If you’ve ever used a smartphone at a movie theater, please tell me why

Movie theater

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy last week and although the movie was great, the people around me were horrible. I had to ask not one but two women to please stop using their smartphones during the film. (One of these women also basically felt up my thigh as she got out of her seat during the credits, but being groped by a stranger is a whole different kind of horrible.) While I’m glad I’ve conquered the social anxiety that would have once prevented me from asking a stranger to knock that shit off, I find myself genuinely clueless as to why this kind of thing happens in the first place.

It’s undeniable that flashing a bright screen around a dark theatre will distract the people around you, and I assume that most people know that doing so is rude and annoying. Yet I can’t remember a time in the last year what I went to a movie theatre and somebody didn’t do that. All of which leaves me asking the question, why? WHY? WHY?!

I can only think of two acceptable reasons for using a smartphone during a movie:

1) If you know you might be having a family emergency. Perhaps someone close to you is gravely ill. Maybe someone is expecting a baby that could be born at any minute. In these cases I can understand why you’d want to quickly check your text messages during a show.

2) If the movie is really, really, really bad. Like 3% rating on RottenTomatoes.com bad. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation bad. So bad that tweeting or texting someone to tell them about the badness of the film is the only way for you to get any enjoyment out of the movie at all.

Other than that, why are some people incapable of putting away their phones? It concerns me, and not in a patronizing, I-feel-so-sorry-for-you kind of way, but in a genuine, you-are-interacting-with-your-phone-like-it’s-an-addictive-substance-and-you-need-help kind of way. Some people can’t seem to spend more than 10 or 15 minutes away from their phones, just like some people have to sneak out for a smoke break every hour or two. It reminds me of a scene from an episode of The Office (which I can’t seem to find on YouTube) where Ryan is asked to hand over his phone to a bartender during a round of trivia the coworkers are about to play. Ryan isn’t able to do it and just backs away, shaking his head, unable to be parted from his phone.

I understand how attached we can become to our phones. There have been two times when I thought I’d lost mine and the freak out that ensued made me realize I may as well start calling it “my precious” in a Gollum-like accent. I like my phone very, very much. I also understand the appeal of using a phone while you’re doing something else. I have been known to play Candy Crush Saga as a rerun of Castle is playing on the TV. Even right now I’m not content just to be typing a blog entry, but also have Star Trek on in the background, though I have the volume off. I understand that desire to seek a bit more stimulation, to check in on what other people are doing, to not be bored (and to split infinitives).

That said, I can step away from my phone when I need to. When my mom and I were at Dollywood I went basically all day without checking Twitter or Facebook. When I was at Dollywood, I was present at Dollywood. I watched the glass makers and metal smiths and the fiddle shows, and when I came back and saw people on Twitter complaining about the iPhone interface design changes, the chatter all seemed dumb and unimportant in comparison to going out and having a new experience, even if that experience was at a place called Dollywood.

It seems like some people are losing the ability to be present at the place they are, to focus just on what is in front of them. If you’re at the movie theater, be present at the movie theatre. The environment is designed to immerse you in the experience. The lights are turned off and the speakers surround you. You’ve paid ten dollars and left your home to be there. Why are some people not content to be there, but also must be elsewhere too?

I think this is partly a generational thing. Kids who were raised on multiple screens might not be as annoyed by this or even view it as problematic behavior as a thirty-something woman like me who remembers the days when you had to sit in a theater and do nothing while you waited for the film to start. No trivia slides. NOTHING. I occasionally brought a magazine with me if I was seeing a movie alone. Magazines do not light up in the dark.

It seems like this is not a problem that is going to go away, so I see only three possible solutions.

1) Have a smartphone section, just like we used to have a smoking section in restaurants. Instead of air pollution we’d corral light pollution. No phone calls allowed, but if you sit in the back five rows you’d be free to use your screen as much as you want.

2) Distribute blinders for patrons who don’t want to be distracted by screens, like the kind put on horses during a race. If you can’t see to the left or right you won’t be distracted by the light of a phone. Of course you would also be much easier to mug during the film.

