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Confessions of a Box Office Manager: A date from hell

Our box office mole gets unwittingly involved with an amorous occasion

Box Office Manager

Everybody's late for a show sometimes. Most performances have scene changes or applause following numbers, where latecomers can be snuck in. Generally, people are fine with that, although I was once working on a play so intense that no late arrivals were allowed in whatsoever: one night a fight broke out in the foyer when a coach carrying a group of fifty arrived 20 minutes late after being delayed in traffic. The resulting kerfuffle disrupted the performance anyway with the actors struggling to be heard over the pugnacious carryings-on out in the foyer.

Tonight though something even more alarming's going on with a late-arriving patron. The show has been on ten minutes when he arrives, suited, booted and wearing designer sunglasses despite the fact that it's an overcast evening. The world must seem awfully dark to him, I think to myself, although I am about to find out that it's even darker than I imagined. He lets the foyer doors swing shut behind him, right in the face of the young woman following. She looks a little putout, standing alone in the middle of the foyer, fiddling self-consciously with the outsized ring glittering on her right hand. She looks stunning, soignée...and as though she would rather be anywhere else than here. She catches my eye, gives a tense smile and immediately looks away, examining her clutchbag as though she has never seen it before.

Sunglasses and suit are at my window, unsmiling and clearly in no mood for niceties.

"Holland. Simon. For now."

Sure enough, he has a pair of uncollected tickets. I ask to see his payment card for identification purposes. I don't always insist on this if the show has started but there's no latecomers point for 20 minutes so we have plenty of time. Also, his attitude is horrible. He flings the card at me. Yes it's him. Yippee.

"There you go, Mr Holland. One of our ushers will be with you shortly. As the performance has commenced it'll be about 20 minutes before we can get you in."

He unleashes a staccato torrent of expletives, admittedly not directed AT me but aggressive enough to make me step back in surprise, all the while running his hands through his shock of glossy hair. His female companion makes no attempt to mollify him and stands stock still several metres away, staring in wide-eyed alarm at the back of his vibrating head. He's either a massive fan of this show who doesn't want to miss a single moment of it or a control freak with an anger management issue, that nobody ever says no to. I'm guessing the latter.

He is mid-obscenity when his phone goes off. The ringtone is, I kid you not, "The Ride Of The Valkyries" from Wagner's Ring. I feel hysteria rising. He reaches into his suit jacket's inner pocket, fishes out the device and slaps it to the side of his head.

"Yah?!" he barks. "YOU?! What the f—?!" He stalks off towards the entrance, ignoring his companion, and continues the call with his back to us, his non-phone-holding hand making vicious stabbing motions into the air as he berates whoever's on the line.

His date glances at him, thinks for a second and approaches me, smiling uncertainly.

"Hello, hi, hi. I wonder if you could help me."

"Sure. If I can..."

"OK, so this is embarrassing. I'm on a first date. With HIM."

"Ah..."

"...and it's horrendous." She peers at him but he's still turned away, screaming into his phone. She looks as though she might cry.

"Oh dear."

"Yup. He's spent the whole time slagging off his ex-wife, who I didn't even know about until tonight, didn't ask me a thing about myself. Not that I want to tell him anything anyway. That's probably her on the phone now. She's had a lucky escape if you ask me."

"Well, yes..."

"I feel so uncomfortable right now. Look, I'm sorry to ask but, um, is there another way out?"

"Of the theatre?!"

"Yes!" (To be fair, he is blocking the doors while he rants and rages, apparently oblivious to everybody else.)

I think for a second. There's a fire door from the back of the box office into an alley behind the building. It may involve her stepping over a couple of homeless people bedding down for the night but that's surely preferable to enduring any longer with this charmer.

I beckon her to the side door of the box office and open it. "Come through here. Quick!"

"Oh my God. You are such a star." She moves as fast as her designer heels can carry her. I lead her through the back and she gives me a quick hug as I hold the fire door open for her. "Thank you so so much."

I head back to the front and he's still at it. Surely his phone will run out of battery in a minute. Oh, hang on....

"Yeah well, F— you too!" he screams and hurls his phone at the floor. It breaks into a number of pieces (the phone, not the floor). He doesn't even bother picking them up, just stands there for a couple of minutes breathing deeply while the front-of-house staff gape at him in amazement.

Finally he removes his sunglasses and looks around. His eyes are bloodshot, perhaps unsurprisingly. He heads towards the box office. Here we go...

"There was a woman here..." He sounds hoarse.

"A woman, sir?" (Maintain eye contact and try not to giggle).

"Yes. She arrived with me..."

"Oh, I didn't notice."

"She was with me when I came in. Where is she?"

"I don't remember seeing her. Maybe she's gone to the toilet or...?"

"Well, where are the toilets?"

I point in the direction of the stalls entrance and he starts off towards it.

"You won't be able to get in without your ticket!" I shout and he comes back, snatching the tickets out of my hand.

"Wait a minute" he says, "there are still TWO tickets here...how did she get in without hers?"

"Good point...well, she won't be down there then will she." Long silence.

Finally I break it, I've got a box office to pack up.

"Maybe she left then?"

"Left?"

"Yes, while you were taking that long phone call..."

"Where did she go?"

"I don't know, I didn't see her leave, I've been busy."

"She can't have just disappeared."

I am on the verge of saying something facetious about the magic of theatre but realise it might not go down well. So I just stare at him. He open his mouth to speak but decides against it. He replaces his sunglasses and strides bullishly towards the doors.

"Mr Holland, you've forgotten your tickets!" I bellow, rather enjoying myself.

"You can stuff them!" he yells as the doors close.

Not a happy man. I wonder if he'll bother contacting his date to see where she went. I get the impression it was his pride rather than feelings that got hurt, so I suspect he won't. Either way, she had a lucky escape, I got out of work only a little later than usual and he'll have to get another mobile phone. But, hey, nobody died.

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