Friday, May 30, 2008

I Owe My High School Drama Teacher An Apology

(Hey, better late than never, right?)

Forever ago -- something like 10th grade -- I was an usher for our High School play.  Because I was ushering for it, I was invited to watch the dress rehearsal the day before the performances.  The audience was comprised of just the ten or so of us who would be ushering for the show.

Well, the performance was running a bit long.  I took the school bus to school, and my bus was about to leave.  I kept checking my watch, hoping the show would end in time for me to grab the bus and, y'know, have a ride home.

So, the show ends, the curtain falls, I've got about a minute to spare, and during the blackout before the curtain calls, I sneak out to run to my bus--

--and get stopped by my teacher on the way out the door.  She asks me where I think I'm going.  Um, the bus?  Panicked, I tell her it's leaving without me. 

"I don't care."  She says.  "You don't walk out during the curtain call."

But, but ... the bus.  It's leaving.

I turned to the bowing actors.  I applauded.  I waited until they finished.  Then, my teacher moved out of the way, and I ran like hell out the door.  Just barely made the bus.  Might've even had to knock on the door as it was leaving.

Furious.  Absolutely furious.  For days.  I mean, I damn near had no way home.  It wasn't like there'd be another bus in 20 minutes.  Or that she would drive me home if I missed the bus.  Honestly, the other 9 people could have clapped about as loud as they would have with me there.  I had weighed the pros and cons of the situation, and made the call that getting home was more important.  (It wasn't like I'd walked out on the show itself.  And I'd tried to sneak out in the dark, too, to be subtle about it.)

Which brings us to last night.  Hollywood Bowl.  (Again.  It's been a busy week.)  This time: R.E.M.

Now, conveniently, I had a good seat.  I say this because there were some sound issues.  People in the upper seats couldn't hear much at all -- for people in my section, you just had to keep your enthusiasm a little less vocal in order to hear the band.  I mention this because I understand that some people were a bit frustrated by the sound, and it kept them from totally digging this concert.

Band announces the last song -- not the song before the obligatory blackout when you cheer for awhile (while they take a pee or something) and then they come back on.  The actual last song.  ("Man on the Moon.")  And the exodus begins.  People start leaving their seats and heading for the exits.  I mean, we've been told we have 25 minutes from the end of the concert in order to make it to the busses and these folks are taking no chances.  (I will assume they came by shuttle bus.  If they drove themselves, they really have no excuse -- as parking at the Bowl is "stacked," so leaving early just means you sit in your car until the 20 or so people parked in front of you have left)

"Man on the Moon" ends.  The hundreds of people leaving during the song are now joined by virtually everyone else heading for the door.  The house lights are still down.  The band is still on stage.  They're putting their arms around each other and bowing, while ten or so thousand people gather their crap and try to stumble down the stairs in the dark.

I stay at my seat applauding, and don't leave until the lights come up.  I join the stream heading for the door and get caught up in the bottleneck.  Wall to wall people not actually moving at all.  I hear people complaining that they'll miss their bus, but, actually, we would ultimately get out of the theater and down to the busses in about seven minutes.  A dude nearby, annoyed at the human traffic jam, asks his companion, "Was 'Man on the Moon' really worth it?" 

And I think, that's not the question.  The question is, R.E.M. just rocked the hell out for the last two hours.  Is being the first person to make it to your bus really worth not giving them the dignity of applauding for them at the end of their show?  Even if it wasn't the best concert you've ever seen, they were working up there (and the sound problems weren't their fault), sticking around to applaud is just common decency.


That's what she was trying to teach me.

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