Five of us were waiting in the lobby for the house manager. I was the only in the group whose hair was not graying. This was my third time ushering, but I was far from an expert. In fact, I’d only ever gone to the theater two times before I even started ushering. How was I supposed to help other people when I didn’t even know the building that well? Yet, here I was.
My dad and I signed up to usher for a show called Red Speedo. Naturally, I was disgusted with the play before I even watched it. However, as it was the only day both my father and I were available, we signed up.
The house manager arrived and gave us our assignments. She turned to me, “Do you want Door 1 or Door 2?”
Did she even need to ask? More than half the audience members entered through Door 1. So I of course claimed Door 2. I figured the less people who entered the door, the less people who would need help, and the fewer chances I would have to make a mistake. Inside the theater, I reviewed the seating. Rows were in alphabetical order but
skipped “I” because it looked too much like a 1 on a ticket. Seats numbers were all odd for some strange reason. Easy, right? Absolutely not. What do you tell an audience member if her seat is at E25? At first, I would guide her to the seat, pointing out the row and ask her to look at the numbers on the chair. However, if a flood of people entered the theater at the same time, I didn’t have the luxury to lead people to their seats. I relapsed into saying vague, unhelpful phrases such as, “Um, you’re over there.”
Besides the complications of the seats, there was the added bonus of the tickets. Some showed me printed slips, pdf files from their phone, or, rarely, the tickets sold in the box office. Under the dim light of the hallway, I struggled to read the row seat and number from a ticket the audience member shakily held.
When the doors opened half an hour before the show commenced, I armed myself with a stack of programs and plastered a smile on my face. The manager advised all ushers to assume audience members don’t know where they’re going. However, once an elderly couple slowly made their way down the steps, silently received the program I offered, and wordlessly continued into the theater. Because they progressed at such a slow rate, I thought they were unsure of where to go. I asked them if they needed any help, and the man deliberately turned towards me and coldly said, “We know where we’re going.”
“Oh, okay. Enjoy the show!”
“What’s that?” he turned back to me, annoyed. The old man was apparently half-deaf.
I feigned enthusiasm and repeated, “I said ‘enjoy the show!’”
He grunted and continued on his way. I thought him rather cross and hoped he would be in a better mood after the show.
Then I suddenly understood. Rats! Everyone knew that the theater was supported by generous patrons. The old couple was apparently one of those “kind” patrons. I wanted to hit myself on the head.
Give confusing directions? Check. Forgot where the bathrooms are located? Check. Don’t know how long the show is? Check. Insult a patron? Check.
Bravo, Katie, nicely done.
When the theater finally darkened and I had slipped into an aisle seat in the last row, I reflected on the evening. Maybe I didn’t have enough experience to deal with certain situations, but at least, I thought, I had the right attitude. I was there to help make the experience a pleasant one for the audience. Even if I was bored to death by the play and preferred spending an evening with Netflix, I enjoyed doing my part by interacting with people and helping to make the show a success.