Saturday, January 17, 2009

Turn That Damn Thing Off ... Please

My pal Ralph Berrier Jr., a columnist for The Roanoke Times, hit a nerve with a short piece in this a.m.'s paper about cellular telephones and theaters. His point, basically, was "turn it off" and I agree that is good advice.

Advice, though, is not what these self-absorbed numbskulls need. They need what my mama would have called "a good whipping. Cut me a switch!" You have to wonder where the limits of the world are for those who simply would not understand that the bright light emitted from a cell phone might well be a distraction to somebody outside that little corner of our environment. It's like a flashlight in a closet: you can't see anything else.

I have frequently had to walk over to those whose attention is riveted to the phone--bent down so as not to block anybody's view--and say simply and forcefully, "Would you please turn off your cell phone? It is a distraction." I have yet to have an angry boyfriend, set off by the old man who would dare correct his light-headed girlfriend whose attention is not his anyway, jump up and deck me. But it's coming. This is a thoroughly unpredictable society full of people whose rage level is about to pour over the side and correcting their manners is not a way to ingratiate myself to them.

But I'll keep taking that chance (I love the standing ovations from the rest of the people in the theater) because somebody truly needs to do it. I do not suffer under the illusion that the young idiot who has the cell phone's light blaring has learned anything at all, but at least I get to watch the movie. And, frankly, so does Miss/Mr. Cell Phone Addict.

This is not a small problem and it is not a new problem. The National Association of Theater Owners, in 2006, considered asking for legislation that would allow jamming of cell phones in theaters. Jamming equipment is available online (mostly from Europe), but is illegal here for the casual user. One theater owner recommended that we carry a watergun and use it, then when the offender turns to see who shot him, we all turn to look to the back of the theater. Heh, heh, heh.

Of course, the cell industry is saying "don't jam" because of the possibility of an emergency call being blocked. Bullshirt! How many of these dim-bulb, addicted teenagers and young "adults" have emergency calls coming in? Like, none. There is, I understand, a paint that blocks all but emergency signals (no, I have no idea how it determines the difference) and its patent was pending a while back. Don't know whatever happened to it, but it certainly sounds promising.

For me, I guess I'll just have to keep trudging over and making new friends by complaining.

(By the way, I do understand that the cell phone light can be useful. This was in the Orlando Sentinel the other day: "The light from a cell-phone screen helped rescuers located a missing boater in the St. Johns River late Tuesday." But that's a one-in-a-million shot. We're talking about an every movie occurrence with the lit theater.)

UPDATE JAN. 18: OK, so this is how bad this thing has become. We're sitting through the "pre-feature content" last night, waiting for Defiance (heck of a movie, Brownie) to start and what do I see on the screen, but a a commercial for a contest that you can take part in by whipping out your cell phone and calling a number, RIGHT NOW! So the cell people have a partner in the movie theaters. It's just surreal.

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