The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Kelly Kazek

January 15, 2012

Surreal episode irks orchestra director

Even those of us, er, y’all, too uncivilized to know the difference between a symphony and a philharmonic — hint: one has more syllables and, I’m pretty sure, is led by a guy named Phil — have likely seen the news about the ringtone heard ’round the world. When the iPhone’s common ringtone, which is supposed to sound like that well-known musical instrument the marimba, went off during a performance of the New York Philharmonic last Tuesday, the conductor was highly irked, incensed and rankled, or in philharmonic terms, seriously cheesed.

In fact, he was so mad at the uncouth interruption that he held up his wand and — gasp! — stopped the concert. Apparently this has never occurred before and many people thought it meant the Mayan calendar had ended a few months early and some of us, er, y’all were soon to be headed for destinations south, especially the guy who hacked off Phil.

Some of you are applauding the conductor’s decision to publicly humiliate the offender. I mean, it’s about time someone stood up to the rude cellphone users of the world who go around interrupting our movies or church services, or making us have entire conversations in the vegetable aisle of the grocery before we realize the other person was actually talking into a gadget stuck to her ear and had not, in fact, been interested in hearing about Nanna’s rheumatism.

I, too, would support shaming the guy if not for one thing: Turns out the accused, who asked in an interview with CBS not to be identified, is somebody’s grandpa — one couth enough to have season tickets to the philharmonic — and, get this, his mistake was not rudeness but being hopelessly tech-challenged.

It seems the poor schmuck, who described himself as between 60 and 70 years old, was issued a new iPhone by his company the day before the concert — curse the fates! — and he didn’t know that an alarm had been set. Turns out, the guy had tried to mute the phone but the unknown alarm bypassed it.

So see? This is one more thing that can be blamed on corporate America and if someone decides to start an Occupy iPhonebooth movement, I’m on board. At least until I can afford one of my own.

Really, it’s not like this dude meant to cause problems. This is not some guy who will, while in a darkened theater people paid ten bucks to be in, actually answer his phone and say, “Hey, ’s’up dude,” in a loud-and-therefore-not-his-indoor voice.

This is a guy who wanted to do what was right and who now is humiliated on CNN, in The New York Times and by any blogger who can spell philharmonic.

I feel a little sorry for him and I have to give the guy mad props for what he did once ol’ Phil stopped the concert and stared into the first row, from where the offending tone was emitting. Not wanting to be publicly humiliated, the man simply pretended the phone wasn’t his.

Yep, he sat right there with his pocket dinging happily, looking around him quizzically as if he’d just farted on one of those plastic classroom chairs that give off that loud echo.

The New York Times quoted the conductor — whom it reported was named Alan Gilbert, so I guess technically, this was a gil-harmonic concert — as saying, “Nobody was owning up to it. It was surreal.”

If he thinks that’s surreal, he’s never seen the episode where one of the Kardashian sisters gives that other one, they’re interchangeable, a bikini wax on national television.

Any-hoo, a reporter for ABC noted one more tidbit: Seems the preconcert announcement asking attendees to turn off phones was recorded by none other than Alec Baldwin, who his ownself thought he was too good to turn off his phone and was kicked off an American Airlines flight last month.

Now that’s what I call surreal.

Can anyone else hear that “Twilight Zone” theme?

Oh, it’s just me …?

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