3) Before each movie ask everyone around you if they plan on using their smartphone during the film, and if they do then move to another seat. This one sounds like the only plan I could actually implement, and I’m seriously considering doing this from now on.

I also have some questions for my readers. No one will be taken to task or shamed for their replies. You don’t even have to use your real name or email address on this one entry. Total amnesty granted.

Have any of you ever used a smartphone during a movie? If so, what were you using it for and why? Did you view it as rude behavior and if so, did you care?


I’m on Bo and Sunny’s mailing list

Last fall the Democratic National Committee called asking me for money. They must have caught me in a good mood because I said, “Yeah, sure,” and shocked the hell out of the caller who sounded notably surprised. I must have been that one person out of a hundred who didn’t tell him where he could stick the Declaration of Independence. I don’t donate that much money to charity or causes, but the Democrats really did me a solid when they passed the Affordable Care Act, so I figured the least I could do was send them twenty bucks.

Of course, that donation meant I was immediately put on several Democratic mailing lists. They even sent me an official membership card, which I don’t think I’ve received for anything since I was a member of the Strawberry Shortcake fan club as a kid, and in that case the membership card was scented. I was not surprised that the Democrats had added me to their mailing list, but I am sort of surprised by how many “gifts” they keep sending me.

First there was the 2014 Commemorative Presidential Print…

2014 Commemorative Presidential Print

..that came with a Certificate of Authenticity, as if I’d ordered something from the Franklin Mint.

Certificate of Authenticity

Then there was a birthday card for the president, which I think I was supposed to sign and mail back with another donation, of course, like I was his grandma sending him a fiver.

Happy Birthday from Bo and Sunny

They also sent me a picture of Obama and one of the dogs.

Obama and Bo

So many of these items have featured the presidential dogs, that I have to wonder if my twenty dollars secretly went to Bo and Sunny’s kibble fund. It is quite possible they have their own SuperPAC. More likely it’s because anyone standing next to a cute dog instantly becomes more likeable, even if you’re a cat person like me.

North Carolina Democrats bumper sticker

It hasn’t stopped yet either because this week I got a bumper sticker from the North Carolina Democrats, which I will not be putting on my car because I’m at an age where I care about my car’s trade-in value.

All of this leaves me wondering, at what point will the Democratic party spend so much money on postage and swag that they will have actually lost money on me? My curiosity is the main reason I have not asked to be removed from any of the mailing lists. I’m waiting to see what they will send me next. If they truly knew the way to my heart they’d send me candy, maybe some blue gummi jackasses. Then I could go around telling people to bite my ass in a totally patriotic way.

Get off my lawn!

Get off my lawn

I’m not sure when I entered the get-off-my-lawn stage of aging, but I’m definitely there. I’ve never owned a lawn, but five years ago my apartment backed up to a grassy drainage area that kids liked to play in. Loudly. While I was trying to work from my home office. It was like living on a playground. I never yelled at those kids to get off my lawn but I thought it very hard in their general direction.

Five years later and I’m sitting in my home office at 1:00am and I can hear the bass beats from the music playing in the apartment across the hall. I cannot envision an age at which I would’ve thought it was ok to play loud music at one o’clock in the morning on a weeknight, but maybe when you’re young you’re stupid like that, oblivious that other people exist and they don’t want to hear your mad beatz.

All of which is to say I am now that cranky lady across the hall who left a voicemail for the rental manager complaining about your ass. It was me! I confess! And I really don’t care because obviously you don’t either. The funny thing is that I’m perfectly ok being that lady. I will age with grace, and part of that aging process is coming to a point where you start screaming at kids to get off your lawn without regret. I am there. I have reached that point. I just don’t have a lawn.

