This reunion was not a gathering of classmates, but rather a sentimental journey marking a connection with a musical idol of my youth who’s remarkably still on the road.
I first saw the Canadian folksinger Gordon Lightfoot in concert 50 years ago, when I knew nothing about him save what I’d been told by the 15-year-old friend who took me to the show. She was nuts for him, this poetic, tough-looking guitar player and songwriter.
It proved a life-changing experience, an introduction to music and vivid story songs that helped cure loneliness in a new town and spurred a lifetime of music shared with friends. In the last five years, those friends have even played a few concerts as a band, in front of actual live people, most of whom applauded, probably out of politeness.
And so here he was again, 50 years after that first show (I’d seen him 15 or so times over the years) playing in Durham’s Carolina Theatre.
I thought such a time stamp worthy of recognition, but I’d bought only one ticket, as others begged off the fast lane on a Monday night. I understood. Some do have have trouble sleeping after singing along to “Early Morning Rain.”
I was surrounded in the hall by folks mostly around my age, looking to focus on the music.
And then there was ... this fellow. He was not alone in self-indulging distraction, so I’ll not describe him or his location. But like some others, I suspect, he spent time off and on texting and reading texts as the 78-year-old Lightfoot worked his way through the show.
At one point, an audience member close by asked him to stop, and he did for a while. Then he went back to looking at the phone, which created a sort of small spotlight but a big distraction in the darkened theater.
The same thing happens nightly, of course, in movie theaters, where people texting away are oblivious to the distraction they’re causing for others.
Sophisticated folks whose lives are punctuated by cell phones and related devices, and there are a lot of them, would be aghast to be accused of bad manners. But sometimes, it seems social media — and make no mistake, it’s a positive for most of us — wins the war against social graces.
We know the obvious about cell phones: they’re a wonder. But they almost require a new edition of Emily Post on manners: people who should know better answer their phones in church, at weddings, while jogging, at their own kids’ school plays and sometimes at funerals.
(And sure, we’ve all sinned, cell phone-wise. It’s understandable when people try to get a picture as a show starts, or want to quickly text a friend that they’re on the second row.)
And then there’s the rationalization of those who boast of their good phone manners, that texting is the epitome of politeness because, after all, it’s better than talking.
Well ... maybe not. Rather, grabbing for a cell phone — yes, for texting — as if it were a blood transfusion is the ultimate in self-indulgence. Trust those of us happen to be nearby the texting troops around any theater: you didn’t need to get the call. Whoever was on the other end could have survived, unless you were a surgeon on a remote with the Cleveland Clinic. Which you were not.
No, those who engage in this kind of stuff, the kind that has an impact on innocent bystanders, just don’t get it.
In the scope of life, the truth is a few ill-timed texts in a theater on a drizzly night in March don’t amount to much, and this fellow meant no harm, I’m sure, though it helped to prompt an early exit for me.
But the faithful fans in that theater or any theater deserve to indulge their enjoyment of a minstrel on stage or actors or a movie or a symphony without the distraction of “sour notes” in the audience.
Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at firstname.lastname@example.org