THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT AUDIENCE-MEMBER
For years I have lived under a curse. The Bad Audience Curse. I've posted on this before. Whenever I go to the theatre or movies or any place involving mass spectation, I can always count on being surrounded by only the most annoying people. Plastic Bag Rattling Morons, Loud Talkers, Cellphone-Equipped Vermin, they all seem to seek me out. This is no fantasy. My partner has remarked, more than once, that he had never had such a problem with difficult audiences as he had when we started seeing each other. Over time I've come to mostly accept this as just part of my life, c'est la vie, hey, I wonder what I did in another life to get this curse thing.
The other night was the last straw. We had tickets to see a revival of Harold Pinter's THE HOMECOMING. Really great seats, organ-donor quality tickets. Bob and I, our good friend Scott and my brother. We settle in to our seats, the lights go down, the play begins. I gradually become aware of a very faint electronic sound, like a sustained beep that varied in frequency. It sounded like a smoke detector had gotten stuck somewhere in the building. As the play continued, the sound got gradually louder, and it became clear that it was coming from the gentleman sitting directly behind me, who was wearing a pair of those infra-red hearing device headphone things (it turned out later that the sound was feedback caused by his failure to turn off his hearing aid while using the headphones). The gentleman's wife at least once told him that the headphones were making noise, but he didn't do anything about it. He also managed to compound the electronic distraction by talking out loud, ruining one of the highlights of the play, when a woman takes a particularly symbolically loaded drink of water, by talking out loud, full blast, remarking on the similarity between the woman's behavior and his wife's family.
So there we were. Watching a play by an author famed for the importance of his SILENCES, being distracted by audience noise.
Over the years I have developed a way of dealing with the type of moron who disturbs at the theatre. I say politely but very firmly, "Excuse me, but (your plastic bags, candy wrapper, talking, etc.) is making a lot of noise. Can you please keep it quiet." At the intermission I and my friends let the gentleman know that there was a real problem. He was apologetic, got up and went to have the headphones adjusted, The lights went down, the problem seemed to have been dealt with. Then of course it started again, very faintly but gradually getting louder. The feedback continued and got more and more distracting. I turned around and asked again for him to deal with them, and it got better, and then got worse.
I was sitting there writhing, feeling like piano wire was being wrapped around my head. Finally the noise reached an unbearable level. I turned around and noticed that the old bastard had taken the headphones off, and had them in his lap. I snatched the headphones out of his hands, wrapped them in my jacket, and shoved them under my seat. The old bastard tapped me on the shoulder, offering to turn them off. I told him to just sit back in his seat.
And blessed silence reigned. I and my friends could concentrate on the final quarter of the play. But. 40 plus years of audience horror was demanding to be avenged. There was just no way I could let this go, it had been too serious a series of irritations. When the lights came up, I stood up and made a show of unwrapping the headphones and dropping them into the old bastard's lap. I told him that he owed me money, that he had completely ruined my enjoyment of the play. He was getting kind of flustered, clearly not being used to being called on his bullshit, and then I delivered the final stroke: "I hope that for the rest of your life, whenever you go to the theatre or to the movies, that someone does to you what you did to me this evening."
Glowing with self-satisfaction I left in a justifiable huff. I no longer have to worry about What Goes Around in this regard, as I have finally been the deliverer of That Which Comes Around, and it came around all over that old bastard. I have worked the curse through, it is now done and has been passed on to someone else who can spend the next couple of lifetimes paying it off. The Albatross of Hateful Audience Behavior is now rotting around the neck of a nearly deaf 87 year old bastard. Good riddance! Hello bold new era of blissful silence and proper audience behavior!