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Phone etiquette

Posted at 11:57 AM on August 2, 2006 by Euan Kerr

So here's the scene: I was sitting in a very large and, I initially thought, empty movie theater recently, when a cellphone etiquette dilemma pierced me with both horns.

I'm working the early shift at present which allows me to trade off the horrors of dragging my carcass out of bed at 4.45 with the delights of hitting early screenings on a weekday. Being too cheap to run AC at home, the theaters are even more attractive.

I was a little surprised to find myself alone in the theater as the lights went down. I felt my way through the dark to a seat in the middle of a row, not too close to the front. A few moment's later I felt a sense of relief when someone else slunk in during the previews. He sat a couple of rows behind me, but on the aisle.

All was well until about 15 minutes into the movie, my leg began vibrating. As a news guy I usually keep my cell on vibrate, just in case. To be honest I do it more because I am convinced people only call your cell with important stuff when it's not on.

Anyway, I eased the phone out of my pocket and saw, on the tiny little led screen on the top of the phone, that it was the friend who had said he wanted to come to the movie, but was AWOL when I went to pick him up.

I didn't answer. I mean, that's just rude. The call went to voicemail after the requisite 4 rings, or in this case silent buzzes. I settled back to watch the film again.

Then the phone kept buzzing on my leg. Every few minutes it just wanted to remind me there was a message. Perhaps I should have just switched it off, but I didn't and after two or three buzzes I began to feel concerned about my pal. What if he was late because he was in an accident? What if he thought I was in trouble?

Then came the dilemma: should I listen to the message in the theater or go outside. The room was HUGE and there was only one other person in the place. But would the light of the phone disturb him? One person disturbed is one person too many.

I also didn't want to miss any of the fast-moving film. How about if I walked to the back of the theater? I would be behind the other patron. But still I would be taking the call in the theater and that just felt wrong.

Thus sat I, paralysed.

After 15 minutes I couldn't stand it any longer and went into the lobby. I talked to my pal. He'd been unavoidably detained. We arranged to meet for dinner. All was well.

Except I felt like a dork.

When the film ended an hour later my cinematic compatriot left quickly, apparently unaware of my turmoil. Such is life.

August 2006
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