I committed a faux pas tonight – I used my mobile phone, in the middle of a darkened theatre, in the middle of a play.
Before you pooh pooh me, I had a good reason to use the phone. I was trying to discretely give directions to a lost friend who was running very late for the play. Here’s what happened.
My friend Megan A was starring in a play tonight, which formed part of the Short and Sweet Festival. (FYI, the Short and Sweet Festival is the stage equivalent of Tropfest, where short plays of 10 minutes maximum duration are performed to a live audience.) Emily took on the role of event organiser and arranged (and paid for) tickets for 4 of us to attend the play and support our friend. As all 4 of us were coming from different directions, the plan was to meet at the Newtown Theatre.
You know what they say about the best laid plans.
I arrived at the theatre at 8pm, 15 minutes before curtains. What I didn’t know at the time was that Megan S had arrived much earlier and was already seated inside the theatre. Emily had my ticket – or, at least the receipt to prove she had paid for my ticket, so I thought I’d wait outside for her. Em was incommunicado – she was invited to sail with some clients for the afternoon, and her phone was presumably out of range. Standing outside the theatre, I was beginning to wonder if I’d written down the correct details when Len turned up.
Len eventually convinced me to go into the theatre, just after the curtains were raised. Em had finally called to say she was on her way. As the first play concluded, Len and I inched our way into the darkened theatre, where I apologetically squeezed past 5 people to reach the first gap I saw. Len, in the meantime, had spotted Megan S and made his way to a seat without any trouble.
I settled in to enjoy the 2nd short play of the night when I felt my phone vibrate in my vast handbag. It could be only one person – Em – and she was lost – or, to be precise, her cab driver was lost. And she needed directions – now – or she was going to miss Megan A’s play, which was the 3rd play on the list.
I had a choice – ignore the message, or attempt a stealth message composition back to Em, in hope she would appear by my side very shortly.
In the end, the faux pas was my only choice. I didn’t want Em to miss Megan’s play, so I sent a message back to her. In my defence, I tried my very best to do so inconspicuously.
At the end of the 2nd play, Len tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I’d like to join him and Megan S in a different row. To the disdain of the people sitting next to me, I very apologetically stood up and asked if I could squeeze out again.
What happened next was, to say the least, the biggest tongue lashing I’d received in a long time.
The woman next to me launched into an acid dialogue, berating me for using my phone, my lack of respect for the theatre, the performers, and the event itself. As I tried to apologise for the umpteenth time and explain why I had to do what I did, she cut me off with more harsh words and pushed me out of her row.
Sheepishly, I climbed into my seat between Megan S and Len and tried to shrink into the row. As I tried to watch and enjoy Megan A’s play, I could feel my face and upper torso burn with indignity. I wanted to make this silly woman understand that I had the utmost respect for the event and the performers, to let her know I was a staunch supporter of the arts, and to go back to explain why my actions were necessary. After a bit more thought, what I really wanted was to tell her to lighten up.
At least my phone was set to vibrate, unlike the one that rang audibly through one of the later plays.
Megan’s play was quite good. It was the first time I’d seen her perform, and I was very proud of her. I hope to see more of her work in the future.
Sadly, Em missed the whole thing. Even with my directions, none of her 3 cab drivers were able to get her to the theatre on time. She arrived just as Megan’s play finished.