I was in the movie theater staring at the screen.
No, I wasn't looking at the screen that the film was going to be shown on. I was staring - glaring, really - at a much smaller screen held by a young girl in the row ahead of me who was reading or sending text messages. I couldn't quite tell which she was doing, even when I leaned forward to look.
All I knew for sure is that the screen was shining into my eyes. And I couldn't stop looking at it, even though I had a perfectly good huge lighted screen in front of me - with a movie on it.
This didn't really surprise me. Only moments before, a voice had issued the obligatory warning about how texting or talking on cellphones while the movie is being shown is illegal, or illogical, and definitely not liked.
"Be courteous," the voice had said, "and silence your cellphone now."
The voice had gone on about "a small bright screen in a dark and crowded movie theater can be distracting" to other people in the audience.
Trust me, while I'm writing this I'm still distracted. I still see the almost blinding screen of the girl who sat in front of me. So apparently the guy with the silence-them-if-you've-got-them voice was right.
Warning or reminder?
The odd thing is that the girl didn't even have the phone in her hand when the voice started telling us that texting or talking on cellphones is strictly prohibited. As far as I could tell, it was in her purse or her pocket when the cellphone violators were being identified.
"You know who you are," said the voice, "and SO DO WE."
I felt guilty just hearing that, even though I knew my cellphone was safely stored in that leather carrier that we people with absolutely no style attach to our belts.
"Don't be the one we have to ask to leave the theater," the voice calmly suggested, before more emphatically insisting, "because WE WILL."
Then, rather rebelliously I believed, the girl in front of me got her cellphone out and started sending or receiving those last few texts that she couldn't do without for a couple of hours.
And the light from the phone was shining between her seat and the one beside her, right into my eyes.
Granted, I could have leaned in either direction, which I did, and the light would have been hidden by the seats. But I leaned back to where I could still see it because I paid for my seat and it was my right to sit up straight in it. Also, if I was going to be upset about something, I wanted to make sure I remembered exactly what it was that was irritating me.
It was that light. I kept looking back at it. That voice really knows his distractions.
But he didn't send the cellphone police down the movie theater aisle to arrest her.
Finally, after about three or four minutes, she turned it off. I'm not sure exactly how long because I didn't have a watch on and I knew I would have had to take my cellphone out of its nerdy case to see what time it was.
And this is how I remembered that I had never taken my cellphone out of its nerdy case after hearing the voice. I was distracted. Yes, I knew who I was, and if one person called me in a crowded theater, "SO WOULD THEY."
Since I'm the type of guy who has absolutely no idea how to turn a cellphone off without fiddling with it and making it all bright and perhaps dropping it on the floor, I thought briefly of wrapping it up in my coat, to muffle the sound of an incoming call.
Then I remembered what the voice had said, pretty matter-of-factly.
"If it's an emergency, go out into the hall. Otherwise, IT CAN WAIT."
Well, this couldn't wait. It was an emergency. I was one call away from being cuffed.
So, I went out into the hall to turn my cellphone off. At one point I made eye contact with a theater usher who was sweeping up popcorn. He smiled, knowingly, I thought.
Maybe he was the cellphone police. Busted.
— Gary Brown is a cloumnist for GateHouse Media.