The View From A Slightly Twisted Angle

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Read The Rules

on May 11, 2012

Last night was our daughter’s final band and choir concert at the junior high school. We’ve been attending concerts at this school for 4 years now, so it felt like the end of an era as our older daughter, youngest son and I walked into the building. (Dad is out of town at work unfortunately.) The junior high in our town used to be the high school about a hundred years ago. Ok, maybe not a hundred, but many many years ago. The school district has done a great job updating things as needed but they have always tried to maintain the historical feel of the building. The theater in the school is no exception: they haven’t changed much. I’ve decided that people from 100 years ago must have been much skinnier,  had way better posture and were tougher than people from this century. I know this because I have spent the past four years sitting in the straight-backed, hardly-padded, crammed-together seats in the Junior High Theater.  Maybe people a hundred years ago just liked to pack more people into a room.  At any rate: this is not the most comfortable way to spend and hour or two if there are a lot of people in attendance. 

When we arrived last night the place was already pretty packed. Have you ever noticed that people always sit on the outside of the rows leaving practically a whole row of empty seats between them and the closest person to them?  While I do understand wanting the extra leg room of the aisle,  the problem unique to this particular theater is that there is no way humanly possible for people under the age of two to slide by people who are sitting.  There isn’t enough room between the rows.  I’m 5’2″ and there is barely room between my knees and the seat in front of me when I sit down.  In order to get to the empty seats everyone has to stand up to let you by. You’d think after the third time of standing up people would  just slide towards the center.  Luckily a woman sitting in the back row saw me scanning the room for three seats together and had mercy.  “I can move over one and there would be three seats here.”  (I forgot to get her name to add  to my Christmas Gift list.)  We momentarily displaced the “end people” and took our seats.  I’m glad we got there when we did.  Most of the people who came in five minutes after us had to stand in the back against the wall.

As we were waiting for the concert to start I scanned the program. On the back there was the usual list of “Concert Etiquette Rules”.  It’s the same list that the music boosters have put on the back of every program for every concert  at all levels in our school system.  Really tough rules like, “Please do not wave at your child while they are performing”,  “If you have a child who is fussy please take them from the auditorium” and “If you must leave please wait until between songs.”   I knew that they were going to meticulously review these rules prior to the concert starting.  They have at every other concert this year.  I was wrong. Evidentially they figured that since it was the last concert of the year people should know how to act by now.  They were wrong.

The orchestra started its first piece when suddenly I heard lasers.  While that would have been a great effect for some songs it didn’t really fit in with “I’ll Always Love You”.  I looked at the row in front of us where a little boy, about 6, was contentedly playing on his Nintendo DS.  His mom reached over and hit the mute button.  I grinned.  As the song was finishing up the toddler two rows in front of us started to get fussy. Grandma took him out to the hall. Grandmas are great people.   I grinned. By the end of the second song Grandma brought him back in and he sat on his big sister’s lap contentedly.  The orchestra started its third piece and evidentially the junior high aged girls sitting in front of us were getting bored. They started giggling and talking to each other.  I’m assuming the mother of the one on the right never taught her child how to use her “inside voice.”  The one on the left was trying to teach her now. “You are talking too loud” said in stage whisper and then a really loud, “SHHHHHHHH!”  Yeah.  That’s helping.  Meanwhile the toddler was getting mad again.  The orchestra ended and this time his big sister took him into the hall.  They were back in looking happy by the time the 7th grade band started.  Also during the break more people walked in.  One group took their position right behind our seats along the back wall. 

The 7th grade band started playing and the little girl, about three,  in the group standing behind us started dancing.  Awww cute.  Then she started singing, which would have been cute if she’d have been singing what the band was playing.  Her mother grabbed her.  That worked for about two minutes.  At the end of the first song the toddler exited again, this time with grandpa.  The junior highers in front of us were still giggling.  As the band wrapped up their second song a late arriving mother came in and loudly said, “Wow it’s really full in here.  Guess we’ll stand back here.”  Thanks for sharing. Toddler and Grandpa were seated again. Three year old was still dancing and singing to the tune  heard only in her head. The band finished and suddenly a wolf whistle rent the air.  My daughter leaned over, “What is this? A football game?”  “Hmmm.” I said, “or they are used to rock concerts.”

Switch to the 8th grade band. As they began, the three year old’s older siblings (old – like jr high and high school aged – old enough to know better) had decided it was way more entertaining to make her act wild.  The junior highers in front of us had been scolded by mom, so now they were texting. Thankfully the phones were on silent.   I wonder if they realized that the people behind them could read every thing they were texting.  (Girl on the right really likes her boyfriend.)  The strobe light effect from their screens turning on and off kind of added something to the concert experience. Suddenly from the area of the door, late mom: “It’s really warm in here!”  Thank you for the news update.  Dancing three year old was turning into running yelling  three year old.   “I think we need to leave this door cracked open because it’s really hot in here.”   What ever makes you happy lady.  The band was finishing up and the toddler was winding up again.  By this point I was no longer grinning.  I observe the yo-yo family and think, “Why don’t you just keep him in the hallway? I understand from the doorkeeper back there that it’s cracked open so you should be able to hear.”

Final set: the Junior High Choir.  While switching the stage, the Junior High Principal found seats for the door keeper and her children.  He’s a super hero.  Unfortunately he didn’t find them for the three year old’s family.  At the moment, however, the three year old seemed content picking at the carpet. Toddler’s grandmother must have heard my mental vibe and was walking him in the hall.  We should have been home free – right?

 As the choir began I heard someone talking.  I looked behind us and saw that the three year old’s mother was TALKING ON HER CELL PHONE. Now on what planet do you really think that is acceptable behavior?!  Meanwhile on stage the boy in the middle of the front row has his hand over his mouth. The phone in front of us flashed: “OMG! IS JACOB GUNNA RALF?!?”  By this time I was formulating in my head a polite way to ask the lady behind us to stick her cell phone somewhere or go into the hall.  (My daughter was formulating a way to whap the girls in front of us in the head without making it look like it was her.)   I hardly ever get annoyed enough to say anything.  Listening to the one-sided conversation about Uncle Ray’s medical tests and how Mom had the same thing four years ago had pushed me over the edge.  Suddenly – WHAM!  The older kids had wound the three year old up enough that she ran head on into the seats.  Screaming set in.  Cell Mama had enough sense to pick the child up and take her into the hallway to check out her injuries.  I feel bad that she hurt herself, but I have to admit the rest of the concert was a pleasant experience.

As we drove home  several questions bounced through my head.  Have we as a society lost all sense of etiquette? Do people really not know how they are supposed to act at a choir or band concert?  Am I just old-fashioned?  Are people really that crazy?”  I have no answers, but I did come to a conclusion:

Read the rules before you start the concert.

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