I WAS at a concert the other night taking notes for a review on my mobile phone when the guy I’d been sitting next to abruptly said: “Would you stop doing that, it’s very annoying.”
I had no idea I’d been causing a problem.
So naturally I took this in the way it was intended and felt intensely indignant.
Not only about the manner in which he’d announced his displeasure, but also the nitty gritty of what he said.
Yes, perhaps the light off my phone had been annoying, and for that I was very sorry.
But I had only been texting notes intermittently, so it hadn’t been like a floodlight in his face.
And when I looked up, the crowd was one giant flicker of iPhones anyhow.
(Does anyone actually watch a concert these days with their own eyes?)
Therefore I found it hard to accept that of all the myriad offenders in the crowd, this guy chose to chide me, the bloke he was sitting next to.
My other half asked if I wanted to change seats, but I wasn’t going to make a fuss.
I did the only thing left to a reasonable person, I stewed.
There are right ways of letting people know stuff, and wrong ways.
And the means you choose often define what type of person you are. And vice versa.
If, for example, someone sits in front of you at a concert wearing a sombrero you could:
a) politely ask them to take it off;
b) politely ask multiple times, and if they ignore you;
c) politely consider pouring your beer down their back.
A lot of people would probably feel if the sombrero wearer hadn’t responded in the affirmative after a) and b) then you’d be entitled to exercise option c).
But I’m not advocating any other kind of overreaction, if that’s what you call pouring your beer down someone’s back.
With the prices they charge for drinks at these mega concerts up the valley, that WOULD be an overreaction.
Then again, it would only be light beer, so no big loss.
My point being, most reasonable people would sort things out with an ‘‘excuse me’’, ‘‘great show eh?’’, ‘‘would you mind losing the sombrero?’’
Not some self-righteous order out of the blue as if addressing a troll.
The most generous thing you could say about his approach was that it was ‘‘direct’’.
I apologised because the last thing I wanted to do was harsh anyone’s buzz, and besides I figured he couldn’t help himself.
To which he then reaffirmed with a ‘‘so-you-should-be’’ tone of voice that it was blinding him.
This as the crowd before us pixilated into one giant Imax of S5s.
“It must be really killing you,” I muttered in the general direction of Greta as I absorbed the second wave.
On reflection, rather than being a card-carrying member of the jerk club, maybe he treated me like a subhuman because he thought I wasn’t paying attention to the show.
Of course, nothing could have been further from the truth.
I was doing a review, and that requires you to pay extra attention.
Taking notes is essential otherwise you forget everything bar the fact that you went, because you have a memory like a sieve.
I know there are savants out there who can soak it up and then later recall every detail, word perfect, without assistance.
But sadly that’s not how I roll.
When it comes to taking notes, darkness is the enemy.
That’s why I opt for the phone.
It has a light. The one that offended old mate so much.
I used to take notes with pen and paper but it gets hard when they turn down the lights – a regular feature at grown-up concerts.
The upshot is you tend to end up with seven or eight pages of what looks like seismographic activity.
A new language known only to ... no one.
Quite debilitating to the review writing process later on.
Mobile phones are small, discreet and effective for the job. Sort of.
You often have to deal with encrypted records like “Wo&)w” to describe the first bracket.
Or ‘‘&OJLDOReeqwe99 Ladyl?” to detail that third song off the legendary fifth album.
Still, better than no notes.
Maybe old mate mistook my notetaking for not listening.
But I couldn’t have been listening harder.
In fact I would argue that in taking notes I was honouring the performer even more intensely than those try-hard diehard fans who incessantly call out lyrics before each song to show how knowledgeable they are.
Or those who stand up and wave their hands above their head in baby-booming reverie.
Or those who determinedly out-applaud everyone else for what turns out to be a guitar retune.
Taking notes in this way actually detracts from your appreciation of the performance, because you have to concentrate.
But not as much as being told: “Would you stop doing that, it’s very annoying.’’
That was an unnecessary big note and it fell flat. Next time, just ask nice.