Of Mobiles and Reading

I did a reading last week - a very short short story, but one that depends heavily on atmosphere - so as reader, concentration is important. I don't usually have too much trouble - I enjoy public readings, like the opportunity to be ... well, theatrical. This was in a small but very congenial gathering in a room in a hotel. And all was going well, until a mobile rang and the middle aged professional man (old enough to know better) sitting to the right of my eyeline, proceeded not only to answer it, but also to have quite a long, if muted, conversation!
Of course what I should have done - when I thought about it with all the benefit of hindsight! - was to stop the reading, ask him if he wanted to take the call outside the room, give him a moment to go - and then carry on. But a combination of extreme surprise (oddly enough, this has never happened to me before) and innate politeness made me soldier on. It was alright, but only just. My concentration had a wobble, and the rest of the audience was clearly outraged but too polite to say anything. Now that it has happened once, I think I'd react more swiftly next time. I'd ask for mobiles to be switched off first, and then if one did happen to ring, I would almost certainly stop. But in my experience to date it has become habitual for most people to switch off their phones before a reading or performance of any sort. And as somebody said to me afterwards - lots of us have had the embarrassing experience of forgetting, but if the phone rings under those circumstances, there's a mad scramble to switch it off. You don't answer the thing unless your wife is about to go into labour, and even then, you take it outside the room!
A friend, pointedly, asked him afterwards, if he had been 'on call'. He hadn't and he did apologise, saying that he thought the person would ring off, but frankly, that's not good enough.
It's getting to the point now where younger people have better 'mobile phone etiquette' than the middle aged. I sat next to a pair of women in a cafe the other day, friends sharing a coffee. One of them took three long and essentially unimportant (I know, because I could hear every stupid word) phonecalls, while her friend sat there, staring out of the window, drinking her coffee, and mentally, I have no doubt, drumming her fingers on the table. I have a 'friend' who sometimes does it too, usually moving outside the cafe to take the call. It drives me nuts. Even my son, who might be expected to take a few liberties with his mum, never does it when we are sharing a coffee and a chat. He switches his phone off, and says if it's anything urgent they'll text him or leave a message. The oldies really should know better.


Anonymous said…
Just blogged about this myself. Wonderful cast all round. thought I was getting 'harrow fatigue' but the ending didn't pull any punches. AliB