I have been advised by four separate people I should wait at least 24 hours before making any sort of decisions about whether or not to write about this. It’s been 22, is that close enough? And this won’t post for like 48 hours after it happened, how about that? Good? Does that work?
OK, listen. I’d like to tell you all that I’m like this calm, cool and collected chick, and that when shit does down I’m the proverbial duck and I let it roll off my back and I move on to more sunshine and rainbows and kittens and what-have-you. I really would. I have been making a concerted effort to be calmer and less angry over the past six months or so. And, for the most part? It’s working. You all have Ken to thank for that. Take a moment to give Ken a round of applause, most sincerely. He’s an excellent influence and one of the calmest and most relaxed people I know. He doesn’t get all bent out of shape about nonsense. I aspire to be that calm, I truly do. Because I think if I was, I’d worry less and I’d sleep better and all good things.
However, I’ve got genetics and history to fight with. Genetics, in that I’ve got half my DNA from one of the angriest human beings alive. Does anyone remember that Simpsons episode where Bart drew that cartoon “Angry Dad?”
Yeah, that’s my dad. I love him to pieces, and sure, he’s really, really funny, too, but he goes through life furious. About EVERYTHING. We spent ten minutes on the phone the other day with him shouting about how much he hated this bird that’s been dive-bombing him at his wood lot. SHOUTING. HATRED. BIRDS. Also, history. I spent a long, long time being bullied, and not saying a word about it. That kind of anger being pushed down for so long festers, don’t you even let anyone tell you it doesn’t. Now I realize I don’t have to put up with assholes, and they usually back down if you stand your ground, because deep down they’re huge cowards. And sometimes that means being an asshole right back to them. And listen. I’m GOOD at it. I can get shouty with the best of them. I was brought up that you push down your anger, down down down DOWN, and then it EXPLODES, and you SCREAM, and then the person forgives you because you’re totally the most charismatic. Plus they should understand it’s all their fault, because they pushed you to the point of screaming. So really, I’m doomed before I begin. Both nature AND nurture, I’ve got the anger from.
So, this weekend, a really, really shitty thing happened. I’m going to do something kind of ground-breaking here. I’m going to tell you what happened EXACTLY as it happened. I’m not going to embellish. I’m going to be completely straight and just-the-facts-ma’am-y. Because I don’t want to be accused of lying. I’m pretty sure I was being accused of lying this weekend? So I’m going to be most definitely and completely straight with you here. This is what happened. How do you know? Well, you don’t. But I guess you’ll just have to trust me. Also, maybe you’ll be able to tell it’s not embellished because it’ll be BORING. Because not putting the pretty party clothes on stories makes them, in my opinion, as boring as watching old people screw. Not that I ever have, but I assume it would be pretty boring, right? I mean, that’s a saying, isn’t it? It wouldn’t be a saying if it wasn’t a thing. Or is it as GROSS as watching old people screw? I don’t know, what do I look like, the saying dictionary?
I also debated putting the names of those involved in here. I wanted to. OH, how I wanted to. But that’s probably a bad idea. Because people can get sued for things like that, can’t they? And also, it’s about things that I’m involved in, so it could come back on me, I suppose. Although I’m 110% in the right on this. More. More than 110%. Like, all the percent PLUS percents. So, I suppose, if you wanted to be all Sherlock Holmesey, you could easily figure out the names of the major participants here. But you didn’t get them from me. I’m trying to deep-breathe. I’m trying to be calm.
I went to a play this weekend. How was the play? It was actually really excellent. But I couldn’t enjoy it. Because right before it started, I was asked to leave the theater. I didn’t leave, but I spent the entire show in such a state of righteous fury that I’m pretty sure, had someone touched me, they would have pulled their hand away from me with third-degree burns. I was HOT.
OK. No embellishments. This is against everything I stand for, I’ll have you know. I’m all ABOUT the embellishments. I accessorize like a BOSS. But just the facts, just the facts.
I arrived at the theater. An usher showed me to my seat. I was in the front row. The front row was set up in this way:
That’s not the best diagram, but it works. (I did find a seating chart online, and was GOING to insert it here, but decided it was way too obvious what theater I’d been to, for those of you who don’t already know. Some of you do. For example: I ran into one of my readers at intermission. HE knows.) The front row kind of curves around the stage, and where there are breaks in it on the left and right, those are the aisles. I was in the italicized red seat on your far left. Right on the aisle. It was a good seat, if a little off-center. I like front row. It’s my thing. I like center front best, but I’ll take what I can get. And it was a sold-out house, and the closing performance.
As we were seated, the seat beside me and to the right of me was removed (they’re not bolted to the floor, they’re just loose chairs) and a woman in a wheelchair sat there. Right behind me was another man in a wheelchair. The foot-area of his wheelchair was extended and right against the back right leg of my chair. I only noticed this when I went to put my purse on the floor, and I only noticed this to make a mental note for myself not to kick his feet.
