Ushering for the NFL Honors Ceremony was not much fun. It wasn’t a bad experience. No one treated the ushers disrespectfully. But I’d expected it to be exciting and it was actually far less interesting than our usual shifts.
In my last post I made, what I now realize was, an error in logic. I was thinking the possibilities were; a) having to leave when the event started and see none of it or, b) having to stay until the end but getting to see the program. Silly me! I failed to consider option c) having to stay until the end and still NOT getting to see it.
I was disappointed to see how few of my colleagues showed up. I’d heard some grumbles but I did not expect what occurred. I don’t know how many had been originally scheduled, for a typical event there would be 15-20 of us, but 6 showed up. With 4 last-minute replacement who’d been credentialed to other events we were a complement of 10. This created an odd situation where we were at once, short-handed and, for most of the shift, incredibly bored.
The shift was longer than it needed to be and I don’t know why. We needed to be downtown by 1:30 to pick up our NFL credentials at another location and then report to Symphony Hall by 2:00. Security prevented us from entering the building until we’d gotten wristbands, another security process. We got in about 2:30. I didn’t get to see any of the technical set-up or run-through.
Usually ushers are assigned both inside and outside the Hall. Once the building is opened for guests, usually an hour before the program, the outside ushers need to be at their assigned locations to greet guests, answer questions, and give directions. When the house opens for seating, typically 30 minutes before the program, the inside and outside ushers seat guests.
For this event the building opened at 3:00, three hours before the program, and the house opened for seating at 4:30, 90 minutes before the 6:00 PM start time. All the ushers were asked to be at their assigned spots at 3:00. For this event, however, we were all assigned inside the Hall. Our assignment was to stand inside a closed door for an hour and a half. As a practical matter we wandered around talking to each other while trying to figure out how the seat-filler process was going to work. Unfortunately we never got to find out.
At 4:30 the house opened. Because guests were not allowed to bring drinks into the Hall, no one was in any hurry to take their seats. So I stood next to the, now open, door for about 45 minutes doing nothing but intercepting a few folks who tried to enter with drinks. A few people asked me if I would mind taking their pictures with their phone. Those were welcome diversions.
Ushers are not allowed to carry cell phones. In training, we’re told this is because they don’t want an usher reading texts or emails in view of a patron. There are lockers to secure phones and other valuables while we’re working. It was stressed to us that this was even more important for this event because we were, under no circumstances, allowed to take photos of the guests or event. Also no autographs. That was not a big hardship on me.
Starting about 5:15 there were periodic bursts of activity as people began to drift in and it was pretty hectic from 5:40 until just before 6:00. By then we’d been on site more than 4 hours and done about 45 minutes of work. We’d been instructed to exit the Hall as soon as the program started. (Booooo!). I hoped to watch it from the lobby.
There are monitors at various locations in Symphony Hall. These allow people in the lobby to see and hear what’s going on inside. They are most often used by late-arriving patrons waiting to be seated and by people who step out of the Hall with crying youngsters. For this event the sound was turned off and the screen showed the NFL logo
we’d been warned predicted, we were asked to stay for the duration of the program. Some people declined, especially the last-minute replacements. I’d made plans to meet Harper’s Other Dad about 9:00 so I had time to kill. I agreed to stay. And for the next 2 hours I stood outside Portals 10 and 12 (balcony) staring at the NFL logo and hearing occasional bursts of applause through the door. Periodically a guest would come out and ask for directions to the restroom (“Down the hall on the right opposite the chandelier” – accompanied by sweeping arm gesture) or whether any of the bars was still open (“I’m sorry, No. But coffee stations have been set up in the lobby”). The highlight was assisting one, slightly ‘over-served’, woman who wanted to leave early. She was trying to order an Uber car with her smartphone but, having left her glasses at the hotel, she could not read the screen. She offered me a gratuity. I declined politely.
I considered sneaking down to the ushers’ room to get my phone. At least I could read the news or Facebook. It would have been breaking the rules, however. The ethical dilemma was a moot point anyway. Security at the top of the stairs would not allow ushers to go to the ushers’ room during the program. The hall to the usher’s room also leads to the Green Room. I guess they feared the four security men between me and the Green Room door would be insufficient to stop me in my frenzied quest to meet Seth Myers. They needn’t have worried. I knew he was not in the Green Room anyway.
I had a number of misconceptions about what the guests would be like. The eye-candy quotient was not nearly as high as I’d hoped. The dress code vague or non-existent. A few guests were dressed formally. A decent percentage of men wore suits or at least jackets & ties but many wore open collars, sweaters, and even jeans. None of the people in my section appeared to be particularly athletic. Granted, I was working the back half of Section B. I imagine the high-profile athletes had better seats.
It was the same dress code experience with the women. Some were in gowns. Most appeared to have come from the office. I saw very few women that would fit the stereotype of the ‘trophy wife’. Again, my section of seats may have skewed the sample.
I was also wrong about the crowd as a whole. With a Super Bowl crowd and three hours of open bar I expected to have a few challenges. (There were a few with the NASCAR crowd a few months ago.) To a person the guests were cordial, jovial, and entirely pleasant. I encountered more resistance to the ‘No Drinks’ policy at the Sunday matinée performances of The Nutcracker.
All told, it was not a bad ushering experience. Nothing unpleasant happened. It was just really boring. Next time the Super Bowl comes to Phoenix I think I won’t volunteer for this one.