Confessions of a Box Office Manager - Tackling the restricted view valkyrie
In the first of a monthly series, we get a glimpse into one of the toughest jobs in the West End
I know I'm in for trouble the moment she appears, thundering towards the Box Office like Brunhilde leading the valkyries into battle, only not as cuddly. I try not to wince as her bejewelled hand slaps the tickets onto the counter, and adopt my best 'I am warm, friendly and here to help' face as she launches into a strongly accented tirade: these seats are restricted view, she and her husband cannot see a thing (this before the curtain has even risen, of course), why was she not informed, what am I going to do about it, how do I sleep at night etc etc.
Daring to break eye contact for a split second, I glance at the queue building up behind my New Best Girl Friend, and estimate that the waiting patrons are already falling into a number of camps: a couple of them smile hopefully (hopeful of ever getting their hands on some tickets, I would imagine); one or two stare sympathetically at me (I bet they do a customer service-based job in real life); a worrying number glare accusingly, clearly in full support of our heroine from the front stalls ('Yeah! He's in on it! He's already ripped her off and now he's going to do the same to us! Let's get him! Or at least stare at him really hard!').
And then of course there's the obligatory couple-having-a-row (there's always a couple having a row during a busy incoming, I think it's in the SOLT Agreement). They couldn't care less about having to wait in line that bit longer, so preoccupied are they with bemoaning each other's choice of show/pre-theatre restaurant/ route to get here/ sexual orientation/ life decisions for the last twenty years [delete as applicable].
'I think she just winked at me'
When Brunhilde finally pauses for a moment - tremendous breath control these Wagnerians - I am able to point out that she did in fact book through a ticket agency, not here at the Box Office (result!), so this is an issue she needs to take up with said agency, but if she'd like to come and see me just before the show starts I will happily reseat her somewhere better, if I have availability (I already know at this stage that I will be able to do this, there is no way I'm going to risk her ire a second time).
Lo and behold, it's like the sun comes out... Brunhilde transforms into Mimi from La bohème, minus the consumption. Suddenly, I'm the nicest person she has met in London, the customer service here is so much better than at [insert name here] theatre, what is my name, oh really that's a lovely name, what a charming young man I am (the "young" bit gets her moved forward a couple of rows actually); blimey, I think she just winked at me.
As she disappears into the throng, clutching her newly acquired front Stalls tickets, I take a deep breath and mentally high-five myself at the thought that, for this brief moment at least, everybody is happy: Brunhilde got better seats, the queue got their tickets, the show goes up on time, and my blood pressure returns to normal. I still don't know if she wasn't informed that her seats were restricted view or if she was and just didn't understand - or plain ignored - the fact.
But, hey, nobody died.