Saunders: Put the phone down and enjoy the show

bsaunders@newsobserver.comSeptember 17, 2012 

Down in front, chump.

If somebody yells that at you Wednesday night or calls you a dirty name, it’ll probably be me and you’ll be one of those inconsiderate clods standing up trying to record Al Green on your smartphone in direct contravention of the rules and of good sense.

Years ago, a teenage Brooke Shields had a controversial Calvin Klein blue jeans commercial in which she purred, “You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”

For men of a certain generation – MINE! – nothing comes between us and our Al, either. The last thing we want after buying tickets, taking a bath, splashing on some Brut and breaking out that burgundy velveteen jacket we bought in 1973 when it was in style is to have some Spike Lee wannabe ruin “Love and Happiness” with a camera phone.

Picture this: You, being dumb

Nothing disturbs the groove in a darkened concert hall like a light from a camera or smartphone wielded by a dumb person who doesn’t care that they’re obstructing others’ view or preventing people from enjoying the show. They want to record it and post it on their Facebook page to prove that they were there – to prove that they were anywhere.

The irony is that anyone who has to post something to Facebook to prove that they were there is strictly nowhere, man.

Never mind that signs throughout the Durham Performing Arts Center – where Al will be – and most other venues state unequivocally that recording devices and cameras are verboten: People with camera phones somehow convince themselves that the signs refer to everyone but them.

Rachel Gragg, director of marketing for the DPAC, tried to be diplomatic, saying the venue “encourage(s)” people not to record the performers. DPAC’s written policy states, “Almost all shows at DPAC restrict photography, and all audio and video recording. ... We ask that you put the cell phones away, leave the cameras at home and simply take home the memories of the event in your mind’s eye.”

In their mind’s eye is where I wish they’d stick their smartphones.

It’s possible, of course, that Al Green lovers are of a different generation from the people whose cellphones seem surgically attached to them. While at my favorite Triangle pizza joint a few weeks back – the only one I know that still serves pizza with a whole-wheat crust, something else people of my generation require – four college-aged kids sat down at an outdoor table.

Ah, how sweet, I thought wistfully. They’re out on a date, getting to know each other.

In a nanosecond, all four had whipped out phones and were ignoring their table mates.

Just enjoy the blessed event

Another example: When Stanford upset Southern Cal in college football last weekend, thousands of jubilant students stormed the field. In time-honored fashion, half of them tore down the goal posts. The other half who stormed the field held their smartphones aloft to record the celebration of which they were in the midst.

I mean, they couldn’t even enjoy the blessed event, so busy were they recording it.

Speaking of blessed events, it’s probably a good thing smartphones weren’t around at the time of Christ’s birth. Had word gotten out that a baby – one conceived immaculately, no less – was in a manger, the place would’ve been overrun by gawkers anxious to post it to their Facebook pages.

One thing we all learn by a certain age is that there is no way to record yourself having fun – that won’t get you in trouble.

barry.saunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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