Well, I hope I’ve made it perfectly clear that I love New York and we’re having the time of our lives here. But don’t go patting yourselves on the backs, New Yorkers. The fact is, this city’s behavior could use a little polishing — especially in the venues where I tend to hang out: Theaters and restaurants. Let me count the ways.
1) Who knew there were so many knuckles in the world and people who like to crack them? This is fine, I guess, if you’re an adolescent boy fishing on the Mississippi. But you — the guy exploding his knuckles as loudly as a master percussionist in the middle of some of the magical silences in Our Town — you were no adolescent and we weren’t on a big river raft. You were old enough to know better. Are you wondering why your romantic life is so dismal? Well, your noisy little habit might be the reason. Just a thought.
2) I hate to be rude, but I did not come to The Glass Menagerie to hear your words — you, the woman who sat right behind me and possessed the mellifluous voice of a foghorn. I came to hear Tennessee Williams’ words. Even when you quoted Williams — a few seconds before an actor delivered the same lines — you should have been beaten severely. Either that or poked with a cattle prod. You’ll get no kindness from strangers when you’re ruining their theater experience.
3) Intermissions are when you should unwrap your noisy packages of candy, not during the most significant passages of a play.
4) A standing ovation is a lovely tribute that should be rare. Not every performance deserves one. Aren’t New York audiences supposed to be tougher than the current another-night, another-standing-o routine? And no, those aren’t all tourists who are leaping to their feet like it was an aerobics class.
5) I also don’t know why the younger generation is getting such a bad rap when so many of the cultural loudmouths are as old or older than I am. “What did she just say?” the elderly husband asks the wife, who then has to repeat it twice, in louder tones. You want to follow the plot, I know. But you know what? So do I.
6) My husband and I ate lunch at one of those haute-cuisine joints on our anniversary — La Grenouille, to be precise. I loved the restaurant’s admonition that: Out of consideration for your fellow diners we ask you to refrain from using cell phones or other devices, and that children under 12 be left in the care of a loving babysitter. Mais, oui!
7) I said it before, I’ll say it again. If you’re coughing up a lung every five minutes, you should probably be in a hospital and not sitting and wheezing and dripping all over me.
8) I realize that I am sounding cranky. I really hate that. I’m usually kind of cheerful and laissez-faire. I realize that, too, maybe I was just in a bad mood and wasn’t sensitive enough to your need to talk, rattle papers, gurgle and sneeze, and haul your loud, unsightly children to inappropriate venues. Maybe so.
But why don’t we just try it my way, for a change? I think the rest of the audience would probably back me up on it. And then we wouldn’t have to resort to audience tasers. We could all just, you know, get along and enjoy the show.
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite posts about how learning can be harmful to your self-esteem