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Symphony Etiquette… How to Mess with Someone Who won’t Shut Up!

December 2014

One of my sponsees, a couple of weeks ago, gave me four tickets to the Holiday Pops, performed by the Flint Symphony Orchestra.

I know, right?

When I was a younger lad, I’d get all duded up and take my wife to a show because I knew she appreciated it. Even though I’d gone quite far and become quite good on the alto saxophone in high school I still had a tough time appreciating just how cool the show was – I slept through most of them.

Now that I’m a little more seasoned, my attitude has changed. I was very much looking forward to hob-knobbing with the social upper crust, to getting all decked out, and taking my wife and daughters to the show. I’d hoped my daughter, who plays the trumpet and is more mature at 11 than I was at 20, would appreciate it. She did but fell asleep after the intermission (heh, she did better than I did at 30). The show, save one little problem, was absolutely amazing…

What shocked me was the utter lack of etiquette amongst the adults there, many over 40 years-old. Amazingly there were two sets of conversations going on while the symphony was playing. Worse, the event was televised live and through the commercial breaks it was relatively quiet. Let’s just leave it at “I was fit to be tied”. I’d been growing angrier as the show went on to a point I finally had enough… I heard a lady gabbing loudly more than ten seats to my right and toward the back of the auditorium (we had 2nd tier, side balcony seats). I turned to my right and gave her my best, “Shut up, you silly bitch” look and kept staring at her till she shut her yap. To my surprise, once she saw me, and then noticed that I didn’t turn away, she must have realized how loud she was really being because she clammed right up (she was well over 30 feet from where I was sitting).

Then there was the couple directly behind us, a couple of oafs… Jeans and a leather jacket for him (it was a peach of a look, I cleaned up better than that in my twenties without trying – my mother would have kicked my butt… The wife at least gave her attire an effort). They would whisper back and forth every once in a while but would shut it after I flashed them my best, “they don’t explain how these things work, with the talking, in the barn, do they”, look.

I thought we were good – until they came back from intermission… With a bag of M&M’s. For the love of God and all that is Holy. They tore into that bag of M&M’s like they were fresh back from being shipwrecked and rather than stop for a steak dinner first, they bought a bag of M&M’s and went to see the symphony instead…and on separate islands too because they started up with the yapping again! I kept flashing them “the look” but it became ineffective to a point that my wife and I started laughing (no sound of course).

Up until that very moment I was mad, contemplating punching the guy in the face. It was precisely at that moment, when my wife and I were laughing, that I realized this was Christmas and I was not about to go that route, especially in front of my daughters. Exactly four milliseconds later the answer struck me… I put a smile on my face, turned around, folded my arms on the back of the seat and listened in. They both looked at me as if to say, “Wha”? And went back to their conversation. I didn’t move. I kept the same smile on my face, and just kept listening to their conversation. That’s when they finally got it. I didn’t hear a peep out of them for the rest of the night.

When did this happen? People, at least once upon a time, understood that they weren’t the center of everyone else’s universe, especially at a show like that!  Of course, this must be said, on the plus side I didn’t hear one cell phone ring the entire performance.  I guess it’s not all bad.


  1. Sue Slaght says:

    Sounds like you handled it really well Jim. We haven’t run into that too much here but perhaps each city is a bit different?

  2. I once lost the rag too at a musical I had especially booked for my love’s birthday. I usually am fairly mild but after a long while told the gaggle loudly to “shut the f……. Up!” At the interval the management ‘upgraded’ them out of our way and folk around congratulated me, despite the bad language. Ah well I did have red hair once upon a time.

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