By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
The phone rang. I almost jumped out of my seat, but at least this settled the question about my ringtone — it was called “Old Phone,” and sounded like the echoey bell-ring once heard from phones at police stations or hospitals. It was the loudest ringtone invented and it was going off in my hand. I immediately began feigning a coughing fit — that was a noise, I rationalized, that was more acceptable in a theater than the cacophony my phone was making. I was able to silence it by hitting a random button. I stopped coughing. A few seconds later a mocking chime rang out, announcing a missed call. I had overlooked this bit of malevolence from the BlackJack. By now some people were turning around in their seats and, though it was dark, I knew what their expressions would be — the kind of sneer I had perfected from years of turning around in my seat toward oblivious teens or befuddled seniors when their Motos or Razrs had gone off.
The play continued, and, putting the phone in my pocket, I began to relax. Until it rang again. This time more people turned in my direction.
By the time I pulled the phone from my pocket the call had gone through, and so I now had to find the Hang-up button to disconnect the disconcerting voice. Each time I frantically pushed one of the rice-grain-sized buttons, a different bip or beep sounded. Finally I hit what I thought was the right one.
“Hello? Hello?” a woman’s voice called out, astonishingly loud. I had pressed the Speakerphone button.
“Can’t you remove the battery?” David hissed, clearly agitated.
I tried, but locating the battery door was like finding a secret panel in a slippery sliver of — obsidian. All I could do was start my fake cough again, trying to cover whatever new bleep, bip or beep was about to come out of my demon cell phone.
Intermission, like the restorative dawn in a horror movie, eventually arrived. David and I slunk out of the theater and examined the phone. I demonstrated to him how it was impossible to turn it off. Then I removed the battery and placed it in a separate pocket from the phone. I began to reconstruct what went wrong. The woman who’d called me during the play was my mother — somehow, as I’d sat there with my finger hovering over the keyboard, I’d unknowingly touched the redial button, calling her for the second time that Sunday. After I’d hastily hung up on her she’d called me back, sensing (all too correctly) that something was amiss.
When the play resumed, I’d occasionally check one pocket or the other, irrationally making sure the battery was still separated from the phone. The next day I brought the BlackJack back to the phone store and proved to a clerk that it could not be shut off without removing the battery. I got a replacement that works fine, although now I shut it off before I even step into a theater. And if I want to know the time and have no watch, I just turn around and keep asking strangers — until the lights go out.