What ever happened to decorum? You know that pesky word defined as “behavior in keeping with good taste and propriety.” Basically, manners and respect. In this instance, I am specifically referring to how we conduct ourselves in social settings.
First, however, let me say that I am thrilled – yes thrilled – to have so many of my favorite things available once again this summer. Concerts, festivals, movies, theater, restaurants. Life finally feels normal. People are out and about living their lives as usual once again. I have partaken in several of such events so far this summer with a month and half left to squeeze in more spectacular activities. I am psyched!
Which leads me back to my observations on decorum.
I was lucky to snag some tickets to the excellent stage version of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” so I could take my young adult sons. I had seen it previously in New York, but it was a bucket list item to be shared with them as they read, dissected, and enjoyed the book during middle school. A brief run of the show in Philadelphia allowed us this opportunity.
We were excited to attend, got dressed to impress (ahem), and gave ourselves plenty of time to drive into the city, find parking, and get to our seats. Yes, we were a tad bit early but who wants to be late for the theater?
Evidently at least 40 plus people did that night, some arriving well into the first half of the show. Aside from an emergency, there is no good reason to arrive late for a timed event. Late-comers disturb not only the patrons around them as the usher rushes them to their seats with a mini flashlight, but they must disturb the actors as well. It is just plain rude. No excuses.
The two women who sat directly in front of me not only arrived late but then proceeded to “chat” as the performance already underway continued. Where were their manners? I finally gave them a low, soft “shhhhhh.” That did the trick.
But the bad behavior throughout the theater continued.
You know how right before a performance starts an announcement is made about no flash photographer and to silence your cell phones? Well, evidently those rules do not apply to the average theatergoer. I can live with the occasional flash, although it is still rude, but it is the phones buzzing, beeping, ringing that drive me mad. For nearly five minutes straight someone’s phone or watch was chiming during a crucial scene in the play.
Atticus Finch demonstrated great restraint. He very easily could have directed his monologue toward the offender in the audience. But alas. It was dark and we could not discern the culprit.
Now, you might be thinking I am just a cranky old lady with no tolerance, and I might agree with you and have kept it to myself. But…it was the young men who were my dates for the evening who brought it full circle. At intermission they got into it right away, commenting on the lack of decorum going on around us. Did you hear this? Did you see that? They were also surprised by the variety of theater attire – when did we become such a casual society? So, it was not just me after all.
As the second half got underway, the two women in front of me started gabbing again, the mysterious watch resumed its beeping, and people scooted from their seats as soon as the final words were uttered from the stage. My boys found this to be the rudest faux pas of all.
They could not understand why people would not pay their respects to the actors by standing to applaud the talent and performance but rather rudely and abruptly depart.
Perhaps we have forgotten our manners due to the pandemic and our time sequestered at home. Perhaps our attitudes have changed because we are just grateful to have the opportunity to attend social events again. But perhaps we should be reminded that a little courtesy goes a long way.
Despite these minor inconveniences, we had a wonderful evening in our City of Brotherly Love. The theater is alive and well. The city is thriving. I had an evening out with my boys where we were entertained, and we were together. The discussion of the play on the ride home was rich.
Bucket list item, check. Manners from the masses? Not so much, but I am the forgiving sort and will move past it.