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Box office loves Lucy

posted by Elana McKernan on Wed, Oct 22, 2008
in At the theatre

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At times I'm shocked by how much working in the box office feels like being trapped inside a 1950s-1960s sitcom.

Most old-school sitcoms are based around dysfunctional families. Due to our close quarters, small staff, and the communal nature of our work, I often feel like going to work is entering into an established family dynamic. We have Christine Bond, the box office manager, who is the matriarch of the family. She really runs things, but her counterpart, Terry Goulette (box office supervisor), is our more immediate authority figure, and the man we go to with most of our trivial questions, comments, and concerns. Then there are Mark Blank, Woo (short for Mike Woo), Christina (not-so-short for Christina Cone), Destiny, and me. We are the petulant children, those who take phone calls day after day, have little faith in humanity, and have been known to shoot rubber bands at one another in between phone calls. Fellow Berkeley Rep staff comprise our extended family, and at times it feels like they are our wealthy, "big city" cousins.  We are the (rubber band) gun totin', squirrel-impersonating (don't ask), Box Office Hillbillies who done struck it rich and come to the Berkeley Hills.

We also have frequent (and hilarious) encounters with technology that would rival any of Lucille Ball's baking disasters from I Love Lucy. The speakers at our sales windows present us with persistent challenges. Firstly, they seem to pick up on ANY outside noise, so the most distant rumbling of a motor (or the not-so-distant earth-rattling sound of a garbage truck) will interrupt any conversation between patron and staff with a loud, ever-present KHRRRRRRRRRKCHHHHHCHHHCHH. Such encounters force us to adopt elaborate miming techniques, so we often look like we're playing charades rather than selling tickets. Secondly, the window is placed directly in between the speaker and the computer, so every attempt at selling a ticket at the window feels like a superhuman effort at splitting my mouth (which must be positioned directly in front of the speaker) from my eyes (which must be close enough to the computer to see where the available tickets are located) and stretching my arms (which must reach the computer to type) from my shoulders and neck (which must be back at the microphone with my mouth). I frequently find myself wishing that I were that stretch woman from The Incredibles. Who knew selling tickets could be so physically taxing?

Once I do succeed in selling the tickets, I must print them.  Our ticket printer has obstinately refused to consistently cut the ticket stock, so if we don't keep a watchful eye on it, it ends up spewing our tickets every which way.

To add some excitement to our daily grind, we have begun to compete to see who can make the most money in a day. Though we have not yet resorted to such measures (and will not--don't worry, Christine!), the opportunities for sitcom-worthy sabotage are endless! "Oh, you don't want to purchase tickets from Woo, he is easily confused and will put you in the wrong performance," etc.

To be fair, a great deal of the parallels between the box office and, say, I Love Lucy result from my general clumsiness. Such clumsiness includes but is not limited to:

  • My inability to refrain from spilling my water on the ground and/or myself.
  • My habit of standing up quickly to help someone at the window and being pulled abruptly back by my headset, which is still attached.
  • Standing up quickly while my headset is still attached, then trying to take my headset off only to find that it has become tangled in my hair, causing a long and painful extrication process (while the customer at the window watches impatiently).
  • Picking up pens quickly to have patrons sign their credit card receipts, and accidentally flinging them halfway across the room.

Also, did I mention that we have a possessed radio?  Lucy, you got nothing on us!

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