Noises Off, Please

Reflections on grits and nitwits.

Reflections before the dog days set in:

• I remember that 25 years ago when I attended a concert or theatrical performance at the Carr Auditorium, the biggest distraction to fear was the crinkling sound as an elderly patron unwrapped a cough drop.

These days I wonder at what point in a performance someone’s cell phone will go off with a call or text—and what catchy jingle will play. How many seconds will it last? Will the person put the phone away? Or perhaps text back?

It happened next to me during a recent performance of Pippin at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. During the final riveting you-could-hear-a-pin-drop moments of the musical, a phone went off next to me. The offending “patron’’ took his time shutting off the music. And rather than put the phone away, he kept looking at the brightly lit screen, until the end, so that the light distracted everyone within a few feet.

What to do? Berate this person loudly and disrupt the performance even more? Punch him? I waited until after the performance, tapped him on the shoulder on the way out and said, “Next time have some consideration. Your phone was really distracting.’’ He turned and looked at me and mumbled something like “Uhhh, okay’’ and continued on his way.

Since that evening, I’ve seen social media postings on this issue that basically say “What’s the big deal?’’ If you’ve paid for a ticket, you also have the right to pull out your iPhone right then and there and Tweet about what a great show it is, no?

No, you don’t. If you want to Tweet during intermission, fine. But if you insist on receiving calls or texting during a performance, I have two words: Stay away.

• On to our current issue:

As I read writer Belinda Hulin’s exploration of all things grits, I was rather ashamed to admit that I keep a box of the Quaker Instant variety in my kitchen cabinet. Yes, I have been known to dump a few packets into a plastic container late at night, add water and microwave for a few minutes, and then scarf them down. But grits are worthy of so much more respect than that. Read “Glorious Grits,’’ this month’s dining spotlight, to gain a true appreciation of how chefs have come to worship this Southern staple.

Elsewhere, Patricia Letakis provides the mother of all beach guides, chock-full of information whether you’re looking to get away for a day or a week. Kristen Manieri explores the red-hot craze of escape rooms, and columnist Greg Dawson takes leaf blowers to task (in between choking on debris). Plus, check out our Wedding Guide, full of information for soon-to-be-betrothed couples, including an extensive list of reception venues.

• In our January “Story of a…’’ feature, we profiled Richard Peeples, more famously known as “Mr. Richard.’’ The versatile local entertainer has delighted untold thousands of children with his quirky songs over the past decade. Now he needs our help. Peeples’ wife, Danielle, is battling cancer and supporters have staged a benefit concert for them on June 7.  For details, go to our World of Good listings on page 131. And to read an incredibly moving essay that Mr. Richard wrote recently, titled “The Most Compelling Evidence Ever for Always Living in the Moment,’’ go to

Categories: Column