It’s always a pleasure to start one of my posts with a bit of irony, so here we go: I normally write humorous blog posts and tonight’s post is actually about Tracy Morgan’s comedy show, but there is nothing funny about my experience there.
Okay, so yes, helping an older gentleman turn on his Nokia flip phone was adorable, and yes, Tracy Morgan’s ability to joke about his recent coma had me filled me with giddy admiration, because… coma jokes. BUT what occurred before the show was not so cool. In fact, I’d go so far as to call it the uncool.
Not to go all RHONY Countess on everyone but…
Here’s what you need to know: A friend of mine works for an awesome company, Yondr. They facilitate phone-free events. They’ve created these little pouches (they look like mini wetsuits) for phones. At an artist’s request, they’ll set up stations and lock away everyone’s cellular devices for a completely unplugged, in-the-moment, let’s listen to who’s performing event.
Pretty cool, if you ask me. Also, you’re not losing your phone. You keep it. It’s just locked away in a little pouch so you’re not Snapchatting while the artist is trying to, I dunno, connect with you as an audience member and not a screen.
FYI, during the show, it was incredible to stand in the back of the FOX Theater and watch how engaged the audience was without their devices. There were such a genuine reactions to what was happening on stage. I’m used to seeing phones out, a flash here and there, at least a handful of people staring down to see if they’d captured the right shot. None of that was happening. I also need to point out that at the end of the show, not one person was complaining about having been separated from their phones for that short period of time.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a millennial and definitely have anxiety issues about letting go of my device. But, I was excited about the overall experience. In fact, I locked my own phone away as soon as we arrived.
Using Yondr on the Audience
My job at Tracy Morgan’s show was to help lock away the audience’s phones before they went inside the Fox theater.
Here, I will inject a bit of self-deprecating truth and admit that I am not the most qualified phone-snapper-inner. I may be able to hit a few computer keys to write blog posts, but when it comes to sliding things into wetsuit material… I’m not so adept.
For the most part, people were cool with the process. They handed over their phones, and though some didn’t look thrilled at the prospect of no texting or Tindering for an hour and a half, they didn’t complain. Some asked if they could just keep their phones off, but accepted our rejection of that idea pretty easily.
Of course, I wouldn’t be writing this if I wanted to talk about the average person who walked through those doors.
I’m here to address the people that made me embarrassed to be a Millennial; to be in a generation of screen-addicted, tech-driven monsters.
The Phone-Free Panic
First, there was the man whose phone case made his device the size of a fucking iPad. He not only scoffed at the process and how ridiculous it was that he couldn’t have his phone, but went on to make dick jokes about its size. Because nothing is funnier than comparing your big black phone to your penis. Oh, wait. Literally, everything is funnier than that.
There was also a pair of hipster boys (I really can’t call them men, though they were probably 5 years older than I am). They stood mumbling nervously as they watched us tuck away people’s phones, and shook their heads saying definably hipster things like, “You know, this really makes me lose respect for Tracy Morgan.” Because a comic’s talent is defined by the fact that he wants a fully-engaged, phone free audience.
Finally, there was the worst of the worst.
I’d never volunteered with Yondr before, and I’m not exactly comfortable with confrontation. In fact, I’m so terrified of having to face someone who’s angry with me, I just won’t. I will either find a place to hide or I’ll pretend it didn’t happen. I will completely deny the fact that we’ve had a disagreement and never speak of it again.
…I know, totally healthy.
Anyway, this fear of anger made me go into full Sweetheart mode during the phone-locking process. I like to think of it as my “waitress-from-the-South” mode. All smiles and pie. Though there was no pie and I’ve never been to the South.
As I was focusing on other people, a young man with a beard came out and hovered by our table. I barely noticed because of the line, but he smiled at me and said, “hey, I’m not being creepy, just waiting for some friends.”
“Not a problem,” I told him because again, I’m fucking nice.
After a while, he looked slyly down and said, “oh, so that’s how it works? I just go like this?”
He reached over me to the locking contraption and unlocked his phone pouch before taking off at a sprint. He was so fucking pleased with himself… It took me a moment to realize what he’d done, and to form a mental image of him inside, crouched against the bar like Gollum, stroking his phone and staring at it lovingly, calling it my precious.
Here’s what disturbed me so much about this trickery: First, this bearded man turned into a balding, loin-clothed creature from Lord of the Rings in my head and secondly, here was this grown man who had schemed and taken advantage of a busy volunteer because he absolutely, positively could not part with his phone. Even though an artist, (who I assume he respected and enjoyed) had requested that he do exactly that. He couldn’t last 90 minutes? He was that reliant upon a single object?? It was disgusting.
After my initial anger towards him subsided, I grew curious. Why couldn’t he live without his phone for 90 minutes? I know that he came with a group of friends. Were they that boring? Was he so alone in this world that he couldn’t connect with the people who he encircled himself with?
Things started to get serious and worrisome in my brain at that point.
What would happen if this man ever found himself in a situation where he didn’t have his phone? What if he accidentally went on a backpacking trip without bringing a portable charger? What would he find out about himself when he stared up into the vast night sky, searching for the satellite that normally connected him to his cellular device? How lonely and boring would he realize he was.
Food for Thought:
What is it that we need from our phones so badly? Why is it we can’t stand to be in this world without constant electronic stimuli? I’m including myself in this question. I can’t handle going to a bar without my phone at the ready (so I don’t look like the loser we all know I am). But that begs the question… why do I care how I look to others?
This is all just something to think about. Why can’t we unplug, especially while we’re being stimulated elsewhere? If an artist is performing, why do we still feel the need to be connected elsewhere via smartphone? What is it we aren’t ready to face? Who are we trying to impress with our Snap stories and why can’t we just be happy knowing we were there?