DEAR HARRIETTE: I was at a modern dance performance this weekend, and I loved the show. I even stayed for the Q&A with the choreographer and dancers afterward. Sadly, I cannot say I loved the entire experience: An old woman behind me was complaining loudly to her friends most of the time! She kept complaining about how she was expecting ballet, even though this group is known for being a medley of modern dance, jazz and ballet. Her yakking got much louder during the intermission, where I was hoping she'd leave this show she couldn't seem to bear. But no, she stayed. At one point in the second half of the show, her phone went off. Her cellphone rang at full volume, and she let it ring without silencing it. I almost turned around and went off on her, but I decided that blunder could be from old age and not mastering one's cellphone. However, I think she probably knew how to silence it, because when I turned around, she was smiling smugly at her friends. I know she's my elder, but this behavior was so rude to me and everyone trying to watch the show. Should I have reprimanded her? -- Etiquette School, Newark, New Jersey
DEAR ETIQUETTE SCHOOL: Though this woman was definitely in the wrong for loudly and negatively talking about the performance in the midst of it as well as allowing her phone to ring, you did the right thing by keeping your lips zipped. When people behave in such an inflammatory way, they are often prime for a more explosive argument if anyone dares to challenge them. Her complaints could have escalated if you had been drawn into the discussion.
So while she was wrong, you were right in ignoring her to the best of your ability. The staff who work at the theater are responsible for keeping order. What you could have done is to go to one of them at intermission and let them know that the woman was being disruptive.