In the early 2000s, the cell phone revolution took hold. No longer unusual was the sight of someone walking down the street actually talking into a phone.
Back then the crème de la crème was the “feature” or “flip” phone. Nokia and Motorola dominated the market.
Those were the days.
Specifically, those were the days before cultural expectation for decent behavior entailed silencing your cell phone in public spaces.
Of course, it still happens.
My phone started ringing last week in the middle of a very serious discussion about the fate of humanity. Or something. I lost track because I was distracted, desperately trying to pull the device from my pocket to silence it, apologizing to the gentleman sitting next to me.
Nobody wants to be that guy. Almost nobody.
When phones rang
These days, a “ringing phone” rarely sounds like a phone ringing. At least for those of us who grew up when phones were inside the house and attached to the wall.
Now, the audible alert that someone is calling you can be anything you damn well please. People pay money for ringtones. Musicians and producers make careers out of ringtones.
But for all that, I can attest to empirical evidence that interruptions from ringing phones during performances or, worse yet, solemn occasions, has noticeably declined since the reign of the feature phone.
It seems that our phones don’t really need to ring to get our attention. Oh, it’s got our attention.
From my typical front-of-house position, there is a sea of screens illuminating ghostly gray faces staring back at them. A vast array of radio signals diffuse invisibly through the atmosphere in all directions – wifi, Bluetooth, cellular – always on the lookout for a notification, and alert, a message, lest anyone “miss” anything.
Who needs a ringer?
Sine wave Beethoven
Sitting the stage
We are about 30 minutes into a matinee performance of Beach Blanket Babylon. I am “in the flow.” All the blood has gone to my ears.
I vaguely notice that latecomers have arrived, sitting directly across the aisle from the sound booth.
A few minutes pass.
We’re knocking ’em out, cue and next, cue and next. Keep it sounding pretty. Listen, analyze, adjust. More blood to the ears!
Suddenly, a thin, high-pitched squealing penetrates my concentration. Like a misplaced siren, the sound penetrates what we euphemistically call “program material.”
My blood-soaked ears immediately fire off questions to my brain:
“What the %$#* is that?!?”
“Where is it coming from?”
“What is failing?’
Ah, it’s a phone, right over there, playing jangly, sine wavy rendition Beethoven’s Fifth or some goddam thing. I look askance at the latecomer across the aisle as he pulls the phone up to his face.
Well, OK dude, I guess we’ll let that pass. At least a capacitor didn’t just dry up and send one of the amps south.
A few minutes pass.
It happens again. Oh, no you didn’t.
This time my brain is prepared, but my generosity has vanished. I slowly shake my head in profound disappointment, as if to say:
“Hey, I’m mixing here! People didn’t plunk down their cash to hear your noisy phone.”
My rule: everybody gets one “oops” per event. Two strikes and you’re out
Two strikes and you’re out
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