Friday, May 11, 2007

Kerfuffle at Symphony Hall

This week's brawl at a Boston Pops concert was apparently caused by an audience member who didn't like being told to shut up. In this instance, it was a guy in his 40s being shushed by a guy in his 20s, which underscores the fact that obnoxious audience members come in all ages and do not constitute a new phenomenon. Still, loudmouths tend to have different motivations at different ages. Chatterers in their 20s are mostly insecure kids trying to impress friends and potential lovers by relating trivia ("She's the daughter of that chick who got killed in Psycho!"), saying something that's supposedly witty but is obvious enough that any delay might mean that someone else will say it first (e.g., any reference to Paris Hilton), or just talking about themselves in the hopes of impressing someone. (I was at a play in which a character mentioned having lamb for dinner, and a young woman behind me who seemed to be on a first date loudly exclaimed, "I love lamb!" Well, then, go out and get some right now.) Loud audience members in their 60s or beyond are more sure of themselves, to the detriment of everyone around them. If they can't hear the dialogue, they think that no one can hear the dialogue, so it's OK to grouse, "What's he saying? What's wrong with the sound? Is that microphone broken?" Or they might decide the film or play isn't up to their standards and not worthy of respect. More than once, a senior citizen has responded to my glare by saying something like "You like this? You actually think this is good?" But loud guys in their 40s are the worst. The typical offender's attitude is that he's paid hard-earned money for his seat and he's entitled to do whatever he want while he "owns" it. (This attitude is worse if he's been dragged to a performance by a wife or girlfriend.) I was at a sold-out movie once, and the guy behind me kept yakking away to his silent partner after the movie started. When I turned around to give him a nasty look, he replied, "Yeah, just keep looking, buddy, 'cause I'm going to keep talking." (I left and got my money back.) The offender at the Pops seems to fall into this category of entitlement. If the guy he slugged presses charges, he might learn a lesson, but it's more likely that he'll just get worse. Now he's got a chip on his shoulder, and he'll be daring music-lovers all over Boston to knock it off.

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