The Guy In the Theater Who Could Have Gone To Jail

Last night my wife and I were watching Fantastic Beasts at the theater.  With about 30 minutes left, some guy yelled “TURN OFF YOUR PHONE!”  I chuckled a bit and looked around… I saw The Phone Guy was on the far left, right by the door.  And he didn’t turn his phone off… he was looking at it (not talking on it).

About four or five minutes later The Yeller, who looked like a bear, squeezed past about six people and gruffly grunted down the few steps to where The Phone Offender was (still on his phone) and, from what I could tell, got directly in his face and yelled again. I think he even laid his hands on The Phone Offender, or at least touched his phone.

The Phone Offender stood up and got in The Yeller’s face… neither of these men were small.  It was a little scary for a minute… and then finally The Phone Offender walked out.

Where did he go?  Was he going to get a gun?  His manhood had been challenged in front of hundreds of people.  I’m no lawyer, but from where I was sitting, it was assault and battery.

I have a problem with what happened.  Not even mentioning the fact that there were plenty of kids in the theater to witness this ridiculous behavior, let’s go to two worst-case situations:

Immediate reaction by a concealed weapon permit holder: What if The Phone Offender had a concealed weapon?  Based on what I’ve read, he could have felt threatened to the point where he needed to protect himself.  The huge Yeller was, I’m sure, very physically intimidating, growling and yelling and really, really close to The Offender. And if he did indeed touch The Offender, or his phone, then there’s the start of “battery” (I think).  The thing is, you don’t have to go to law school to be qualified to know if it’s right to pull your gun and shoot someone “in self defense,” or “to prevent a forcible felony.”  All it takes is someone who is scared to pull his gun, pull the trigger, and then deal with the legal stuff later.  Whether he was justified or not, The Yeller could have lost his life (or his health) just because he was playing Phone Vigilante.

Delayed reaction by crazy guy affecting everyone: What if The Offender left to his truck to get guns, and came back and shot up the theater? We were pretty much sitting in the line of fire from the door to The Yeller, and right behind us (in the line of fire) was a cute little family with three young kids.  What a horrid situation that really could have happened, just because The Yeller decided to be a cinema hero.

Okay, maybe that’s pretty dramatic, but I don’t put either scenario past the realm of possibilities. I don’t like either scenario, but I don’t trust human judgement enough to be naive to the point of thinking “oh, that wouldn’t happen.”

Fortunately, neither happened.  About ten or fifteen minutes after The Offender left, he returned with a police officer. The Offender accused the wrong guy of being The Yeller, at which point The Yeller stood up (finally, a wise choice on his part) and walked out with the cop.

What happened after that? I’m not sure.  But he certainly could have gone to jail. While it’s not as severe as the two worst-case scenarios above, it’s not the way he planned to spend the evening, just over his impatience and anxiety.

Perhaps you relate to the impatience and anxiety… and you’ve done, or wanted to do, the same thing to Phone Offenders.

Let’s switch gears to our job search.  Lots of bad and stupid and neglectful things happen. And, we’re in an unusually emotional state.  That can be a bad combination… and if we act on that, we can get into trouble.

Perhaps not fatal or life-threatening trouble, but what if your overreaction to something burns bridges?  What if someone who would have introduced you to a hiring manager at your target company now doesn’t trust your judgement or discretion?

What if you decide to “spout off,” either in a job club or just to one person, about how you were treated in or after an interview?

Sure, interviews can be demoralizing, and the interviewer is typically untrained and can act unprofessional (ie., doesn’t follow up with you at all).  But is that a reason to publicly react?

Sure, you might be justified… but what are you going to ruin along the way?

The Yeller didn’t get to watch the end of the movie, and might have had to figure out how to get his family home… and perhaps had to to stuff with the cops that no one wants to do.

You, The Job Seeker, might be justified in spouting off, but you might tag yourself as someone who is unstable, and dangerous (as far as professional networking goes).

Look, what are you after?  Social justice, or a job?

Please beware, and be aware, of what you do and say, and how it could impact what you are ultimately after.  The consequences of your choices might be much graver than you ever wanted, and sidetrack you to the point where you have many setbacks.

2 thoughts on “The Guy In the Theater Who Could Have Gone To Jail”

  1. Interesting take. And it has merit, however the whole situation could have been avoided and Mr. Phone Geek put his phone away or left the theater for however long his call took (or text conversation), then return to his seat.

    We normally go to matinees when going to the theater. One it is less expensive by $3-4 or more, we have to deal with fewer people who don’t always make smart decisions. (Like both Yeller and Phone Geek)
    And sometimes we get a private showing. Or us and a few others.

  2. This story moved me. I recently had an ugly confrontation with my next door neighbor. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s enough to say I overreacted and was meet by an equal overreaction. Now we both live with the consequences of the cross words we shared.

    I’m just now back in a FT permanent job after being laid off in 2008. That experience may have left me with an ego that is raw and edgy. It’s no excuse for bad behavior but it has a real effect on my life. Everyone should try to get some perspective and see events for what they are.

    On a positive note, thanks for the excellent info in this blog. I got a lot of bad advice during my job search. You been serving up honest and real help here and it has made a difference.

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