A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.
- John C. Maxwell

This of course implies that a smaller, duller, and weaker man made the mistake in the first place.

The good news is that I readily admit my mistake, I am writing to profit from it, and I fixed the damn phone which caused the problem in the first place.

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The bad news is that the mistake occurred in a quiet theater. During the opening scene of a sold-out Broadway play.

Act I

The production began in silence. The stage setting was a sparse family room. A lone actor, a writer, sat deep in thought before a typewriter as another actor entered stage right.

Faint background music played from a radio or television set turned low. Although I thought it was a little odd to have music playing, it contributed nicely to the opening scene of the drama. In fact, the barely discernible tune sounded familiar—it was something I had heard often.

Because it was also the first song on my playlist.

Here is the thing about panic. It doesn’t necessarily flood the senses all at once. It washes over slowly like a wave, with the inkling that things are bad but about to get much, much worse. Like when the audience around you starts looking about trying to figure out where the background music that might not really be background music is coming from.

It was bad enough thinking it might be playing on my phone. It was worse realizing the phone was in my front pant pocket.

Have you ever tried retrieving change from your pocket at a toll booth while people are honking behind you? Imagine removing change the size of a large iPhone. At least I wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

Still, I didn’t really believe it could be me. I had set my phone to silent mode and shut down all of the applications. But when I awkwardly retrieved my phone I discovered this was no longer true. And of course once free from the muffling folds of my pocket, the source of the background music which was not really background music became pretty obvious, at least to the dozens of people around me.

Of course the first thing I did was to hold my finger tightly against the volume button. This is the button on the side of the phone that is below the button which makes the volume louder. This is important to know because in a quiet, darkened theater it is easy to hit the wrong button.

Trust me on this.

Act II

Here is another thing about panic. It causes you to lose all rational thought. Like when everyone around you is glaring at you fumbling with your phone and under such intense pressure in the darkness you can’t work the buttons or shut down the offending application and the music is getting louder not softer and you realize that you have run out of all ideas you can think of in the moment to silence the stupid phone which is supposed to be silent but for some unknown reason isn’t.

In such circumstances you would do anything to immediately escape the total sense of panic and embarrassment you feel, right?

Like maybe wrap the phone tightly within the dense padding of your winter coat and once more within the coat of the nice woman sitting next to you who is actively pretending not to be your wife and then shoving the whole wadded bundle underneath your seat.

I don’t know, I thought it was a good idea at the time.

And it would have been if the play didn’t incorporate several key dramatic moments of silence where even highly muted, tasteful jazz was not suitable background music.

Here is one more thing about panic. It subsides, but it doesn’t go away. It remains an acid-leaking pit in your stomach, kind of like discordant music emanating periodically from a phone wrapped in a wad of winter coats under a theater seat.

And running away is not an option. Especially when you are wedged in a seat, center mezzanine.


One final thought about panic. Fortunately, there is a final thought.

And mine was to quickly remove the bundle of coats from under my seat during a loud and raucous dramatic exchange on stage to recover the offending phone buried deep within a sleeve and then methodically conduct a hard reset, a procedure which requires two hands on two different buttons over several seconds to shutdown a frozen phone.

Ultimately I was successful and rose in my seat to thunderous applause.

Because mercifully the curtain had dropped.

And as the house lights rose and people turned to identify the pitiful musical director standing before them, I shamefully realized things could have been worse.

I could have been naked.