Please note: at no point did I change where my chair was located. I did not move it up, back, or into the aisle. Where it was when I sat down was where it remained. It was easy to see that it was where it belonged, as it was in a pretty diagonal line with the chairs behind it.
About twenty minutes before the show, an usher came up to the woman sitting directly across the aisle from me in the front row. He informed her that, since actors would be entering through the aisle, she could not have any of her person in the aisle at any time. She said, “OK.” He then said, “Why is your seat here?” She expressed confusion. He said he didn’t like where her seat was, as actors entered through the aisle. She said that’s where she’d been seated. (It was. I saw her when she sat. She also didn’t move her chair at all.) He said again he didn’t like where her seat was, and that he had no idea why her seat would be there. He then left. I did not like that he seemed to be chastising the patron for where her seat was positioned when it was not her fault the seat was there, but it’s not my theater, and he wasn’t talking to me, so I went back to playing with my phone.
Please note he did not speak to me. I heard the conversation because he was standing close to me and I’m a terrible eavesdropper and he was not speaking quietly, but the conversation was not directed to me in the least.
About five minutes later, the same usher came back and positioned himself in front of me. “You can’t be in the aisle,” he said. “Actors use this as an entrance.”
I told him I’d heard him telling the other patron that, and thanked him.
“You can’t be in the AISLE,” he said again. This was confusing. Had he thought I didn’t hear him the first time?
“I will be sure to stay out of the aisle,” I said, a little louder, in the off chance he was hard of hearing.
“Because ACTORS use it,” he said. Now I was truly befuddled. Did he think I wasn’t understanding him?
“Yes, I understand. I’ll stay out of the aisle. I won’t get in their way. Thank you,” I said. He stood there for a few moments more, watching me. I maintained eye contact. I learned on Animal Planet that’s what you do when threatened by an alpha dog, unless you want them to rip out your tender throat-area. He walked away. Back to playing with my phone and reading the program.
Time passed. The show was about to start. The lights dimmed. Announcements were made; a man came onstage and talked a little about the show and had us applaud for some patrons. All normal things, especially at the end of a season (this is the end of the season for most of our community theaters.)
Then another man came over to my seat.
Now, here’s the thing. I know this guy. He doesn’t KNOW I know him, but I know him. When I first moved to town, he was a client of the firm I worked for. And he was rude, and he was officious. He was one of those people who saw an administrative staff member and immediately thought, “lesser human being!” and spoke to them as if they were mentally deficient. I see him around town now and then. I don’t like him. But he doesn’t know who I am. Hell, he didn’t know who I was when he was seeing me on a daily basis since admin staff didn’t register on his people-who-matter-scale, he certainly doesn’t know who I am ten years later.
He leaned in to me. He was smiling, but it was a very used-car-salesman smile. A politician’s smile. A very “this pains me” smile. Very false.
“We’re going to have to ask you to leave,” he said. “If you’re unwilling to move your seat one foot to the right to accommodate the actors, you’ll have to leave. We’re willing to refund your ticket price, but you’ll have to come with me.”
“Excuse me?” I said. “I haven’t been asked to move. I would have gladly moved, had I been asked.”
He stood up, looking at me as if I was a problem to be solved. A disgusting problem. That smelled. Very nostril-flarey. “I was told you’ve been asked to move your seat three times.”
“That didn’t happen,” I said. “I wasn’t asked to move once, let alone three times.”
He looked at me. I looked back. I was getting red. It’s what I do when I’m embarrassed; it’s what I do when I’m angry. I’m very pale. I get red easily. I was both embarrassed and angry. Therefore, I was the color of a tomato, I’m sure.
“You WEREN’T asked to move your seat?” he said.
“No, I was NOT,” I replied.
He continued to stare at me. I realized something: he thought I was lying. It was obvious from the way he was looking at me; it was obvious from his body language. “Well, why don’t you move your seat on over, then,” he said. Then he patronizingly patted me on the back, like I was a child who’d learned a good, hard lesson today, and walked away.
Well, as mentioned: I was kind of blocked in by the wheelchair guy. I couldn’t move my seat. I attempted it, without thinking, because I was kind of caught flat-footed and wasn’t thinking. Then when I hit the wheelchair I realized, well, shit, I can’t move my seat, even if I HAD been asked, which I WASN’T.
OK. That’s all that happened. I didn’t have other encounters with him or with the original usher (other than seeing them in the lobby at intermission, and I can tell you, the death glare I gave the two of them probably has rendered them unable to spawn devil-children), but other than that, nothing.
(You can tell I’m telling the truth about this, by the way, because if I was embellishing, I would have had myself saying some more impressive things to him than I did. I’m one of those people who thinks of good comebacks hours later. On the drive home, I thought of three things I could have said to him, and said them, out LOUD, ANGRILY, in my car. So, I’m obviously telling you the truth, because I don’t come across as silvertongued as you’ve come to expect from your dear ol’ Amy.)
Here are my thoughts on the matter.
