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Rude People

Trey Reely | December 2010

    I attract rude people. I don’t think I’m particularly grumpy, snobbish, or sensitive, but rude people have afflicted me all of my life. Even since I was born and slapped by the doctor, it has been one rude awakening after another.
    I have always been puzzled at how people can sit in a large crowd and not recognize that they are the only ones being rude. I was attending my son’s college graduation, and the program clearly stated that the audience should remain seated while graduates exit during the recessional. The clueless man in front of us stood up, looked around, and seemed not to notice or care that he was the only person standing in a crowd of 6,000. This man’s elbow is immortalized in a family photo as my wife did manage to contort her body enough around the man to take a snapshot of our son’s joyful exit.
    My magnetism is strongest when I attend concerts. If I’m going to a concert where tickets are not required, I glance warily around the auditorium, looking around for potential signs of rudeness: a squirming child, someone furiously tapping texts on a cell phone, or a small group loudly yapping to each other. I then pick a seat that is fairly isolated or populated with concertgoers of a calmer demeanor.
    However, once I’ve selected a seat, there’s little I can do about those who enter later. Last year I attended a community orchestra concert where a young couple with a young boy entered while the orchestra was playing, only to discover that there were no available seats near each other. They loudly decided to split up with the man sitting by me with the boy on his lap. The boy proceeded to ask loud questions about every instrument on the stage. I respected the boy’s curiosity, but the father did not know any of the answers and conjectured throughout the whole performance. It was obvious that they had never attended a concert, but couldn’t they see that no one else was talking?
    When the man rose to take his son to the restroom between numbers, my wife and I quickly left and went around to the other side of the auditorium. There I managed to sit by a college couple where the young man was tapping away on a laptop while his girlfriend was talking to him. They were the only ones on that side who were talking. Disgusted, I gathered the courage to shush her, making every effort to look as pleasant as possible. She gave me a “what’s your problem” look but she stopped talking for the rest of the program. Like many in the audience, the couple was probably there for extra-credit in a fine arts course.
    So many wonderful performances have been ruined by screaming children. One unhappy child can transform a gentle string piece into Mozart vs. Chuckie. I have never understood why parents will sit there and wrestle with a child for ten minutes without taking the kid out. Even worse, they are often in the middle of the auditorium and have to crawl over ten people to escape. I have three children who were young once, and I know what it was like when one of them misbehaved in public. My wife and I would get them out of there! Better yet, we often found a babysitter and left the children at home if they were not old enough for the event.
    At the risk of stepping on some toes, I do think our manners have not caught up with our use of cell phones and other gadgets. I own a cell phone but refuse to become a slave to it. I don’t feel like I have to answer every time it rings. It is hard to believe there was once a time when people couldn’t reach each other 24/7. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in a conversation only to have the other person wander off when the cell phone goes off with a catchy ring tone. I may be old fashioned but the person in front of me, live and in color, gets my attention. I can always return a call.
    We may not be able to stop rudeness in all its forms but as directors we can teach students and parents proper concert etiquette. It might be a good idea to print something like the following in your concert.

The Rules of Concert Etiquette
1. Remain seated and do not talk while the band is playing.
2. Please turn off pagers, cell phones, and watch alarms.
3. If you have a child who might get noisy, please sit near the aisle and take them out immediately if a problem develops.
4. Do not enter or leave while a band is performing unless removing a noisy child.
5. Please do not wave at your child during the performance.
6. While the band is performing, please do not walk down the center aisle with a video camera/phone.
7. If you have a bad cough, please secure lozenges before the performance starts. We are recording the concert.
8. Please do not leave until all of the bands have performed.

    I hope all of your concerts are blessed with flawless etiquette. However, if you do hear a disturbance in the audience, I may be at the concert. Find me and you’ll quickly find the culprits sitting beside me.