He started up his noisy computer in the middle of a reading!
March 24, 2014 3:36 PM   Subscribe

I had a book release, reading, and signing party last night (it's a book I co-edited), and about halfway though the reading, one of the reader's husband pulled out his computer pad and turned it on, making all the start up noises. I find this rude and disrespectful; indeed, in the open mike culture here, people generally "respect the mike" and don't talk or take calls, but support the reader and give them energy (Energy begets energy).

The wife was in another part of the bar and may not have known it was him (although I didn't see anyone else with a laptop). To make things worse, the reader at that time was a timid person, not very used to the mike. I took a deep breath and went on with the show. No, I haven't let it go (smile). Now that it's over, do I let her know? If so, how do I diplomatically write my e-mail? I am just hesitant because I took an (electronic) bite out of her ass a couple weeks ago for bulk mailing me (some battles you will never win). I did apologize sincerely to her for that--not for doing it, but for kind of going off on her. I don't want her to think she can do nothing right around me, however, I am just adamant about protecting my readers as well as giving them the best possible environment I can. I KNOW how hard it is to get up there in front of people!

Of course I know about the "please set your electronic devices to stun" pre-reading speech, and flat out forgot due to all the preparations (greeting people, setting out refreshments, getting the sound ready, checking off readers, and so on).

If I were quicker on my feet I would said have something at the time. I was so stunned that he would do that. Now that it's over, do I let her know? If so, how do I diplomatically write my e-mail?
posted by intrepid_simpleton to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No. You let it go. Yes, it was rude, but this is unfortunately something most performers have to deal with on some level. A nice announcement at the beginning going forward is all you can do. What good would it do to email her now? Just move on.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:41 PM on March 24, 2014 [15 favorites]

I would say: don't write the email. You forgot to issue the "turn off your devices" reminder before the reading. Next time, just make sure to say it, and to make a mention of laptops in your reminder.

Of course, I agree that the person was inconsiderate to have done it, but if the goal is to protect your readers, then just be extra-double-sure to do that in advance.
posted by nacho fries at 3:42 PM on March 24, 2014 [19 favorites]

It seems like you're somehow placing some of the responsibility for this on the wife, when it seems like she had nothing to do with it, aside from the poor taste of marrying someone who doesn't instinctively know to keep his electronic devices turned off? But, honestly, it seems like the real problem here was that he didn't have the sound already muted, which is a thing you can't do with it turned off. And, yeah, it's rude, but--seriously, minor sins. Annoying, yes. Worth continuing to worry about after the fact, no.
posted by Sequence at 3:43 PM on March 24, 2014 [36 favorites]

Let it go. So many worse things can and will happen when someone is on stage. Seriously.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 3:44 PM on March 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Doing anything about it at this stage is just revenge: trying to make him feel bad in retaliation for the incident. Just let it go and remind yourself to be clear about no one turning on anything that might go "beep" before future readings.

It's possible that he normally has the thing muted and didn't expect it to go through the whole beep boop TA DA CHORD routine when he turned it on. Of course, once you realize your error in that situation there's nothing you can do. It's also possible he's an inconsiderate asshole. But he's not your problem going forward, either way.

And in any case, none of these would be reasons to write to the guy's wife.
posted by yoink at 3:49 PM on March 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

No, I agree to just let it go this time. Going forward, announce at the beginning and possibly even have some polite signage somewhere as well.
posted by gudrun at 3:51 PM on March 24, 2014

Yes, you let it go. And you don't blame the wife for something her husband did.
posted by inertia at 3:55 PM on March 24, 2014 [16 favorites]

I would totally let this roll off unless it was patently apparent that the person in question has no concept for how to behave respectfully in an live performance setting. Would you feel as upset if the guy had started coughing at that moment, or if they had a young child there who cried or spoke out of turn?
posted by Sara C. at 3:55 PM on March 24, 2014

Let it go. Everyone else thought it was rude, too. For all you know, wife went home and lambasted husband for it.
posted by jferg at 3:59 PM on March 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wow! How were you even planning on phrasing this? Pick your battles. This is nothing to get angry about. Want to hear something even more gross? While I was having an interview, another candidate outside the office was playing music. Loudly. I wanted to strangle her! But I didn't. People are rude, inconsiderate - don't lose your head over it

Also, it seems you have a habit of telling people off for being rude/whatever... cut it out. People WILL start to think they can do nothing right around you. And what does this whole thing have to do with the wife, anyway?
posted by rhythm_queen at 4:45 PM on March 24, 2014 [12 favorites]

Also, as someone who prefers to take electronic notes (I always lose slips of paper and physical notebooks are harder for me to search through) and often has her laptop with her, he might have been pulling out his computer because he was engaged with the readings and wanted to jot something down to help him remember.
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:51 PM on March 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

As someone who used to get a lot of heat for their partners' heinous acts, please don't rail on the wife for something her husband has done. She's his wife, not his mother, and has no control over a grown mans' actions. If your issue was with him then deal with him directly and leave her out of it.

