Breakfast of Champions 7/14: "That Guy" edition

During the Metropolitan Ballet's 5th anniversary gala, I alternatively felt sorry for and wanted to throttle a gentleman two rows in front of me.

Amidst a lull in one of the dances, the music hushed, and in the darkness a sound rang out. A familiar sound not made by any orchestra pit. The telltale default ring of a wireless phone. The phone's owner, a middle-aged fellow in a camouflage cap, fumbled in the inky black to shut the device off. Successful, he and we went back to enjoying the show.

For about five minutes.

At which point -- same phone, same ring. I can only imagine the scarlet hues he turned. To have the phone ring once makes you That Guy. And no one wants to be That Guy. To have it happen twice within five minutes, well, that makes you an All-Time That Guy.

Without mocking this guy (notice I only mentioned the camo hat as a descriptor), let me turn the lens back on myself to explain how I was once That Guy and why I will never be again.

Out west, I used to pal around with Jeremy the Poet. His name came from the fact that, since the age of 12, all he'd ever wanted to be was a poet. This left him a fount of knowledge on all matters verse-oriented, and a bit introverted on other topics when in social situations.

This last has never been my problem, really.

During our friendship his role was to write good poetry; mine was to write mediocre poetry and coordinate our community endeavors. Each role fit us smartly, although I was often envious of his mad poetic skillz. For his part, Jeremy on more than one occasion wished I would be shut up and humbled by circumstance while in one of the public spaces where I seemed so comfortable.

On the day I got my first wireless phone -- a marvelous little clamshell number that looked like a Star Trek communicator -- Jeremy the Poet and I had planned to go see Russell Banks read. His book Continental Drift is probably still my favorite novel. The author is a hero of mine, so much so that I actually named my dog after him. This was a fact I kept to myself during the interview we did, but you see the point. This guy is like unto a God to me. He's like Bob Mould crossed with Jesus with a little bit of Eugene Debs thrown in.

That night, he was reading excepts from his then-unreleased opus The Darling, a chilling narrative about Liberia. I threw the phone into my hoodie's front pouch and didn't think about it again.

We arrive, and Banks is all we could hope for. Silver-haired and in fine voice, he begins the first chapter. We're the first people to hear this read in public, and we know it. He uses words perfectly and his pacing is superb. He finishes.

"That was exquisite," Jeremy whispers to me. He uses words like that because, you know, poet. Banks begins the second chapter. And then it happens.

My uncle calls me. First incoming call on my new phone. The ringing sound is noticeable from my hoodie pouch, and I am mortified.

No problem, right? Shut the phone off and move on, right? Well, here's the issue. Because it's one of those sleek clamshell models, you can't turn it off without opening the phone up. And you can't open the phone off without making another ringing sound. All you can do in in the interim is his an outer button which mutes the apparatus. So I do, and blush, and ponder how I'm going to shut this damn thing down without bothering Banks again.

But there's another problem. There's an audible voicemail notification alert built into the phone, and my uncle just left me a message. Which I find out when it goes off thirty seconds later.

In this case, the default voicemail notification sounds like a foghorn, or an alarm clock buzz made for an inveterate drunk with narcolepsy. It's loud like the trumpets in Hell. It would wake Ctulhu and he would choose not to eat you first. And this sound is coming from my body as I frantically give myself a Homeland Security pat-down.

Jeremy the Poet is openly loving this. He's never seen me get this flustered in public before. The richly-anticipated moment of my public humiliation has arrived. He's got an apple-cheeked grin, is all but laughing in my direction, and is obviously already thinking about telling this story to his wife.

"You miserable fuck," I want to tell him, "your new poems read like Jewel ate Ally Sheedy's book and shit the words out onto paper." But I cannot, because it is not true (which wouldn't stop me) and because the last thing I want to do is emit another sound (which did stop me).

So I can't open the phone (loud sound). I can't leave the phone on (risk of many loud sounds). Face the color of ketchup, I MacGyver my way into a solution: I paw around until I find the battery and tear it directly out of the phone. Seriously.

Banks is grandfatherly. He mercifully pretends not to notice. I consider seppuku anyway. From that day forward, I've always found where all the batteries live in all my phones. Just in case.

Now that I have the iPhone 3G, there's no easy power source access. But if it goes off when I'm at a reading again, it's getting thrown out the window. I think the reader will understand. It's the right thing to do.


It was a danceable weekend, between the Metro ballet and outdoor dances at Lake Harriet's rose garden. Be sure to see the photos, too.

If you've never been to a dragonboat race, I recommend it. The pageantry, the sights and sounds ... all to be remembered. Didn't make it to the Asian cultural event Dragon Fest? Take in the images of the boats, martial arts demonstrations and more in the slideshow.

Happy news: many (including yours truly) braved long lines and technical malfunctions to get the glorious new iPhone G3. Yes, I am prepared to throw it out a window rather than be That Guy again. For extra LOL-ness, check the comments.

I'm just going to come out and say this: you people are insane. Wild Irish Rose is fit to take the paint off your car, not to drink. To say it's the most palatable of the liquors sampled thus far in this gut-curdling experiment speaks ill of all of you. Do you hear me? All of you! You should probably try the Marusya Gold instead. Or if you like movies as much as you like beer, go for the winners of the Summit Beer Film contest.

Who among us has not had a healthy (or unhealthy) addiction to Civilization? Gary Hodges examines this phenomenon.

What is predictable and admired by people with silly hats? Brett Favre.

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