Tuesday, October 7, 2008

An Adventure, In Which I Tell It Like It Is. Politely. Of course.

I must have cursed myself on Friday by talking about absurd things that happen at cultural events, because Saturday was just a riot of, "Are you kidding me?"-s, and a couple of, "Are you freakin' kidding me?"-s.

We went to see a Fall Dance showcase previewing the coming season at our local performing arts center. They get international acts and the variety and caliber of the dances was impressive. But seated right behind us ("us" being my husband and I, my brother and his girlfriend) were three little girls. Three very excited, very loud little girls in their fanciest Sunday dresses but without Sunday voices.

The chatter began as soon as the dancing did, and to be fair 1) the first piece was highly conceptual and pretty inaccessible for eight-year-olds, and 2) their talk was all about the dance, not Miley Cyrus or HSM or something. Still, it was distracting. Really distracting.

I shushed them a few times, and my husband who never does that, shushed them a couple of times, too. The thing is, I've decided I must be an auditory learner because I can't have any kind of meaningful noise going on while I'd doing something or I can't concentrate, i.e., I can't read and listen to music, I can't fall asleep to the TV, and I can't listen to kids talk during a modern dance interpretation of "the internal circular and aspects of bounce".

During the short intermission before the second company took the stage, we turned to see the culprits (not the kids. The parents who weren't shushing them) and figure out what the problem was. They appeared to be flanked by grandparents who didn't know what was going on. Kenny and I decided we would wait until the second act was over before addressing the problem, in case, you know....it magically improved by itself.

Second verse: same as the first. Chatter: shhh. Chatter: shhh.

Before we could say anything at the end of the act, the grandmother took her brood to the restroom and didn't make it back to be seated for the third act (a really cool African dance thing) that we enjoyed in blissful quiet. Except for the pounding drums and all. You know: the stuff you're supposed to hear?

During the intermission, the boys in our party disappeared and deciding to approach it the politest way I knew how, I walked over to the grandmother and had the following conversation:

Me: Hi. So I don't know if you can hear them or not, but your girls are pretty excited about the performance and they're talking to each other kind of loudly about it.

Her: Oh, really?

Me: Yeah. They're pretty cute, but we've shushed them a few times and I just wanted to let you know that we're probably going to do it again during the second act and we just didn't want you to think we were being mean.

Her: Well, I can't hear them at all.

Me: Tell you what, why don't you just pay us back for our tickets and I'll spend the rest of the night listening to them instead of the show?

Editor's note: That's not what happened. Please tell the real story.

Her: Well, I can't hear them at all.

Me: I figured you probably couldn't. It's just that we're right in front of them, so I guess I notice a little more.

Her: Well, it's probably because they can't see over you.

Me: (Confused because...what? That's relevant how? And because it's stadium seating and I'm 5'6" and Nadine is 5'0". In heels.) Oh, no problem. I can scrunch down. (I'm determined to kill her with kindness.)

Her: Besides, I think you have to expect that at something like this.

Me: I don't. (Feeling really proud of my immediate {polite} response and amused by her eyebrow shooting up, suggesting shock that I would contradict her).

Her: You don't? (In an offended sniff).

Me: I don't. I taught school for five years and I always trained my students to pay attention and be respectful of others during events like this. They get it. If you explain it to them.

Her: (Huffing) Well.

Me: Look, it's really not a big deal. I don't mind shushing them if they get a little loud and I'll just work out a little deal beforehand with them. I just didn't want you to think I was coming down on them.

I go sit down, my very proper British faux sister-in-law fuming over the line, "You have to expect that at something like this," which is rightfully blowing her mind.

Grandmother calls her minions over and scares the bejeezus out of them by telling them that they have made the lady in front of them VERY ANGRY. I sweetly disabuse them of that notion when they return, terrified, to their seats by complimenting their pretty dresses and making them laugh while I scrunch down to different heights in my seat so they can check the visibility to the stage. By the time the performance started, though, the grandmother made them switch seats and I didn't hear them talk again until the last act at which point it was my brother's job to shush them, anyway.