But, nthing what everything else is saying: let it go. It's just not worth it.

If you feel you must do -something- about it, then perhaps you could seek out the timid reader who might've been affected. She might need some reassurance that another incident won't happen again...or about her performance in general.
posted by stubbehtail at 4:58 PM on March 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

He was probably already mortified. I know I was whenever I booted up my computer after class had started and it did that. If only there was a way to mute it *before* turning it on.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:22 PM on March 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Of course I know about the "please set your electronic devices to stun" pre-reading speech, and flat out forgot due to all the preparations

It may help to think of it this way (not just about this incident, but going forward): if it was easy enough for you to forget to make the announcement, it was easy enough for him, or anyone else in the audience, to forget to do it. I genuinely believe that most of the time, most people are just doing their best. When they fall short and make a mistake it's just the state of being human -- the same state from which none of us are exempt.
posted by scody at 5:29 PM on March 24, 2014 [20 favorites]

Instead of laying blame, why not practice compassion instead? The guy started up his computer at the wrong time. Think of how embarassed he might have felt once that happened. Don't harass him or his wife for a simple mistake.
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:36 PM on March 24, 2014 [11 favorites]

Since your profile says nothing about your location, it's hard to interpret what you mean by "the open mike culture here" (my emphasis), but my suspicion is that most people are not the sensitive snowflakes you think they are. In fact, your page title ("He started up his noisy computer in the middle of a reading!") looks like a parody to me. I lecture twice a week to undergraduates, and if that's the worst thing that happens in a week, I count myself lucky. Odds are that no one else, even the speaker, really cares at this point.

I also agree with many others that the husband's behavior has nothing to do with the wife's. And if you "took an (electronic) bite out of her ass a couple weeks ago for bulk mailing me," instead of just setting up an email filter to get rid of unwanted bulk emails, maybe you should turn down your own sensitivity dial. It's worth keeping in mind the adage, "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." And you can't fix stupidity, as Carlo Cipolla pointed out long ago.
posted by brianogilvie at 6:26 PM on March 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

Yeah, this is pretty on the low scale. I've went to a counselling conference once where some people in the audience were very loudly and openly critiquing the presenters, who were all very nice and, yes, mostly very timid people. I had someone sit down next to me during one session with an incredibly foul-smelling burger and proceeded to eat it during the presentation (at the very least go to the back of the room?!).

So, yeah, I would go with clueless here rather than complete jerk.
posted by heyjude at 6:39 PM on March 24, 2014

Well, lots of good feedback and input. You all are so right, I need to chill. Sequence, yoink, et. al: I had the wife's contact information and not the husband's. That's all that part meant. Wasn't planning on blaming her, although I guess it would've dragged her in anyway...

I am taking the advice to drop it. I need to get rid of my compulsion to try and control the universe anyway.

I just remember when I started doing open mike myself and how hard it was to get up there (and it ain't easy now!). I'd shake and then somebody's rap song ring would come on and --poof!--my train of thought was gone.

Oh, and Sara C: One time a two-or-so-year old DID yell out, everyone laughed and thought it was adorable, in my opinion that's miles from a self-absorbed, okay, let me re-phrase that, clueless guy (how's that Hermione_Granger, heyjude) who only wanted to surf the internet. Or take notes.

Thank you all for reminding me not to sweat the small stuff and not to mistake malice for stupidity. I appreciate your time.
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 7:22 PM on March 24, 2014 [11 favorites]

I was in a room with people, a very important setting, totally out of line for anyone to have their puter going. I was angered, wanted to talk to the person.

But he has fairly profound hearing loss, better for him to read alone as the meeting progressedf. I think we're going to see lots more of it, as time rolls by. For all you know, he maybe was reading along as you spoke.

I find it annoying, and disrespectful. But it's going to happen more and more. Announce it at the beginning, but unless they are totally distracting you might have to just let it drop.

Good luck
posted by dancestoblue at 1:36 AM on March 25, 2014

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