Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tales of Dickery: Accidental Theater Dickery

I’m bad at confronting people in public. Like, really, really bad. Bad in that way that I will stew in my rage for hours, fantasizing about confronting some rude asshole or another without ever actually executing said confrontation.

So of course on the rare occasion that I do actually commit to telling an inconsiderate stranger off in public, it spectacularly blows up in my face as happened late one night last December whilst The Lovely Tiffany and I were out taking in the London theater scene.

We had decided to see The Phantom of the Opera. Trust me, there was much agonizing (mostly over prices) but we settled on The Phantom of the Opera because A) the tickets that were available weren’t prohibitively expensive, and, B) Fuck you, The Phantom of the Opera is a pinnacle of human achievement. So there.

Yep. We were *those* Americans.
Understand it’d been a minute since either of us had actually attended live theater. We used to be all about it. Yet over the last decade, theater kind of stopped being a thing for us. Because, ya know… life.

Because it had been so long since I’d been to the theater, I was completely unaware that at some point in the last decade audiences collectively decided that cell phone use was an acceptable thing during live performances. Who knew? But when the lights went down, and the curtain went up, a sea of cell phones came out. For a few minutes it seemed like the theater was nothing but brightly shining LCD screens. What members of the theater staff actually interested in patrons having a good experience did their best to curb that, but a few people persisted.

Like, for example, the old man seated beside me.

Almost immediately into the show, he produced and begins to click what looked like an old Nokia style phone and he was doing his best to hide what he was doing. He’d shift awkwardly in his seat, look left, look right, then cup the thing up by his face.  He’d aim it down towards the stage and loudly click it into action while flooding my peripheral vision with hard, blue light. He did this with every song that came on and when the song was over, he’d check the screen. And when each song ended, he’d check the display, then put the thing back into his breast pocket.

“This mother fucker beside me is bootlegging the show,” I whispered to Tiffany.

“Seriously?” She asked. “Is that what he’s doing?”

“What the hell else can he be doing? A song starts up, he whips out that phone and goes to town.”

“Why would he do that?”

“I have no idea! Maybe he’s recording the music for posterity? But why? I mean, can that shitty little thing be catching audio that’s worth listening to later? Jesus Christ, just go buy the soundtrack in the lobby…”

The show kept going, and one song after another was being ruining by Old Man Bootlegg. I was getting pissed. Real pissed. The rage was building and I knew… I knew that this required action on my part, not just quiet, impotent rage.

“That’s it,” I whispered to Tiffany. “I’ve had enough.”

And then I turned… the nightmare scenario.

“Look, dude…”

Yes. I called an old British man at the theater “dude.”

“… I know what you’re fucking doing. I know you’re using that phone or that recorder to record the show and it’s annoying the fuck out of me. You need to put it the fuck away before….”

He then cut me off. Not angrily, not defiantly, but…


“I’M ‘ARD OF ‘EARING AND THIS IS ME LISTENING DEVICE,” he said/shouted with both sadness and in a comically Cockney accent that would make Dick Van Dyke jealous.

Jesus Christ, I thought. Of course he’s deaf. Why wouldn’t he be?

“Okay," I said, nodding hard and fast while giving him the International A-Okay sign. “Okay, you’re good.”


“Yes,” I said, scooting away from him and trying to maybe get into Tiffany’s seat with her. “Obviously. Yes, you have to adjust it. Of course you do. Clearly.”

Meanwhile, Tiffany was doing a fantastic job of pretending to have suddenly no idea who the fuck I was. Oh, she knew shit was going down. She was fully aware that I was in the process of feasting on both feet. But she was also making it very clear that I was on my own. Her eyes were fixed forward and hard.


“Sir, sir, sir. You are no bother,” I said. “No, no, no. Not a bother at all.”

I looked back at Tiffany. She was still not directly acknowledging what had just happened, but she was shaking uncontrollably. Trying to stifle that volume of laughter will do that to anyone. So I just did my best to forget that I had just dressed down a deaf guy for using his hearing device.

Let's get back to the reason we're all here tonight; beautiful music and beautiful set pieces.

During intermission, me and the old man made an unspoken agreement to pretend like an invisible barrier had been erected between us that prevented us from acknowledging the existence of the other. And, after the show, he was quick to get up and leave.

I, on the other hand, was left with my one and only outing to a London theater being memorable not because I’d seen a quality show, or anything like that, but because I’d talked shit to an old deaf guy for having the gall to use his hearing device.

But my one hundred percent honest thought on the matter after reflecting on it? Fuck that guy. A simple, pre-show “’ELLO, GUV’NA. I FEEL OBLIGATED T’TELL YOU THAT I’M ‘ARD OF EARING AND USE A LISTENING DEVICE THAT MAY WELL DRIVE YOU ‘ROUND THE BEND” would have saved us both a lot of trouble.

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