Hell is Other People’s Cellphones

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Spoleto monologuist Mike Daisey’s one-off performance of his show Invincible Summer Tuesday evening, began with the most memorable — and to my mind, effective — audience announcement I’ve heard at this year’s festival: “Tonight’s show will be performed in the language and style of New York. So turn off your fucking cellphone or we’ll shove it so far up your ass you’ll never see it again.”

The sound of dozens of cellphones shutting down followed in short order. (Non sequitur alert: pointless digression immediately ahead.) While I’m on the subject, why do cellphones do this? It’s not bad enough that we’ve got to be subjected to those ridiculous, criminally-annoying musical ringtones? We have to

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listen to a performance-length electronic sob when the things are turned off, too? That’s a unique phenomenon, as far as I can tell. What other appliance makes such an ordeal out of being powered down? You turn the key in a car and the engine cuts off, end of story. You press a button on the remote and whatever you were watching on the television disappears instantly in a puff of static. What makes cellphones so special that they have to turn being powered down into such a production? It’s not like they’ll never be powered up again. They will, and soon — probably right before the next performance, in fact.

So here’s an idea. Since the ongoing commentary about the Drive-By Booing post seems to be making for some provocative conversation, how’s this for a topic starter: What fate, real or imagined, would you see meted out to those whose cellphones ring in the middle of a performance? Personally, I’d like the opportunity to roll my program up and smack offenders on the nose while looking them in the eye and saying firmly, “Bad person! Bad person!” New York Times media reporter David Carr (a personal hero) thinks that theaters should be equipped with flying monkeys that drop out of the ceiling and attack people who insist on talking during films, and I strongly suspect he’d wish the same on cellphone malefactors. And of course there’s also the poison dart strategy I moon over in my bio.

So give it up: How would you like to see cellphone scofflaws punished?

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