Friday, August 14, 2009

Busted! (almost)

Let’s say (hypothetically) that someone is attending a concert at a major venue (like, for example, Orchestra Hall) and sending an occasional text on his (or her) iPhone. You know—a few words to a friend elsewhere in the house about getting together after the show, perhaps a tweet or a fb status update. Isn’t that what people do these days? The sound is off, the brightness on the screen is dialed way down, and the girl (uh, guy) is very discreet.

Nevertheless, during intermission, an usher beelines to that row and demands to know who’s been text messaging during the concert. “Were you sending text messages?” she asks the people in the seats at the end. “Did you know who was sending text messages? Someone was sending text messages from this row.” The purported texter, seated further down the row, is not asked directly and avoids eye contact. The usher moves on to the next row toward the stage, then the next, where someone tattles on the person sitting in front of her. Nice.

So what we all want to know, in case this should ever happen to any of us, is: What’s the policy? The FAQ on the venue's website says “We ask that all paging devices, cellular phones and signal watches be turned OFF during the performance as a courtesy to others.” I’m assuming that’s because of the annoying noises they emit.

But texting is silent. Who cares if someone texts? Have people complained about the glow of cellphone screens, or the delicate dance of fingers on the keys? Is either more annoying than the person with huge hair in the seat in front of you, or the stinky person to your left, or the serial cougher behind you, or the scratcher, or the person with the whistle so piercing it’s an ice pick in your brain?

Banning beeps and ringtones makes sense. Nixing texting, not so much.


  1. I don't like people staring at their screens or typing either, it can be very distracting.

  2. What about people writing in notebooks? I do that a lot. Or taking photographs, when photography is permitted?

  3. If texting is silent, I don't see how that's different than, say, taking notes on a pad of paper--something I'm prone to do during shows because I'll hear something that I want to follow up on later.

    I'd chalk this incident up to the orchestra hall environment.


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