Sometimes You Just Have to Vent About Cellphones

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Everybody knows you're not supposed to yell "fire" in a crowded theater unless the theater is filling with smoke.

But apparently there are still people out there who think it's OK to yell "hello" in a crowded theater. Into a cellphone. During a concert.

I saw Kronos Quartet at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday night and have been outraged ever since. I've just got to vent.

No, I'm not outraged about Kronos, whose playing was exquisite, as always. Their program was on the esoteric side — what some listeners might call "challenging" — but really, really powerful and moving, IMHO.

On the bill — the second half of the concert — was "Black Angels." That's the piece that inspired violinist David Harrington to form Kronos when he heard it for the first time in 1973. If you've never heard it, there are many moments of extreme quiet — almost inaudible music. All the more reason the audience was almost holding its collective breath, trying not to interrupt with the noise of inhaling and exhaling.

And that's when the cellphone rang. It was in the purse of a lady in the row right behind me. After she rummaged around for it for several painful seconds, everyone who had turned to glare at her assumed she would then silence it, duly chastised for forgetting to turn it off.

But no.


She answered the fucking phone. Loudly. "Hello?" she yelled into the device. Horrified, we all desperately tried to shush her. She said another sentence to her caller, and then got the hint. "They're telling me I got to turn it off, gotta go," she shouted. And then she did.

Kronos didn't miss a beat. But they, like everyone else in the theater, certainly heard it. I was fuming. Stunned. Incredulous.

Had the woman never been in a theater before? I'm guessing not. After the show, someone in her row told her, as if he were speaking to a toddler, that she wasn't supposed to talk on the phone during a concert. "Well, I didn't know that," she replied rather huffily.

But still. Where is the common sense, not to mention common courtesy?

As rude as people can be in the cellular age, we've nonetheless come to rely on the manners of total strangers in a place like the Flynn. To assume and expect a modicum of consideration for the performers and fellow theatergoers.

Maybe that's why John Killacky, executive director of the Flynn, forgot the usual request to turn off cellphones and other devices during his introductory remarks. He shouldn't have to remind people, but I guess he does. 

I'm pretty sure the lady in question will not be reading my blog post, but I wish I could tell her she violated that concert for me and, I think, many other people that night. After all, here I am spending time complaining about her behavior rather than writing about how awesome the musicians were and are.

I suspect I'm not alone in wanting to apologize to Kronos, on behalf of Burlington, for the dis.


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