25 August 2007

Archive: It's hot in here

It's been a hot summer here in Michigan. Maybe not the worst on record, but still pretty damn hot. Here's the thing: all summer, I've been hearing complaints about the cold. Just one more of the joys of house managing.

Unless you're in an outdoor amphitheatre at noon in July, theatres are cold places. This is universally true for both playhouses and filmhouses. If you go to see Julius Flaxbarr on Venus, bring a sweatshirt. That's just the way it goes. In point of fact, movie theatres were the first major industry to embrace climate control so if you've been to one at any point since Birth of a Nation was released, you may have noticed that that the room is cooler than it is outside (or warmer if it's cold outside).

Apparently, a lot of people are not aware of this. And because of their ignorance, I get to hear them bitch. I'm a house manager, it's what I do.

At my theatre, the A/C is run through a computer that I don't have access to. It's not even in the building. Since the theatre is part of a college campus, I have to call down to Campus Safety when we have a problem with the A/C and then they have to call the on-call maintenance person. While some of the maintenance people can access the A/C from their home computer*, many of them have to drive from their homes down to campus to do anything about the problem. Suffice it to say, it's not the most expedient process around. And when 800 old person nipples are poking through 400 old person shirts, expediency is of the essence. But, even if I call when I get the first complaint (which, of course, you never do because that's a woefully small sample group) it can take between ten minutes and half an hour (at best) before something happens. In the meantime, they continue to bitch. At me.

And this has been going on all summer. There were nights when, during intermission, people would actually line up at the box office to issue their complaints about the cold. Invariably, the conversation went like this:

First cold patron: "Hey, it's really cold, could you do something about that? I mean, it's freezing in there."

Me: "I'll call right now, it should get better very soon."

Second cold patron [referring to previous patron]: "Were they just complaining about the cold? Because it is freezing in there, could you do something about it?"

Me: "Yes, I've made the call, it should be getting better shortly."

Third cold patron [referring to previous patron]: "Were they just complaining about the cold? Because it is freezing in there, could you do something about it?"

Me: "Yes, I've made the call, it should be getting better shortly."

Fourth cold patron [referring to previous patron]: "Were they just complaining about the cold? Because it is freezing in there, could you do something about it?"

Me: "Yes, I've made the call, it should be getting better shortly."

Fifth through Two Hundred Forty-Third cold patron: "Were they just complaining about the cold? Because it is freezing in there, could you do something about it?"


'But, oh wise and wonderful Dave,' you ask, 'why not find a more permanent solution rather than putting yourself through this routine night after night, destroying your will to live and your tenuous grasp on sanity until you are locked away in an institution, defecating into adult diapers and chewing your own lips off?'

Don't think we didn't try that, oh delectable and clever reader. We asked maintenance to up the temperature level at which the air kicks in. "Okay," they said and adjusted the A/C threshold ONE WHOLE DEGREE! Miracle of miracles, that one degree made all the difference in the world! Thank you, you brilliant and efficient keepers of heat! What would we do without you?!

. . .

Yeah, so when that didn't work, they actually came down to the building to assess the situation. Turns out, the sensor that tells the air when to kick in was blocked. Blocked, and then heated by a monitor that was set in front of it. Let's all take a moment to thank the numb-nuts who set that little rig up, shall we**?

Armed with that knowledge, the situation was corrected. Kind of. You see, as soon as the audience's collective testicles were able, once again, to exit the abdominal cavity they had sought shelter in, the actors started to complain about it being too hot. DISCLAIMER: I love the cast of the show in question. Almost all of them are really great people as well as great performers. I mean no offense to any of them in particular or in general. I'm sure it was startling, after three weeks in the space, to all of a sudden find themselves not performing in an ice box. They worked very hard during the show, sang, danced and all that stuff I will never be able to do, and they did it all in Victorian garb. But, it's not like these people had never been on stage before. It's not like any of them had any right to expect that after a three hour show during which they sang (Sondheim, no less) and danced in heavy costumes under hot lights that they wouldn't get HOT! Hell, the top of Act II was a song about it being hot! I'm not really a method actor, but it could have worked for them.

The best part is, after we had raised the temperature and the actors started complaining about the heat, the audience didn't stop complaining about the cold. Yeah, that was a fun weekend in my world.

So, okay, that's all taken care of. That show departed, a new one came in and they actually, honest to Dog, fixed the temperature. Do I still get one or two complaints about the cold every so often? Yeah, sure, but in greatly reduced numbers and with greatly reduced frequency. And there are more people seeing this show, so statistically that's an even more significant a reduction. Instead, I have to deal with incidents like the one I had last night.

The house is open, the show hasn't started yet, everything is going fine. The volunteer working the concessions stand waves me over and I see there's a lady waiting at the stand who is clearly the subject of whatever problem I'm meant to resolve. Before I can even speak, before the words, "how can I help you?" have even formed in my brain she says to me "It's not as cold in there as it is out here, is it?!" There's real venom here, I note to myself. I explain to her that it's a separate system and it's a different temperature inside the house***. "Last time I was here we left at intermission because it was SO COLD!" She's eyeing me like a Tauntaun that she wants to tear open and climbing inside for the warmth. "We've fixed that problem, the temperature is just right in there now," I explain. "Well it is SO COLD out here that I sent my husband to the car to get a blanket!" How does she want me to respond? 'Uhm . . . awesome?' 'You finally came prepared you raging harpy?' Instead I tell her to let me know if there are any problems and ask that she enjoy the show.

Astonishingly, after she actually WENT INSIDE THE THEATRE she didn't complain anymore. Not that preemptive harpy-ism isn't useful at times, but could you cut a brother some slack here? Geez.

Here's the real kicker, though: on Thursday night, when I was in class and consequently not house managing, we had a campus-wide electrical burp. The lights flashed and that was about it. But somehow that little electron indigestion caused the computer system that runs the air to go all screwy. While the air in the lobby and the green room kept working, the air in the house didn't.

Ideally, in a touch of My Name is Earl style karma, every single one of those bastard asshats that had bitched to me all summer about the theatre being too cold would have been here Thursday night. I realize, of course, that that was not the case and many innocent people suffered but, if even one of the people who came up to me doing exaggerated "burr" gestures or bit my head off about the cold before they even sat down was in the house on Thursday, it was all worth it.

In conclusion: Next time you go to the theatre, be it a movie or a live performance, BRING A GODDAMN SWEATER!

*Because that TOTALLY makes more sense than giving direct access to the people in the goddamn building in question.

**That and the decision to make the air disbursement system into a series of massive phalluses that hang down twenty feet further than they need to and spoog frozen hate directly onto the balding heads of our patrons.

***I don't really know why they keep it so cold in the lobby, and frankly, I don't care. I pick my battles and the lobby just doesn't rank.

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