(a 2014 offering repeated)
Letongaloosa has a fine performing arts center. The center brings nationally and internationally known performers, musical groups and other topflight entertainers to town. Hadley Wilkins always buys season’s tickets to the center’s “It’s Broadway” series. His seat is in the middle of the first row of the lower balcony. That’s where the cell phone glare episode happened.
Hadley was at his seat early for the first performance of the season. Just before the house lights went down, a man in a dark suit made his way along the row and sat next to Hadley. Before the man’s pants touched the seat, he had a large-screen cell phone in hand and had begun thumbing through a series of messages. As the curtain rose, the man’s eyes remained on his cell phone screen. The glow of the cell phone was distracting, but Hadley waited a few moments before touching the man’s arm.
“They said to turn off and put away all cell phones,” he whispered.
The man didn’t look away from the screen.
“Don’t bother me,” he said, and kept on scrolling
Finally the man set the cell phone screen-up on the arm of the chair between him and Hadley. Moments later the phone emitted a “ping.” The man touched the screen, pressed a button, and began thumbing a text message. Hadley saw no allies seated around them, so he subsided in his seat and watched the show.
As the audience streamed out of the theater, Hadley looked for a staff member, but found none. The next morning Hadley drove to the center to talk to the manager. Hadley explained the encounter, and the manager expressed sympathy, and asked what seat the cell phone user had occupied.
“He was seated on my left,” said Hadley, and gave the seat number. The manager typed, and looked at the screen.
“Oh my,” he said.
“What’s the matter?”
“That seat belongs to Clemment Boxley. He’s a senior executive at Red Grove Industries. The company has just transferred him to Letongaloosa from New Jersey. Red Grove is one of our largest corporate sponsors.” He touched another key. “And Mr. Boxley is one of our “Starfire” level contributors. He contributed $5,000 to the center this year.”
“And that means?” asked Hadley.
“And that means,” said the center manager, “that we are going to find you a marvelous new seat. Do you want to stay in the balcony, or would you prefer the main level?”
“I prefer the seat I’ve occupied as a season ticket holder for the last 10 years,” said Hadley.
“You have that choice, of course,” said the manager.
“But you’re not going to do anything about that man and his cell phone,”
I apologize, but, no, I am not.”
“I see,” said Hadley, and he left.
Hadley Wilkins is an electronics wizard. He developed important parts of current cell phone technology. Hadley decided this was a job for Cyberman!
The next performance was sold out. The center spokesperson welcomed members of the audience, thanked the performers and sponsors, and made the ritual cell phone announcement. During that announcement, Clemment Boxley’s eyes were on his cell phone screen and his thumbs were on the keys. The face up screen glowed on the arm of his chair.
Then, just before intermission cell phone tones erupted all over the theater. Baffled audience members fumbled for their phones in their purses, pouches and pockets and pulled them out. Scores of cell phones glowed in the darkened auditorium. It looked surreal. On each cell phone screen, in Ariel Black type, was the same message: “Ain’t teknology wonnerful?”
The Associated Press ran a short piece about Letongaloosa’s “cyber glow phenomenon.” The story lasted one news cycle in the mass media.
A few days later the performance center manager came to see Hadley.
“Mr. Wilkens, the center wants to reward you for your years of loyalty as a season ticket holder. Here are six complimentary tickets to our upcoming ‘Pop Culture Parade’ show.” Then he said, “By the way, Mr. Boxley has been transferred back to New Jersey. Apparently the company didn’t think he was a good fit for the Redgrove plant here.” -30-
-Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co