Working as a member of the arts proletariat gives one a special window on the damaged souls who float through the theater world: Pale, distracted playwrights; mercurial, nervous actors; schmoozing kiss-kiss patrons who throw dramatic tantrums when they learn their seats will be in the fourth row instead of the third. Customer service is no place for a misanthrope, but now that I've broken the chains of day-job bondage I am honored to use my impressive combination of moral courage and keen insight to provide you, dear reader, with a few choice cuts of ticket-office wisdom.

You're all pricks. Artists, artisans, patrons: pricks, pricks, pricks. (Of course, you're not all pricks, but enough of you are to make the generalization useful, and the people who think they aren't pricks are usually the worst pricks of all.)

That's not to say ticket officers aren't pricks themselves. The work itself is easy on everything but the ego and the pocketbook. As you might imagine, nonprofit theaters don't have a lot of cash to lavish on phone jockeys. Ticket officers are invariably artists of some sort, and watching the daily parade of salaried actors, directors, writers, carpenters, costumers, and the rest puts the metallic taste of frustrated hate in one's mouth.

The subscribers don't make it much easier. They all have to have an aisle seat because they're gimpy, tall, or fat. A few threaten to stop subscribing almost every time they call. They give us long, critical harangues about directorial choices they didn't like as if the directors would hold our suggestions in anything other than bitchy contempt. There are a few gum-smacking, 10-inch-pearl-twirling terrors, but the most shocking quality of the great unwashed is their inevitable sameness.

Nothing in my life has tempted me to believe in the collective unconscious like the old Will Call Gag. The joke is always performed by chunky, middle-aged white men who fancy themselves great and original wits. The gag takes two forms: "Are you Will?" Loud chuckle. Or if there are two of us: "Which of you is Will and which one is Call?" Louder chuckle. The jokesters are always a little put off when we fail to laugh--unfortunately, there is no line item in the budget for enjoying the same mal mot between two and 12 times an evening.

Pleasant, unobtrusive people get better seats and rules bent to accommodate their needs. Irritating people get the letter of the law, especially if it works against them. Cunningly applied, the rules are a peon's best revenge.

Bitter, tedium-breaking humor is often the ticket officer's only incentive to go on. If you go to a ticket office and are surprised to find yourself in a sniggering nest of bitches, don't fret--they're busy mocking and hating you for all kinds of irrational reasons. But to be on the safe side, assume that you are, in fact, a prick.

brendan@thestranger.com

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