The Theatre of the Barely Socially Acceptable, Act 1

20 Dec 2003
December 20, 2003

After a particularly difficult and emotionally heart wrenching day at work (is there no other kind?) I was listening to my iPod’s special “Get Over It” mix on the subway home, prepared especially for days like this.

While undoing I looked around me and observed a man I often see on this train. He reached into his pocket for his cell, popped his earbud into his ear and began to talk. As always with these devices people look like they’re speaking to themselves. They smile and react to someone unseen. It’s not as if the unseen person is “there.” The cell protagonist looks off-center and indirectly into the ether. Have you noticed? With my special mix playing the soundtrack in my own ear it is theater in it’s most wonderfully absurd early 21st century form.

After difficult days one strives for equilibrium: a place to comfortably sit without anxiety and distress. This position often spawns quirky creative trances in me. And so, today I launch The Theatre of the Barely Socially Acceptable.

Every month I shall perform a piece on the subway, developing a repertoire of mobile phone conversations. Putting my finger to my ear (no one will look closely to discover I have no earpiece) I will produce what I call monodialogs® –pithy and topical urbane conversations. When my audience ignores me I will know I am a success.

My premiere performance just in time for the holidays:

Hi, it’s me. Did you tell him?
What’d he say?
Better hide his passport.

She’ll find it at the top of the medicine chest, behind the Paxil.
Ha! Yah, I know.
No, no, shave it off. Really. SHAVE IT OFF you fool.

He thinks he can get away with THAT?
[Looks at fingernails]
The Iraqis will never agree.
Tell him it’s his Christmas present.
[Laughs, looks down the aisle at the opposite end of the car]
No, I don’t think he’s here.

I hid it under the sink, behind the Draino.
Don’t let her see you. Right, shaken. Not stirred.

We just arrived at Cleveland Park
See you soon. Bye.
You’re funny. Yah, me too. Bye.

Other Performances:
The Theatre of the Barely Socially Acceptable, Act 2
The Theatre of the Barely Socially Acceptable, Act 3

6 replies
  1. Pamela says:

    I loved your phone conversation with no one. I think this is so great that I too am going to try this. Oh my goodness I can think of great things to get the reactions of those around me. Just think if you want to clear out the whole section on the train what you might say? Just amuses me thinking about it…

  2. George says:

    My favorite three are:
    1) guy standing on the platform. Evidently an auditor talking with some one about such and such hospital losing their accreditation. Naming the hospital to all nearby.
    2) guy on train in loud voice talking about Moe who clearly was not gonna survive secretary so and so of such and such fed agency in DC. This included a couple pointed jabs at the secretary too, like sleeping in meetings and such. At first I thought I’d call the Washington Post, but decided the hell with it.
    3) My wife and I sitting behind a guy on Orange Line between East Falls Church and Ballston (above ground to underground). Talking loud. He loooses signal. Started the refrain – “Can you hear me? Can you hear me now?” To which I said loud enough to garner a couple laughs: “NO! Good!” He ignored me.
    Happy Holidays! — geORge

  3. Bryan Alexander says:

    Great idea – lots of guerrilla theater options here, especially for tweaking Homeland Security.
    Reminds me of the Surveillance Camera Players.

  4. Donna says:

    This is *very* funny…

  5. Lavinia says:

    “Get over it” is one of my little thought tunes I use to beat up on myself. Been thinking recently I might be more polite to myself and just say…”time to file it away.”

  6. andrew says:

    Hee hee. There is a British TV comedian called Dom Joly, who performs sort of ethnomethodological skits amongst the unsuspecting public, doing things no one expects. One of his best is where he takes a huge mobile (cell) phone and stands behind a group of people. It then rings very loudly and he starts to speak to in a shout. His best example is him riding a micro-scooter, carrying his phone. When it rings everyone looks round and he shouts “Hi… yeah… i’m out on my micro-scooter…what? ….yeah, VERY cool.”
    his site is at:

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