Friday, July 12, 2013

Hear, hear

Ever been annoyed by the boorish behaviour of someone in an audience you’re part of? It could be a movie, concert, play, sporting event, whatever, but people around you are doing annoying things that detract from whatever you’re trying to enjoy.

Like pretty much all of us, Roger Green has been annoyed by people near him checking cellphones, leaving in the middle of a play or talking when they should be listening. So, Roger proposes what he calls a “Slow Audience Participation” movement:
The slow food movement was designed so that people could ENJOY eating more, by eschewing fast food, processed product cooked in the microwave, and the like. Not only is it healthier, it’s more enjoyable to be part of the process.

In the similar mode, I’m suggesting a “slow audience response” movement. Please stop talking when the speaker/movie/concert starts, and wait for the event to actually end before fumbling with your keys. You may actually enjoy it better if you are “present” at the event, rather than treating it as one more thing to check off the to-do list. I KNOW your fellow audience members will appreciate it.
I don’t know anyone who would disagree—even people who engage in boorish behaviour at public events; very often they’re blithely unaware of how annoying their disruptions are. What we’re really talking about here are simply good manners—can they be revived?

Of course, boorish behaviour in an audience is certainly nothing new. When The Blues Brothers was released, my friends and I went to see it. We’d enjoyed the movie's stars, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, when they were on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, but also because part of the movie was shot in the area where we grew up. As we sat there, some teenage girls behind us whispered (well, they apparently thought they were whispering…) excitedly about the places they recognised and also when they saw people they knew in crowd shots. This went on for some time, until I turned around and said, “Look, I don’t care who you know, or what you recognise, be quiet!” As I turned back around to face the screen, I caught a glimpse of one of my friends looking at me out of the side of his eye, a huge grin on his face.

It was the only time I’ve ever done that (though I may have uttered a loud “Ssssssh!” in that same general era). I probably wouldn’t say anything now, and that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? “Silence implies consent”, and people take lack of complaint as acceptance of their boorish behaviour.

On the other hand, as Roger points out, actually saying something can be disruptive, too. Finding an usher to complain to is even more so.

The best solution is probably to foster good manners. Jeez, I really feel my age when I say things like that, and, as I said in a comment on Roger’s site, “I think ‘you kids—get off my lawn!!’ is the next logical step.” But, really, what’s so bad about fostering polite behaviour?

I don’t know that there’s much we can do apart from model good manners ourselves, but maybe talking about it more—even through blog posts—can also encourage people to, well, behave themselves.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there are some kids I have to go chase from my lawn—politely.

1 comment:

Logan said...

We just use the hose to get rid of kids. ;)

As a direct American, I have no trouble telling people to shut up and put their phones away. Most of the time it works!