First: if you knew those seats (mine and the woman across the aisle from me) were going to be a problem with the actor’s movement, remove the seats. Completely. And don’t sell them. I know the theater’s new; I know it was a sold-out house; I know you need the money. But if you don’t want us sitting there, don’t sell us the seats. And if you DO sell us the seats, for the love of Pete, before we get there, POSITION THE SEATS WHERE YOU WANT THEM. Don’t make it OUR FAULT the seats are not where you want them, and don’t blame US for not sitting precisely where you want us. We are not mind-readers. We don’t know where you want our seats.
(Also, side note, and even MORE perplexing, at the intermission? The first usher brought over another seat and placed it on the aisle right behind the woman he’d spoken to first. It was jutting out in the aisle. Very dangerous for the actors. He then seated a handicapped man in it. He did not yell at the handicapped man. He PURPOSELY put the man in a seat that was MUCH more in the way than EITHER of the seats that were getting him all knicker-twisty was. I was completely flummoxed.)
Second: Your patrons are your money.
As such, they are always right. You’ve heard the “the customer is always right” thing before, correct? Well, as much as patrons can be a pain in the ass sometimes (and listen, I’m a theater person, they can, they SO can) they have something we need. Money. And if we don’t get their money? We’re not going to be performing much longer, you know? So, what exactly made you decide, both original usher and Mr. Fancypants second guy, that you were going to come over and give me attitude? Let’s put aside for the moment that I work in community theater. Because you didn’t know that, and at that moment, I was just a patron, anyway. A PAYING patron. Who put down the same amount of money as everyone else in the theater. You really thought it was not only a good idea to come over the first time and give me attitude, but then to go back to your usher smoking circle or whatever, LIE about what we talked about, and be all, “this’ll teach her, I’ll send the big guns over?” Really? You thought this was, what, how we treat people who PAID MONEY TO WATCH YOUR SHOW?
Third: An apology was called for and not given. Am I wrong in thinking that? I’m guessing you think I was lying and you believe that the usher was telling the truth in that he told me THREE TIMES to move my seat (which you can see is not able to be moved, had you even looked at it at all?) But since when do we assume our patrons are lying? And what kind of weird-ass patron would refuse to move their seat a foot to the right? It’s not like you asked me to sit elsewhere, or strip naked and get onstage and dance the Chicken Dance, for the love of all that’s holy.
OK, so, my precious minions, here’s my question for you.
Am I overreacting? Would this have pissed you off? What would you have done? Ignored? Left? Caused a scene? Went and found the original usher and forced him to call you a liar to your face?
And, what would you do now?
I’m thinking my best course of action is a letter to the president of the Board of Directors of the theater. I know, I know. I should be all, whatever, and let it go, and what am I even hoping the outcome will be, if I send it? Probably nothing. But listen, I don’t think it SHOULD be let go. Our patrons should not be treated this way. I kind of feel like I’m speaking up for every patron that’s been treated poorly by every officious little bastard usher ever. We give these people the tiniest bit of power and they abuse the hell out of it. I’ve seen it at my theater and I’ve seen it at other theaters and it makes me furious. I paid for my effing ticket. I’m not saying you need to fan me with a palm leaf while feeding me grapes, but you can at least treat me like it’s not a burden to have me in your building.
(To be clear: the second person was not an usher. Research tells me he is part of the administrative “staff” – unpaid, I assume, as it’s a community theater – of the theater. So he works there. I work at a theater, too. And have never once treated a patron – even the one who called me a liar to my face, even the homeless man who stole all our toilet paper, even the one who started screaming we were oppressing her when she sat in someone else’s seat and refused to move to her ticketed seat, even the drunk one who started screaming during a show – the way I was treated this weekend.)
And I will repeat, as I told my dad like three times when telling him this story last night: I DID NOTHING WRONG HERE. I sat where I was told; I did not move my chair; I didn’t even put my elbows or knees in the aisle all willy-nilly. Why the HELL was I treated like some sort of theater ne’er-do-well? I felt like I should be twirling my moustache and chuckling evilly or something.
Also, if I see any of our ushers treating any of our patrons like this, I’m going to blow my top. I mean it. If a patron is acting like a looney, send them to me, I’ll deal with that shit. I’ve done it before. But don’t you DARE take it upon yourself, ushers, to yell at a patron.
I’m completely serious. Let me know in the comments. Or on Facebook. Or on Twitter. Hell, send me smoke signals, I don’t care. Am I blowing this all out of proportion? (I promise you’re not going to hurt my feelings if you tell me I am. My father is convinced I am. I still love him.) Would you do something (a letter to the board president or something else?) Or would you let it go, all, “meh, mistakes happen?” I’m honestly curious if I’m reading the whole situation wrong or something.
That’s it. Shoo, fly, shoo. As you were. I’m all civil liberties woman with the not wanting to be moved today, seriously. LET’S MARCH ON WASHINGTON WITH LARGE PLACARDS RIGHT NOW.