Thursday, April 20, 2006

Chill usher lady, I don't want any trouble

When I got to work this afternoon, Urban Vixen told me she thought about sending me a text from her seat at the Toni Morrison lecture last night. We were both there and she could see me.

I told her it was a good thing she didn't because the ushers would have jumped down her throat. What did I say that for? I didn't realize so many people have had bad experiences with the ushers at the Belk.

Mine occurred when I was trying to type notes on a Treo during the Soweto gospel choir. The usher made me put it away after I tried to explain what I was doing. I tried to keep my voice lowered, but the woman talked to me as if I were an insolent child. I respect my elders, but she tested my patience.

Last night, I watched two ushers descend upon a woman who pulled her telephone out. The woman put her phone away, but the ushers hovered as if to say, "We're watching you."

After Morrison's lecture, I was talking to a friend in the bathroom. She told me she was trying to finish e-mailing on her Blackberry before the lecture and the ushers made her put it away. People talking on cellphones in the movies or at performances is annoying, but some of the ushers who work the Belk Theater are overbearing about cellphones and are sometimes downright rude.

I don't know if they're acting this way because been told to prohibit any kind of cellphone use or if its by their own initiative. If it is policy, the women can be nicer about how they deal with patrons. And if it's policy, it's one I don't agree with. If I want to pay my hard earned money for tickets to a show, and then I sit in my seat sending text messages or checking the score of the basketball game, that's my business. I'm not bothering anyone if my phone is on silent mode.

My co-workers stories didn't involve cellphones. Urban Vixen (who requested her real name be withheld for fear of retaliation)said she watched the ushers fuss at a few women who weren't headed to their ticketed seats. (Mind you, the Belk was far from full for Morrison's lecture.) While I was talking to Crystal, the reading life editor stood up at her desk and talked about her experience. Before the lecture started she left her seat to visit her husband, and an usher aggressively asked if she needed help. You know how sale people say, "Can I help You," as if you're up to no good.

I wonder if it's a generational disconnect. Some of the ushers at the Belk look as if they're well into retirement age and these are the ones who act as if patrons are children about to climb all over the good furniture.

The treatment by the ushers at Belk is in stark contrast to my experiences at the Bobcats Arena, Ovens Auditorium and even Spirit Square. I'm going back tonight to see the opera "Margaret Garner." I sincerely hope the ushers drink some tea before the show and remember that they're working at a performing arts venue not nightclub. No one is going to be moshing in the orchestra level. Although, I would love to see how they'd handle that.

What do you think? Have you dealt with aggressive ushers at Belk or any other performance venue? And do you have an issue with people text messaging during a performance? Post your replies below.