That said, maybe I should finally get one. I like that renting gives me the freedom from a lot of responsibilities. When the air conditioning broke three times this summer I didn’t have to call the AC repairman or pay him. I don’t have to mow the grass or pay property taxes. I like that if I want to go when the lease runs out I just go, and I don’t have to deal with selling a house. But as much as I like renting, I’ve realized I might hate other people more. And the only solution seems to be buying a house. Only I have no idea how much that would cost or if I have enough for a down payment or if I could even afford to buy something in the Chapel Hill area even though my credit score is CRAZY high (we’re talking 800’s) or if I’d end up next to a frat house, though I did live next to a frat house in Crawfordsville, Indiana when I was a kid and the Lambda Chi’s were very well behaved and bought lots of girl scout cookies and held one hell of an Easter Egg hunt.

Of course, there’s nothing like a subwoofer at 1:10 in the morning to get you to start Googling and at least entertain the possibility. I suppose that’s the first step.

I still have trouble introducing myself as a writer


“So what do you do for a living?” asks a woman I’ve just met.

“I’m a web site developer.” I reply. “I specialize in WordPress sites. What do you do?”

“I’m a writer. I’ve been doing a lot of advertising copy and ecommerce stuff lately.”

“That’s cool.” End of statement. I do not mention that I’m a writer. I do not mention that I have written two books published by traditional publishing houses. I do not mention that my old blog was so popular that at one point that it was covering my rent every month. I sit down and check my email and wonder, why do I still have such a problem introducing myself as a writer?

One problem is that if I tell people I’m a writer then I have to tell them what books I’ve written, which means we’ll have to have a conversation about my chronic headache and my lifelong struggle with weight. Then come the headache remedies and diet suggestions and oh-my-God please shoot me. This is a conversation I do not want to have with someone I just met. Of course, it’s my own damn fault for writing books about my chronic headache and my lifelong struggle with weight. Though one could argue that I wrote the books so I no longer had to talk about those things. Just read the books! It’s all in there.

The other problem is that if you introduce yourself as a writer, people want to know what you’re working on now, and I’m not working on anything now other than posting a blog entry once a week so I don’t owe Shauna five dollars. Even though I’ve written two books, I sometimes feel like a failure because I’m not currently writing the next great novel. I’m flattered and grateful that people are interested in what I’m doing or like my writing enough that they want another book from me, but it also makes me feel like a loser who is not living up to her potential. It’s a bit strange to introduce your self as a writer if you’re not currently writing anything.

However, it is rather silly not to mention that I’m a writer. There have been several times that a royalty check has saved my ass from eating only Ramen for the month. And if we’re playing a pure numbers game, there are more people in the world who know me primarily because of my books or blog than because I designed a kick-ass gluten-free blog. It’s also my job as an author to promote my own books, which is hard to do when you’re not telling anyone about them.

It can also be a bit awkward if someone I introduced myself to as a web developer learns that I’m also a writer, particularly when that person is also a writer. They must wonder why I didn’t mention it earlier. It’s like I’m protecting a secret identity that is so not secret. Partly, I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m showing off. Woo-hoo, look at me with my published books! I’m so fancy! Context has to do with it too. If I were at a blog conference I would introduce myself as a blogger first. I don’t know if I’d mention the books or not, but I’d mention I was a writer before telling them I was also a WordPress developer.

Introducing myself as a writer also make me feel slightly narcissistic or self-important, but that might be because I mainly write about my own life. Look at me! I’m so important! You should be interested in all the minute details of my life! I know some people suffer from “imposter syndrome” where they feel like any success they have has only come because they’re been faking it and eventually everyone will figure out they don’t know what they’re doing. I don’t feel like I suffer from that, though I probably did earlier in my career. I definitely feel like a writer, but I don’t feel the need to tell everyone that.

I don’t know if this will ever change. One day I might actually write the next great American novel, become filthy rich, give up web design, and then I might, maybe, feel ok introducing myself as a writer. Until then, hello, my name is Jennette and I’m a WordPress developer.

What a newbie learned about the World Cup

Soccer balls

There are three things I remember about the World Cup held four years ago:

1) The sound of vuvuzelas could not be ignored in clips shown on the news. YouTube even added a vuvuzela button temporarily to its player so you could add the sound to any video.

