This May Not Be The Best Way To Stop A Theatergoer From Using Her Phone, But It Makes A Great Story

Imagine you’ve paid good money to see a play but someone nearby won’t stop talking and using her phone. You complain to a manager during intermission, but the distraction continues. You make a comment to the woman hoping she’ll either leave or cut it out, but to no avail. So what’s next? If you said, “grab her phone and throw it against the wall,” you wouldn’t necessarily be right, but you’d make yourself a hero to some folks out there.

Gothamist talked to National Review writer Kevin Williamson, who recently did just that while attending a showing of the musical Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 in Manhattan.

“They were carrying on a steady conversation throughout entire show,” Williamson recalls about the obnoxious theatergoers who were ignoring explicit announcements to not use the phone during the performance. “They had been quite loud and obnoxious the entire time. There were two groups, one to the left and one to the right who were being loud and disruptive.”

He says he filed a complaint during intermission, but that was a dead-end, as the woman next to him continued on using her phone.

“It looked like she was Googling or something,” says Williamson. “So I leaned over and told her it was distracting and told her to put it away. She responded, ‘So don’t look.’ “

He then asked her if she’d somehow received a special dispensation that exempted her from the no-phone rules. This didn’t go over well.

“She told me to mind my own business,” says Williamson, “and so I took the phone out of her hands. I meant to throw it out the side door, but it hit some curtains instead. I guess my aim’s not as good as it should be.”

He says the woman slapped him in the face, located her (presumably damaged) phone and left the theater.

Not surprisingly, the manager wanted to speak to him about the incident.

“I told him I would be happy to leave,” Williamson tells Gothamist. “They tried to keep me there. He said the lady was talking about filing charges. So I waited around for a bit, but it seemed to be taking a while. He did try to physically keep me in, and was standing in the door blocking me, telling me I couldn’t leave. I inquired as to whether he was a police officer and I was under arrest, and since I wasn’t, I left.”

While he says he doubts that the woman will file charges, Williamson says he’s ready for his day in court. “If I have to spend a night in jail, I’ll spend a night in jail,” he says. “I don’t want to suggest I’m Henry David Thoreau protesting the Mexican-American War, but I’ll do a day in jail if I have to.”

On Twitter, writer Kurt Anderson says that he was at the performance where Williamson wigged out on the woman’s phone, writing, “Only distraction for me: her huffy theatrical exit.”

Texting and cellphone use continues to be an annoyance to theater- and moviegoers. Some theaters have gone beyond merely asking people to be polite, with Alamo Drafthouse leading the way. Not only does the Texas-based chain have a strict text-and-you’re-out policy, it also created maybe the greatest anti-texting PSA in the history of history, when an ejected audience member left an incoherent rant explaining that her rights had been violated: