I have to admit one of my pet peeves is people who feel compelled to use their cellphones in a darkened movie theater.
That said, one has to wonder just what, if anything, was going through the mind of the guy who shot and killed another Florida movie patron who was texting his 22-month-old daughter’s caregiver during the previews for “Lone Survivor” last month.
Behind the wheel of a car it’s known as road rage. I suppose the equivalent would be something like texting rage, the inability to handle the obvious distraction of a cellphone’s glaring LED light in a darkened auditorium.
Chad Oulson of Land O’ Lakes, Fla., was the victim. News reports said he was confronted by an angry retired police officer, Curtis Reeves, who reported him to management and then got into a shouting match on his return, whereupon Oulson threw popcorn at him. In return, Oulson was fatally shot, reportedly by Reeves’ .380 pistol.
The episode raises more questions than answers. Yes, people’s compulsion to use their cellphones to text or whatever while waiting for a movie to start may be a little out of hand. But is it serious enough to draw a firearm? Come on! And yes, guns don’t kill people, people with guns use them to kill people. That’s probably because they’re more efficient than throwing popcorn. Reeves pleaded self-defense at his bail hearing, but the judge wisely decided he was in no danger from the popcorn, no matter how much cholesterol it might have contained.
Ever since that guy in Colorado shot up a movie theater, many cinemas have posted no-guns-allowed signs. But how do you enforce it without frisking every customer at the box office?
The episode boils down to one of those tragedies that result when a human being is unable to handle unpleasant stimuli. Other witnesses came forward to say they had seen or been confronted by Reeves in similar situations. The guy may have covertly needed help he never got.
The Bible says a soft answer turneth away wrath. Not to put the onus on Oulson, but had he quietly terminated his text and ignored Reeves as best he could, the situation might have de-escalated with no gunshots or lost popcorn. I tend to practice that course on the highway, backing off as fast as possible from idiot drivers instead of confronting them at potentially lethal highway speeds. And now it looks as though it will be a good idea to bite my tongue in the theater as well instead of giving in to temptation to tell somebody to turn off their annoying phone.
As life continues to get more hectic at breakneck speed, more people find themselves unable to cope. The result, fortunately infrequent but more instantly communicated, is often violent retaliation for real or imagined slights that make no sense at all in the real world.
Jim Bailey’s column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.