As a civility and etiquette expert, I find it a nuisance when people leave their cell phones on during movies, church, and performances. It takes two seconds to switch the phone off or set it to silent, and yet I find that I’m always attending events in which a speech is disrupted by that telltale ringtone, followed by a chorus of tut-tuts and shhhhhhhs.
As someone who gives speeches and leads discussions on a regular basis, I’m especially sensitive to this etiquette faux pas as it can be incredibly distracting when you’re trying to get everyone’s attention. A ringtone can easily throw you off and make you struggle to remember your words, and almost always leads to an awkward moment in which you must choose whether to ignore the ring, confront the owner of the phone, or wait a moment for silence to resume.
I’ve heard of actors breaking character to tell a theater-goer to turn off their phone or leave, but I have to say that violinist Lukas Kmit has a much more elegant solution. While performing in a synagogue in his native Slovakia, Kmit was interrupted by a shrill Nokia ringtone. The violinist waited a beat, then played his own version of the ringtone on his violin. The crowd cheered and his point was made in a graceful way that made the situation less awkward.
Let this be a gentle reminder, once and for all, to switch off those phones!
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