I enjoy the performing arts. A series of performances I particularly enjoy are the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” broadcasts. Saturday matinees of selected operas performed at the Met in New York are simulcast to movie theaters where those of us not lucky enough to be in NYC can watch them on the big screen. It is not the same experience as seeing the operas performed live on-stage in Lincoln Center but it is enjoyable; in some ways more enjoyable than being there.
In previous posts I may have
bitched to high heaven about shared my frustrations concerning certain of my fellow audience members. Dubbed by Harper’s Other Dad as the “Friends of Dave”, these are people of a certain age who lack any sense of common courtesy, raise selfishness to an art form, feel the need to complain about anything and everything and who approach, seemingly, all the aspects of their life with a strong sense of entitlement. The Friends of Dave like the ‘Live in HD’ broadcasts too.
Because the earth is round and Arizona exists in a world of its own making, the opera broadcasts start early here; sometimes as early as 9:00 AM, depending on the length of the opera and whether the rest of the country is observing daylight-savings time. That means the ‘Friends of Dave Unhappy Hour’ can start as early as 7:30 AM.
I am fortunate that a theater less than two miles from Casa de Harper shows the broadcasts. Those unfamiliar with this area may not understand the significance of this. Any destination that does not involve driving on an expressway for at least 20 minutes is just short of miraculous in Harper’s Valley. This theater is 1.89 miles away. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the theater holds about 600 people and does not have assigned seating.
On days when the opera starts early, the line begins to form outside the theater about 7:30 AM. There will be a few FODs in line to bemoan the outrage of the movie theater not being staffed to open its doors at 7:30 AM but they are the exception. Most of the 7:30 crowd are quiet and cordial, if a little sleepy. We understand the meaning of “general admission” so we get there early so we can sit with friends, get our favorite seats, or simply attempt to avoid all the drama to come. Around 7:45 the doors open and those of us who arrived early choose our seats the way God intended, by putting our butts in them. Then the fun starts.
As one enters the particular auditorium in the multiplex, one passes a 3’X4′ standing sign that instructs audience members not to save seats as the performance is sold-out. The sign might as well say; “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here” for all the good it does.
Between 8:00 and 8:15 the seat-saving FODs start to arrive. We’ve seen them often enough to recognize their faces but absent that, they are still easy to spot because, even though it’s 90*F outside, they arrive carrying sweaters, jackets, canes and umbrellas to place on every seat in the row they want to reserve. At a performance last season, a particularly assertive Scottsdale matron asked if I was saving the seat next to me. I explained that I was not, in part because the sign outside said it was not allowed. “We don’t pay any attention to that”; she said as she started dropping sweaters, books, programs and purses on the 9 seats on my right. I would have found this annoying if it hadn’t been happening at the same moment on my left and in the 3-4 rows behind me. O.K. I still found it annoying.
Others arrive who want to sit in some of the, now ‘saved’ seats. Sweaters are thrown and harsh words exchanged with the attendant wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth at the inhumanity of it all. This continues until about five minutes before the performance begins. That’s when we see the difference between the FOD pros and the FOD amateurs. The last 5 minutes is when the pros arrive. These folks:
a) want specific seats
b) don’t have friends they could force to come early and ‘save’ the seats for them, and
c) have some reason they can’t come earlier themselves. I suspect their thought-bubble reads something like ‘Why should I come early, I should be able to come whenever I want and sit wherever I want because in the universe I see myself at the center of, people must accommodate me’. What the poor unfortunate sitting in the FOD’s seat-of-choice must endure is a long litany of physical ailments, joint replacements and vision & hearing impairments that make it impossible for them to sit, see or hear from any of the 599 other seats in the theater. These same maladies also prevent them from leaving their home more than 15 minutes before the performance; no matter when it starts.
Last season, after we’d purchased our tickets, another theater was added to the locations that offer the HD simulcasts in Harper’s Valley. It is one of those posh theaters that have reclining seats and servers who bring food and drink. It is less convenient. It is 16 miles from Casa de Harper and one must park in a ramp a block or more from the theater. These minor inconveniences are insignificant, however, compared to the single, overriding benefit that calls to me like a shining beacon through the existential darkness; reserved seats! (Choirs of heavenly angels are heard from off-stage.) We’ve seen movies in this theater. It is nice and has many nifty features that make movie-going more pleasant. Frankly, these matter less for the opera broadcasts however.
The theater has a full bar in the lobby. At 9:00 AM? ….not really a selling point.
Servers will bring over-priced appetizers to your seat. At that time of day? Who cares?
Those same servers can bring you a Bloody Mary in the middle of Act II. Well, maybe….
None of that matters compared to the holy grail of reserved seating. Whether I get there at 7:30, 8:55; or skip Act I altogether and show up at 10:15, I have a seat and I don’t need to put some Paradise Valley dowager in a Figure-Four Leg Lock or a Sleeper Hold to keep it. What’s even more amazing, while this theater is a little more expensive for movies, it is exactly the same price as the general admission theater for the operas. (Angelic Choir kicks into Hallelujah Chorus). It will take about 25 minutes to get to the new location. It took less than 5 minutes to get to the old one. But I can now leave at 8:30 for a 9:00 AM show rather than at 7:25. That sounds like an extra hour in my morning to me. I bought all the tickets for the season at the reserved-seating theater.
O.K.; so I’ve reached ‘a certain age’ myself and seem to have less patience than I had back-in-the-day. Does this mean I am becoming a ‘Friend of Dave’? I think not. I take responsibility for my own convenience. I get up earlier. I queue up and wait my turn. I choose to drive farther.
On the other hand, if I am joining the ranks if the FODs, I can live with that. Maybe I’ll do my own one-man show; “I Am My Own Friend”. If I take it on the road though it will only play in venues with reserved seating.