Gum Flapping: Rules of Engagement

Friday night I attended a concert in Jackson that I had been looking forward to for months. The concert was a laid back program with just the singer-songwriter with his guitar telling stories and singing requests from the audience. Except for the concert ending prematurely, it was a great night. The venue was great, and the performer did his best to put on a good show for everybody. However, the audience was more interested in socializing than they were in the show. They talked, chatted on their phones, and badgered the performer nonstop through every song the man tried to sing. The gum flapping was unending and very disruptive. To be blunt, there were people in the audience who were a disgrace to common decency. About halfway into the show, the performer had had enough, so he picked up his guitar and walked off the stage never to return. Although I was extremely disappointed, in retrospect it is hard to blame the performer. The only thing I blame him for was he allowed the inconsiderate jerks in the audience to win while short-changing his real fans.

I know this is the age of being connected and everybody has something to say, but there are times when the mouth cogs need to be disengaged. Like the concert Friday night, it is getting where it is almost impossible to attend a concert, movie, conference, or even a school event and be able to enjoy the outing without having it ruined by the constant chatter around you. Especially in concerts and movie theaters, people think nothing of talking and texting on their phones, talking with friends, and in some cases they even feel the need to bring attention to themselves by shouting at the person or persons on stage. These people are rude, self-centered, and just plain disrespectful of other people. Oh yes, I have heard the lame excuse, I paid my money, so if I want to talk to the person next to me or use my phone, I have the right. Wrong! The price of admission buys the privilege to be seated for the show, not to disrupt it with cell phones, talking with friends, or trying to weasel your way into the spotlight.

However, the biggest problem is that we enable these people to disrupt our evening. All too often, we see and hear what is happening, but we choose to ignore it. We don’t want to risk causing a scene or to offend anyone, so we tolerate it – never mind that they are disrespecting and offending us. Now to be fair, some of the people who cause such disruptions are not bad people, they just do not know any better. They were apparently born and raised in barn without a mama or a daddy to teach them how to behave in a public gathering. I truly feel sorry for them, so I really do not want to rub their noses in their inadequacies as considerate human beings. However, something needs to be done to get their attention. Therefore, I have created a set of rules of engagement for gum flappers to follow in performance venues such as concerts, movie theaters, and even school programs. Now I don’t really expect such inconsiderate people to actually do the decent thing and read these guidelines much less abide by them, but emcees and/or venue managers/producers owe it to their patrons to set the ground rules for the evening performance and announce those rules prior to the show beginning, so everyone can have an enjoyable experience. It is at least worth a try; who knows, it may actually work for some.

Gum Flapping: Rules of Engagement

1. Concerts, movies, school programs, or other venues where people go to enjoy a show are not the place to meet friends for updates on what has been transpiring in your life and their lives over the past five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years. Instead of going to one of these functions, please, go out to dinner together, or have a cookout at home so you can visit without being disrespectful and disruptive to others.

2. Unless your name is on the show bill as the opening act or headliner, the audience did not come to see or hear you, so keep your mouth shut during the concert. People paid their money to see and hear the show. They did not come to hear you and your friends socializing. Most venues have a lobby for people who are there to socialize and not for the show – use it! Better yet, if you are basically interested in a place to socialize, drink, and raise hell with background music, go to a bar or invite your friends to your place.

3. Understand the differences and expectations for different venues. Going to a concert where everyone is standing, dancing in the isles, and singing along with the performers at the top of their lungs is quite different than going to an acoustic set with a performer and his guitar on stage. The single performer on stage is considered to be a more intimate setting, and if you must talk, you should do as we teach children – make it short and use your inside voice.

4. Although you may think it is cool and cute to constantly interrupt the show with your misplaced wit, it only proves you are a disrespecting A-hole with no consideration for anyone but yourself.

5. DO NOT think it is cool to bring attention to yourself by constantly badgering the performer. If you think the performer is terrible that is your opinion, but you should respect the rights of the other people in the audience to form their own opinions without having to listen to your dribble.

6. The movie theater is not a place to socialize, talk on your cell phone, or text. To do so is very disturbing to patrons who paid to see and hear the movie, and yes, some movie goers even like to see and hear the previews, so if you must talk, keep it low and quick, and if your conversation is so important that it cannot come to an end when the previews and movie begins, take your conversation to the lobby. No one in the theater cares about the drama in your life; they have come to the movie to escape the drama in their lives, so shut up.

7. Finally, it is not alright to carry on a conversation at a school sponsored program when someone is speaking on the stage or a group is performing. I understand that you pay attention when your child or grandchild is on the stage, but please have a little respect for other parents and grandparents when their children and grandchildren are on the stage.

8. If you must be the center of attention, please join a local theater group, choir, or band and experience firsthand how it feels to be disrespected by selfish people in the audience. Maybe, then you will finally understand, and shut up when you attend performances of any kind.

Probably the best rule to follow is the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It is all about respect for one another. Maybe, if all of us practiced respecting each other a little more, the world would be a better place for all, and a frustrated artist would not have to walk off the stage. See, all he wants to do is give the best show he can possibly give, and all his fans want is a chance to enjoy the show; I hardly think that either one is too much ask.


©Jack Linton, April 20, 2014


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