My wife and I went to see Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline in "Mother Courage" in Central Park yesterday. In a nod to mother Russia, I had to wait in line for 5 hours for the tickets. (I'll be describing that process in a more official venue, so I'll postpone discussion of it here.)
Streep (I won't call her "Meryl" as many of the theatergoers did) was great; I don't think I've ever seen someone command such attention on the stage. (Kevin who?) She flubbed a few lines, but she recovered gracefully (and my wife pointed out that this show would only run for a month, and it had only been open about a week).
One thing really bothered me though: The security people kept emphasizing that there were no pictures allowed. Okay fine. Now before the "curtain" went up, a girl sitting next to us (whom I knew because we had spent 5 hours earlier that day in line) took a picture of her friend in the seat next to her. She wasn't even pointing the camera in the direction of the stage. A security woman came up (we were all in the middle of the row) and yelled at her, and told her to delete the photo.
The girl was protesting and saying it was just a photo of her friend. (The girl was from Germany I think, so I believe the different cultures--the security women I'm pretty sure were American blacks--added to the tension.) The first security woman told her to delete the photo. The girl (after the first protest) said OK.
Then, the second security woman came up, on the other side of the aisle. She repeated that the girl needed to delete the photo, and the girl said she did, then asked somewhat sarcastically, "Do you want to check it?" while holding up the camera. The security woman called her bluff and held out her hand. So we all passed down the camera to the security woman. But then, instead of checking the photos, she started to walk off saying the girl could pick it up after the show.
The girl yelled, "Wait a minute! Take my name so I can get my camera back!" The security woman walked back (she'd only taken a few steps) and handed the camera back down the aisle. So at this point, it seemed that she had just been trying to scare the girl.
Now at this point my memory is a little hazy, but somehow the security woman wanted the camera back (after we'd handed it back to the girl). She said something like, "You knew the rules. You were told twice to not take photos but you did it anyway." (As my wife pointed out, this is a bit misleading. She was only told twice because the 2nd security woman came up and butted in after the situation had been resolved.) The girl just said, "No, I'm not giving you my camera, I deleted the photo just like you asked." The security woman walked away.
After a few minutes everyone had forgotten about it, but then the security woman came back with a guy and they motioned for the girl to come out. I seriously thought she was getting booted, and that her 5 hours in line were wasted. (I know, sunk costs, I should've said her anticipation of enjoying Meryl was now lost--whatever.) But they just yelled at her (the show had already started by this point) and let her sit down.
NOW, the thing about this whole episode that really bothered me, was that the idiots behind us took the side of security. These people didn't know what had happened--e.g. that this girl was a normal, nice person, and that she had taken a flash photograph of her friend and not of the stage, and that the security woman was apparently making up justifications for her pseudocontradictory actions on the fly (I omited some of the dialogue)--and yet one guy was quite confident in saying, "I can't believe that girl. She should've just handed in her ID with the camera."
Yeah, I'm sure that's a smart move. Maybe she should've given her house keys too and asked the kind security woman to drop off the camera on her kitchen table.
I'm trying to put my finger on just what it is that bothered me so much about the guy's idiotic analysis. I think it's because you can't possibly expect a society to have zero power hungry busybodies. But so long as public opinion doesn't automatically condemn the "lawbreakers" (as designated by the busybodies), then there's no real danger. A bully can only beat up a few people, and even that wouldn't happen if the popular kids truly ostracized him for doing so.
But if most people cheer on the busybodies, then they can wreak havoc.
(Mea culpa, I didn't do anything (a) because I wasn't at the time sure she had taken a picture of her friend [my wife later confirmed this], but mostly because (b) I had waited 5 hours for those tickets and I didn't want She-Ra kicking me out too.)