With apologies to the choir, there was a while there when I wasn’t paying full attention. I just wanted my program back.
I didn’t even need the program. I had glanced at it earlier and I knew most of the numbers the Champlain College choir was going to perform, all of them pleasant, familiar songs on the theme of dreams – “Dream a Little Dream,” “Daydream Believer,” “California Dreaming,” “Imagine”…
(As an aside, does anyone else think we should retire “Imagine” for, say, a decade so that we can get back to appreciating its simplistic bong-hit philosophy instead of wanting to puncture our eardrums at every overkilling occurrence of this lugubrious dirge? No? Just me then? Well, I hope someday you’ll join me…)
Having scanned the program, I set it down on the buffer seat between me and the young couple to my left. The buffer seat is an important social construct whereby, whenever possible, one party does not encroach upon another by sitting directly adjacent but leaves a space of a least one seat – a buffer seat. The same rule applies, by the way, to urinals.
You know what else is an important social construct? Not taking someone else’s program.
Borrowing, of course, is fine. Here’s how that works: “May I see your program for a second?” “Of course.” “Thank you.” Scan, scan, scan. “There you go. Thank you!” “You’re welcome!” Isn’t that civilized?
But this girl, she reached into the no-man’s land of the buffer seat and took the program. Just plain took it.
Okay, I thought. That’s fine. I can share. It’s a wonderful thing to share. The world would be a better place if more people shared. Imagine no possessions…
Except she didn’t give it back. She kept it, in blatant violation of the buffer-seat sharing rule that I had just made up but an irrefutably good one nonetheless.
And then – and then! – she passed it to her boyfriend. The program at this point was three seats away, well past the buffer seat and any pretense of sharing. This was outright stealing. Where’s my brotherhood of man now, Lennon?
So you can see my dilemma.
On the one hand I was tapping my foot to the joyous rendition of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.” On the other hand, there was the program. Putting it out of my head was like trying to ignore an itchy nose or the inexcusably sloppy rhyme that is “And no religion too.” Impossible!
Was I better off just letting it go? Or was it important to enforce the social code whereby young women, no matter how stylish, should not feel entitled to take a less stylish man’s belongings? Was my reluctance to speak out against this incredibly minor injustice an indictment of my manhood? Or was my desire to speak out in the first place an indication of my pettiness and latent OCD? And was my foot tapping bothering her? I don’t care, man, she stole my program!
“Can you pass me the program?” Deb whispered to my right during Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.”
“She took it,” I whispered back.
“She took it?” Deb said, clearly aghast.
That clinched it. This was no longer about me. This was about me looking good in front of my wife. For self-respect, for possession being nine-tenths of the glass half-filled, for cranky, middle-aged concert attendees everywhere, I was going to be the guy who asked for his program back.
I waited until intermission.
“Excuse me, can I see the program?”
“Oh! Sorry!” said the girl and passed it back.
I showed her. I showed her good! Without actual eye contact I showed her!
I glanced at the program – ah, yes, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” to look forward to following the interval – and then placed it back on the buffer seat. Oh, she took it again after the break but did return it to its place. Order had been restored. Yes, she put her travel umbrella on top of the program on the buffer seat but that’s what the buffer seat is for. I did not share her umbrella.
Small? Petty? Socially uncomfortable. Perhaps. But imagine a world where everyone was more considerate and less prone to concert-distracting, program-taking shenanigans. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. Well, yes, probably I am.