Turn off those cellphones and earn people's respect!

Turn off those cellphones and earn people's respect! 
By Walter Ang
March 10, 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Last Sunday, a friend invited me to watch "Mansfield Park" at the Glorietta Cinema. We're both avowed fans of the movie "Sense and Sensibility", another movie based on a Jane Austen book, so we figured Mansfield Park might be worth a look.

About halfway through the movie, an old grandfather sat beside me. He whipped out his cellphone and promptly started to compose a text message. He had one of those annoyingly bright blue screens that is even more distracting than the regular green ones.

Of course, I wasn't about to raise a ruckus just because this man was using his cellphone inside the movie theater. It's a given these days that most people do not have a clue when it comes to cellphone etiquette. (I still believe those elementary school lessons on phone etiquette should be updated to include cellphone and email etiquette.) In most instances, a politely worded request usually does the trick. Usually.

I leaned in a little closer and whispered, "Excuse me, could you please turn off your cellphone? It's very distracting." Nothing happened. I thought he may hot have heard me since he was an old man, probably in his mid-60s. About four minutes later, he still hadn't turned it off. He was still eagerly punching away at his keypad. I leaned in again and repeated my request, a little louder this time.

What happened afterwards was one of the most surreal things that has ever happened to me. This old frail grandfather stared at me and said sternly, "You don't look at this! It's none of your business! Stupid!"

I was blown away at how incredibly rude this person was! If it had been a young child, I would've assumed he had lousy parents. If it had been a teenager, I would have blamed it on the clich├ęd teenage angst.

But sitting next to me was an old grandfather blatantly using his cellphone in a theater where it was supposed to be banned. I obviously couldn't pick a fight with him even if I wanted to. I was so taken aback by what he said that all I could mutter in response was an incredulous, "You're not even supposed to be using that inside the theater!" To which his wife, who was sitting beside him, promptly replied, "Walang ka ng pakialam!" (It's none of your business) Talk about adding insult to injury!

What is that walang kamatayang (undying) complaint of the older generation? That the youth are rude and have no respect for everyone and everything. Apparently, some people never outgrow this trait! They should change that adage that older people deserve respect. People (young or old) certainly deserve courtesy, but not deserve respect. Respect has to be earned.

Costly manners
This person can afford a cellphone. He has enough extra money to toy around with so he gets himself a nifty blue screen and an added design acetate to boot. How come he can't afford some manners as well? Mansfield Park is not your everyday blockbusting box office hit. One would assume that the only people who would be interested in watching it would have at least completed high school. Is this the kind of behavior one expects from educated people?

But money and education (or lack of it) is not the issue here. Are people so smitten by the novelty of high tech gadgets these days that basic human interaction skills are completely forgotten? The age of the Jetsons is already here, but the Flintsones would put our behavior to shame.

As for the cinema's management, I do take this feedback seriously. They deserve kudos for bringing in arthouse films, but can they please do something about maintaining order? A short message at the beginning of the movie is clearly not enough. I'm sure they can easily have a check-in counter for communication devices.

The local production of "Ms. Saigon" is the only theater production doing this so far. But when I went to see another play at the CCP and the guards found out I wasn't watching Ms. Saigon, they let me in without a second glance. Oh well, at least someone's started doing it. Check-in counters will certainly not be a hundred percent effective, but at least it will serve as a reminder to movie patrons.

Block those signals!
Better yet, movie theater owners and theatre companies/producers could invest in a device featured in the year end issue of Time magazine. It's called C-guard and it's described as "a jammer device that ? cuts-off communications between cellular handsets and cellular base-stations." In other words, within its area of coverage, it renders use of cell phones useless. If restaurants and movie houses here start using these devices and advertise that they do, I'll be sure to patronize those establishments. Hint, hint to all those owners and managers out there! Consumers have a voice you know.

Let me just say that, yes, I do have a cellphone myself, lest some readers start complaining that I'm just an envious, bitter cellphone coveting loser. I turn off my cellphone when I watch movies and plays. I turn it off when I'm in a place of worship. I put it in mute mode when I'm eating with someone in a restaurant. These are not hard things to do!

Oh yes, by the way, Mansfield Park is worth watching. It's funny and paced well, faltering a little only near the end of the movie. Of course, maybe you should just rent a copy and watch it at the comfort of your own home.