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PUBLISHER: The Lone Ranger and phones that tamed the West

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By Tony Cotten

This line of thought derived from the staff question of the week that asked: “What was the last movie you saw?” My answer was “The Book of Eli,” an apocalyptic setting with a man on a spiritual mission.
It was this answer that caused me to realize it had been quite a while since I’d went to a movie, something I grew up with and thoroughly enjoyed – then I remembered why: cell phones.
Attending “The Book of Eli” wasn’t the first time in recent years I had encountered it, but it reminded me this would be my last movie because I, like all of you, can now stay at home to watch a movie and not have to encounter it.
Entering a movie theater was one of the exciting moments of going to watch a movie.
The smell of popcorn, the walk down carpeted halls and walls that silence vibration and echoes, the precarious decision of choosing just the right seat and the first drink of a fountain soda while settling in for the show was a great part of the experience of going to the movies.
The darkness of movie theaters –  once reserved for hand-holding and the feeling of soft cheeks – has given way to its illuminating light and often its custom ring or click, click, click of someone typing on its face.
It just adds to the general rudeness that sadly is mainstream these days.
Rudeness translated into 2-year-olds performing yoga in the seat next to me at the movie I last saw before “The Book of Eli” – “The Dark Knight.” The math there goes back years.
I spent more time at that movie trying to hold my tongue and not tell the woman and her children that: 1) It wasn’t appropriate for these kids to be at this move (apparent when they began crying in fear when the Joker appeared); 2) That when children begin misbehaving in public its her duty to remove and correct them, regardless if the movie is in its climax.
I decided after “The Dark Knight” experience that maybe it was just my sensitivity to others that led me to spend more time plotting my escape from my seat than enjoy premiere tickets at the sold-out IMAX showing.
So, I stopped going to movies. But “The Book of Eli” looked intriguing and I planned a late show viewing at a small theater unlikely to be well-attended making it possible to move seats if needed.
And then it appeared. A cell phone.
And then another, and another, and… you get the idea.
I saw these too at “The Dark Knight,” but because it was sold out I was in the front row and the glow of cell phones wasn’t quite as visible.
And yes, I saw a movie before “The Dark Knight” where cell phones were in use during the show, but it seems their use has become more blatant, more belligerent, like a cured drunkard that just went on a binge.
Texting, calling and picture sharing seemed to be rampant among the seats of the theater.
But this was just during the previews; I could make the trade off as long as the phones went off during the show.
And sure enough, with the appearance of a nice warning sign some flips flipped closed, some slides slid down and for a few moments all attention was on the screen.
Then someone received that text they’d been waiting for all day.
And another person obviously waiting for precious news of a loved one’s return home from overseas popped their phone open.
A young man, with a few manners, attempted to shield the glow of his screen, but it didn’t matter. Like the spray of a person’s sneeze, the germs of light spread through the darkness.
There’s a self-absorption with cell phones that reveals the self-centeredness each one of us carry within ourselves.
For many, phones create a feeling of self-worth, a purpose that others want to be connected to them.
It’s the sociological equivalent of Facebook – let me show you who I know, who knows me, who likes me, and that I am important enough to be having people in constant contact with me.
Before cell phones, pagers were the rage and at first, they were reserved for doctors, attorneys, politicians and law
enforcement.
When their pagers would go off, everyone nearby assumed an important event was happening and they, in turn, were important to the process.
Perhaps that’s why people have such affection for their phones. They interpret a level of importance to themselves by having their phone and even more importantly, using it – like a gunslinger carrying a six-shooter.
I have hope that cell phones, like six-shooters and the holsters that carried them will become old and a bit of an oddity in public.
Until then, myself and thousands of others around me, will have to continue to be patient as people continue to carry them into theaters, public meetings and group discussions to fulfill their need to feel importantly connected to a world that surely can wait, if just for a couple of hours.

Tony Cotten is publisher of The Oldham Era. The views in this column are those of the writer. Email us about this story at:publisher@oldhamera.com.