesture is called for, perhaps even a
histrionic one. I may have met conventional-grade rudeness with thermo
nuclear counterforce, but I did it in the interests of civility, violating standards
to preserve them.
Theater-goers on Twitter jokingly compared me to Batman:
Not the hero Gotham deserves, the hero it needs. I don't know about that:
Grumpiness is not much of a superpower. But we will live in exactly as rude and coarse a world as we will tolerate, and I do not intend to tolerate very much.
I could not have said it better.
(below is a digital page I created from one of our trips across the ocean. Wished
I was there...)