You know what the problem is with today's kids? Their parents. Or overly-coiffed, Dooney & Bourke-toting, ill-mannered grandmothers.

I don't think I could have been nicer. Was I wrong?

Seven comments to move on, y'all.


LisAway said...

You have to be kidding. You were awesome. I can't even imagine listening to that kind of bzdura, which means...nonsense or ridiculousness or something, without reacting either extremely sarcastically or at least being upset.

It really is sad what parents let their kids do today, which is, of course, everything. I love your interaction with those girls. They probably respected you much more than they did their grandparents. Plus, you were (are) FUN!

Kimberly said...

How cool are you! I would've been spitting mad by the end of the first act.

I totally agree though that parents today (umm..sometimes including myself) aren't so good at teaching their kids appropriate behaviour.

Heather of the EO said...

Yes, you were wrong you HAG.
Oh wait. I was saying that in my head to the grandma...
Really. You're right. Why are parents/grandparents always making excuses instead of requiring politeness? I don't get it!

Alison Wonderland said...

You were far more grown up about it than I would have been. I just can not do confrontation. I would have fumed through the whole thing and said nothing at all.

But you were right. At an event like that you should expect and get better, being there is a voluntary thing after all.

Church on the other hand, I'm sorry to admit that I do not demand the kind of reverence in sacrament meeting that I should. But I'm usually alone with four kids, two of whom are two and under! (Apparently, I'm a little worried that I am one of those parents.)

Melanie J said...

Lisa: bzdura is my new favorite word, although I will be making up my own pronunciation for it.

Kimberly: I have wasted too many shows by being mad at loud people, so I've learned to say something. It's just me being selfish and wanting my money's worth.

Heather: Excuses are the best. Them talking because I'm too tall? Makes perfect sense. Except I'm not tall.

Alison: I pretty much never sweat sacrament. An hour of perfect reverence is a lot to ask from the under two crowd. As long as you take them out when they're screeching, they can happy chatter all they want, as far as I'm concerned. It's usually more interesting than the speakers, anyway.

And this comment doesn't count as one of the seven!!!

tricki_nicki said...

I think you were perfect. It's not easy to keep your cool in situations like that (I just curse at people).

There were three VERY noisy women sitting behind us at the opening of the third Lord of the Rings that I had waited ALL year to see. EVERY time Orlando Bloom came onto the screen they would twitter and hoot, and basically act a fool. We kept shushing them until Mr. Wright finally yelled

They never did. I wanted to fight them. Too bad you weren't there to be a grown-up for us!

Iguana Montana said...

"You have to expect that at something like this"??

No, you don't. And you handled it in an amazing fashion. I probably would have yelled. More than once.

In my experience you only expect it where children have not been properly trained or taught on etiquette and public behavior. I was raised to be seen and not heard. If "you have to expect it," why were my wife and I able to take an 8-year-old girl and a 10-year-old girl to a performance of Julius Caesar and never hear a word from any of the four? Hmmm.... (What was really sad was how many people complimented us on their behavior, as if they were surprised.)

Josi said...

You did it exactly right, me, I would have fumed and not enjoyed the show. Good for you--if my kids ever do that to you, you have my permission to turn around and hiss while clawing at them--I think that would do the trick.

Nancy said...

The best one we had was a ball game - Cincinnati Reds - and the guys with beer behind us - nuff said. At least it was supposed to noisy.

I have my pet peeves about church though. Make it more fun for the child in church than in the halls. If I take my child to the hall, they stay on my lap! More freedom and fun stuff IN church! But as Alison said, if you are there alone with just younger kids, it can be tough. I think kids need practice sitting still at home...so they know how to do it.

I think you did a great job.

Eowyn said...

I don't get the, 'well, their just kids' attitude. If you don't at least try to teach them, who will?

Well done.

Eowyn said...

Oops. Wrong word up there. They're, not Their.