I have no idea where the quietest corner of Manhattan is, but it’s clear to me we don’t live in it. At night, we sleep with the air-conditioner on to stifle the noise of buses and howling drunks and sirens. During the day, we can usually ignore it. Saturday morning, as we walked out of the front door of our apartment, a jackhammer accompanied our footsteps. Planes fly overhead, subways rumble beneath the sidewalks, doors slam, people scream.
Hey, it’s the big city. If we’d wanted peace and quiet, we would have gone elsewhere. An isolated ranch somewhere, where I would have quickly lost my mind, begun to twitch and drool uncontrollably, and had to be airlifted to civilization.
Still. I do have my limits when it comes to noise and other people’s bad habits.
Last night, for example, we went to a wonderful performance of Billy Elliot. The story, the performances, the dancing, the music, the stagecraft were all superb. Since it’s a critically acclaimed, wildly popular show, we’d paid full price to get good seats — like everyone else around us, I’m assuming.
So why did the woman behind me feel the need to comment on the play to her companion? Why did the guy to my right have to continually light up his digital watch to check the time? And why did the woman several rows back have to launch into a series of explosive nose-blowings in the middle of the quietest dialogue? My God, what was she — the Niagara Falls of phlegm?
On the stage, a heartfelt scene was playing out.
Loving words were being exchanged.
A beautiful, soulful melody had just begun.
SNIFFLE! HONK! GAGGING NOISES!
I suppose I shouldn’t be the one complaining since, after all, I could have been sitting right in front of her, feeling a moist and windy deluge dribbling down my neck, replete with flu germs and snot and God knows what else. Still, it’s hard to concentrate on artistry and emotion when Typhoid Mary is unloading the contents of her lungs and nasal passages into a nearby hanky, just like Greta Garbo did in her “Camille” death scene.
No cell phones, no pagers, no recording devices, they always say at the beginning of any performance. I’d like to add another rule: If you’re coughing up a lung, please do it in the privacy of your own home.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite posts about lying about your age