Confessions of a Box Office Manager: 'That's it I quit'

After a particularly harrowing day, our box office mole has had enough

Confessions of a Box Office Manager
Confessions of a Box Office Manager

This is so hard to write, but this is the last time you’ll be hearing from me. After much soul-searching, frantic totting up of my savings and calculations of my outgoings, I’ve thrown in the theatrical towel and tendered my resignation as a box office manager.

Working at least four – but usually more – nights out of seven every week, plus public holidays when everybody else is off enjoying themselves, for considerably less money than my university contemporaries who’ve got "proper" jobs, has taken its toll. So has dealing with a general public that seems to get more entitled but less polite with every passing year. Therefore I think it’s best to get out before I become as bitter and jaded as a couple of my colleagues: you know the ones I mean… they don’t make eye contact even once during an entire transaction over the counter, sigh loudly before answering any question, snarl in indignation if you have the temerity to ask exactly where you’re sitting, and generally make you feel as though they’re doing you a favour by even turning up for work. Yes, those. That is who I am determined not to turn into.

I always come in via stage door so as to avoid the people queuing outside

Then there was a recent Saturday that was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. A ghastly day in the box orifice (no, that isn’t a typo), the kind of day that makes you question your own sanity, and whether or not you’ll ever be able to answer a work phone or speak to a customer again without wincing, or punching somebody.

It started badly with some of the day seat queue. It was about half an hour before we were due to open and I’d just got into the box office with my coffee – I always come in via stage door so as to avoid the people queuing outside who can turn querulous and resentful when they think you’re pushing in, there are only so many times you can bellow "it’s alright, I work here" without it damaging your mental health. I was just settling in – turning on the lights, the computers, opening the safe – when I hear this constant tapping sound.

After looking around for a minute I worked out where it was coming from… it was the man at the front of the queue, peering at me and tapping against the glass window with his massive signet ring. Ok, that’s pretty annoying. The latte was kicking in nicely though so I smiled, waved, pointed at my watch and raised both hands with splayed fingers to indicate the number ten – as in ten o’clock – hoping he would realise what I meant. No such luck. Not only did I receive back a glassy, dead-eyed stare, the tap-tap-tap doubled in volume and intensity, as his wife then saw fit to join in. At least I assume she was his wife, as she had a similar ring and the same expression of passive-aggressive persistence. Anyway, it was like being viciously serenaded by a pair of demented woodpeckers. I put my earplugs in.

Needless to say, by the time they were allowed in – still a couple of minutes ahead of the official opening time, in case you’re interested – they were in high dudgeon. I was still on a caffeine buzz and had been listening to Eurovision classics (don’t judge me) so was in a very good mood, despite their grumbling, and their incomprehension that they were unable to buy premium seating at the day seat rate (they’d been looking on their phones at availability online while waiting in the queue). They finally left with tickets and the assertion that "we are better than you. You only work in a crappy little theatre anyhow" which is always what you want to hear when you’re staring down the barrel of an 11-hour day. And anyway, this theatre isn’t that little.

Next up, I had one of the clerks coming off the phone in tears after being called something unrepeatable by a customer who found it incredible that we at the box office were unable to exchange tickets booked via an agency rather than ourselves. Having only heard one end of the conversation I know that my staff member was flawlessly polite and professional so I will look forward to replying to the complaint email she’s been threatened with regarding her attitude. I hope it comes in before I leave.

Somebody who had imbibed well but not wisely passed out in the lavatories at the back of the stalls during the interval

One of the leads was off at the matinee – that’s seldom an issue with the current cast because, terrific as they are, none of them are famous, so generally the audiences are happy with whoever they get to see. Today, however, is an exception – well, of course it is – as the local amateur dramatic society from the absent star’s hometown have come down in a coach ("it had a toilet and everything!" the distressed group leader repeatedly bellows at me as though this had a bearing on anything) to see him. Judging from the stifled sobs, yelping and dying swan impersonations we witnessed when they came in and saw the understudy signs on display, this lot certainly don’t like to confine their drama to the stage. Then they turned nasty en masse, carrying on as though we in the box office were actively keeping their local hero off the damn stage. I just about stopped myself from publicly wondering out loud whether it was their very presence at today’s performance that had forced him to cancel his appearance. I wouldn’t get out of bed to entertain this rabble either.

Somebody who had imbibed well but not wisely passed out in the lavatories at the back of the stalls during the interval. They had to be carried out and left to sleep it off on a banquette just outside the box office. At least they were quiet, or rather they were until they woke up, started screaming blue murder, and wet themselves. Maybe it was the sudden dampness about the trousers but they quickly dropped the aggression, gathered themselves together, thanked us for our hospitality and sauntered out through the foyer doors into the street, while we gazed at them in astonishment.

As we were a little short-staffed I helped out on the phones later in the day, and was forcibly reminded of why I don’t do it more often:

"I want to sit with my friends" (this in lieu of "hello, I wonder if you can help me?")

"Ok. When is this for, and do you know where your friends are sitting?"

"Well, it’s tonight…OBVIOUSLY."

"Ah I see, we are almost sold out tonight so I may not be able to sit you exactly next to them. But what are their seat numbers?"

"38 and 39."

"We don’t have those seat numbers I’m afraid. Our highest number is 34. Do you know which row? Which level of the house?"


"Right. Why don’t I search under your friend's name?"

"It’s Russell."

"Is that the first name or the surname?"


"Er….well, what do you call them?"


"Oh dear, well…"

"Oh just forget it. If you don’t wanna help me…"

"It’s not that I’m unwilling to help, it’s just that I need more info–" (click: they rang off).

After a lot of pondering, gin and apprehensive gibbering, the resignation letter has been sent

Then there was the gent who rang up and attempted to make a joke out of literally everything we talked about, like neighing every time the word 'stalls' was mentioned, and yelling "I’m using American Express, even though I’m not American and I’m not that fast!" Well, at least he was cheerful, which was more than I was by this point in the day.

The icing on the cake was a couple who turned up on the wrong day having booked online last week ("the computer must’ve changed the date! It was definitely the computer!") and then proceeded to become so verbally abusive that it looked as though we may need to call the police – we didn’t in the end, as the threat of doing so got them to pipe down.

So, after a lot of pondering, gin and apprehensive gibbering, the resignation letter has been sent. Time for a change methinks. The only thing left to say is a big thank you to everybody who has read this over the last three years and for the lovely feedback on social media.

Actually, I do have one more thing to say and that is…


Resign? Are you kidding?! I live for this craziness! I’m not sure I could ever work in a "normal" office. The public do wind me up from time-to-time (and the two-show day I just described was a genuine horror) but mostly this job is fun far more often than not. And hey, nobody died.