2) I listened to the final in Spanish on the drive back from the IKEA in Charlotte in an SUV I’d rented with my brother. We couldn’t find a channel broadcasting the game in English, but we could pretty much figure out what was going on by the excitement in the announcer’s voice. I also remember pulling up in front of my brother’s house, fiddling with the buttons to try to turn off the radio, and accidentally turning on the satellite radio we could have been listing to the whole time. Whoops!

3) There was a psychic octopus named Paul who accurately predicted the outcome of 11 out of 13 matches, and then died several months after the final.

I didn’t anticipate caring about the World Cup this year because I’m an American and as everyone knows, Americans don’t care about soccer. However, I’m with the rest of the world in thinking it should be called “football” and we should call American football something else. Regardless of my US citizenship, I somehow got sucked into the World Cup this year and watched several games. Honestly, I blame the Google doodles. They had so many cute, animated doodles running throughout the month that I felt like I should watch the games just to be more informed.

I didn’t play soccer as a kid, and I haven’t watched soccer on TV before, so I learned several things about the sport that seemed weird to me but probably are accepted as normal and obvious to everyone else on the planet.

There are no time outs
I was surprised to watch my first game and realize the players on the field were expected to run around non-stop for 45 minutes each half. Like, woah, that’s a lot of running. I’m so used to time-outs being part of game strategy in other sports like basketball and American football that it was bizarre to watch a game where the clock never stopped. How do advertisers feel about this? Half the fun of the Superbowl is watching all the clever ads during time-outs and other natural game breaks. It’s hard to think TV networks would be able to make as much money off of a televised soccer game as they do on an NFL game. The only ad I could spot was a little Coca-Cola logo next to the score bar.

No one knows exactly when the game will be over
Because there are no time outs, referees tack on extra minutes to the period to compensate for time lost by injuries and other stuff. But you never know how many extra minutes there will be until you cross the 90-minute mark. Knowing how much time you have left is so key to strategy in other professional sports that it’s got to be frustrating not to know how much longer there is in the game until it’s almost over.

On the bright side, they usually don’t add that many more minutes. I bet that makes it easier to predict how much television air time to block out for the match. In the fall I’m always annoyed that NFL games run long and bump the rest of the shows that evening to an unpredictable number of minutes late. It makes it really hard to program your DVR.

The referees are out on the field with the players
I’m used to seeing referees on the sidelines of games, but in soccer they’re out there in the middle of the field with everyone else. I’m surprised they don’t get run over more often than they do. And considering how seriously people take this game, I’m scared for what might happen to a ref who gets in the way and accidentally prevents a team from making a goal.

Something ALMOST happens all the time
During one of the games I was working on my computer but was listening to the TV in the other room. It was funny to listen to the announcer’s voice get really, really, excited and then….oh, sorry, no goal. And then to get really, REALLY, excited and…nope, no goal then, either. Repeat, ad infinitum. I finally understand why people scream “GOOOOOOOOOAL!!” when their team scores because there are about 10 fakeouts before you get the real deal.

As a result, it also makes people really, really happy when they score, happier than I’ve seen a team get in any other sport. I love how the team members run into a big group hug and all celebrate together, unlike in other sports where it’s usually just one person or a couple doing a victory dance.

The cup itself is kind of ugly.
I was disappointed when I saw the actual World Cup awarded to the winning team. It’s not that large and I think it’s kind of ugly, right up there with the mirror-ball trophy awarded to the Dancing With the Stars champs each year. Considering this is the biggest sporting event in the world, and FIFA is a corrupt organization that has a bazillion dollars, couldn’t they come up with something nicer?

The World Cup was fun, but I doubt I’m going to start watching professional soccer matches. I rarely watch professional sports of any kind unless I’m personally invested in the team for some reason. But four years from now I’ll probably tune in and I’ll definitely be looking for the cute Google doodles.

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Want second helpings? Devour more entries in the archives.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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