Confessions of a Box Office Manager: I didn't get dressed for the first two days of working from home
Our Box Office Mole adjusts to the new normal less than two weeks after the West End closed
So...how's everybody doing?
I, for one, certainly won't complain about my job ever again.
OK, that's probably not true but these are very unusual times and I think self-isolation might be turning me a bit delusional.
There's certainly no shortage of things to do while working from home, and the one big advantage is that I don't have to change into a smart shirt and tie in order to do them.
In fact, in all honesty, I didn't even get dressed for the first two days of working from home. I discovered the hard way why that wasn't a very good idea: I had to jump on an unscheduled conference video call with some quite important people and actually gasped when I caught sight of myself in the top right hand corner of my screen. Hair standing on end like I had accidentally just stuck a wet finger into an electricity socket, sleep in my eyes, crumpled pyjama top, and dung-coloured dressing gown hanging off my shoulder... not very professional or indeed aesthetic (and unaccountably STILL single....go figure.)
Luckily everybody else on the call was too nice, or too preoccupied, to notice or at least to say anything, but it was a wake-up for me. Now I make sure for my working day (in the living room) that I've at least brushed my hair, washed my face and am wearing a presentable sweater or something. What other participants in video calls can't see, however, is that (and this is just between us) I'm frequently not wearing any trousers. Boxer shorts yes, but trousers...no. I like to feel comfortable while I'm utterly miserable.
It isn't even two full weeks since 16 March, the night the West End closed for the time being, but it feels like a lifetime ago. With that night's show cancelled less than an hour before curtain-up, it meant that many patrons were already on their way into town for the performance. They were greeted at the door by front-of-house staff with photocopied letters explaining the situation and what they could do in terms of claiming refunds or exchanging tickets to an alternative date. What was heartwarming was the lack of rancour from the majority of patrons whose journeys had been wasted: they accepted their letters with good-humoured resignation and made their way off into the strange night.
What had been happening in the preceding couple of weeks though was that more and more of the tickets awaiting collection at the box office for each day's show just weren't being picked up. On an average night, when we close the box office and give any uncollected COBOs to the front-of-house staff, we tend to be handing over about three or four envelopes. From the latter part of February onwards, it became literally dozens of ticket bookings not being claimed, and performances that appeared pretty busy on the computerised plan, looked strangely deserted if you stuck your head into the auditorium at showtime and had a look around.
So here we all are then, spending each day either refunding bookings for that night's show or swapping patrons into advance dates. Generally, the latter is the preferred option...as I have pointed out to several customers, you've already paid the money and isn't it lovely to have something to look forward to when this horrible situation is over?
I've had some really smashing, supportive emails from regular visitors to the production, telling us to hang in there and that we'd all see each other again soon (no, I did not have something in my eye). Then there has been the occasional charmer who is either FURIOUS that their family trip has been cancelled or postponed (I'm not over the moon about it either, funnily enough) or they're simply in no mood to waste words:
"8th May. Happening?"
- that was the entire content of one email I received the other day. I drafted my response:
- but after consultation with one of my colleagues we decided that wasn't a very professional answer, so I spun it out to a couple of well-chosen sentences.
Luckily for us, this sort of attitude is the exception rather than the norm. We're all just doing our best here.
I'd better crack on with today's thrilling round of refunds. Everybody please keep safe and well, and I will see you from the other side of the box office glass very soon I hope.