I was standing outside the Linda Gross Theater with my sister one recent Sunday afternoon when I spotted a potential customer.
We had come to this renovated church on W.20th Street to see the Atlantic Theater Co.’s production of Conor McPherson’s The Night Alive.
Our beloved auntie was supposed to join us, but she had come down with a horrendous cold and now we were looking to unload her ticket before the matinee started.
The theater has a no return policy so we had to take our act outside and try to bag a random patron of the arts.
I figured this would be a cinch. The show had received rave reviews, McPherson is very popular in New York and who could possibly pass up a chance to sit next to me?
Well, a lot of people, apparently. We were striking out to beat the band. And that’s when I stopped this one fellow and asked him if wanted to buy a ticket to the show.
“Do I want a ticket?” he repeated in a fine Irish brogue. “No, I’m in it.”
That’s right, I had just tried to sell a ticket to Michael McElhatton, one of the cast members. Both my parents were salespeople for years, but whatever skill they had did not rub off on yours truly.
“So you can see it from the inside!” I said, desperate to seal the deal.
But he just laughed and kept going, so I gave him a hearty “break a leg!” and continued the search for a customer. With my luck, I'd probably approach the playwright.
At least my attitude was improving. I had started off feeling very self-conscious about standing outside the theater and hawking a spare ticket.
I used to feel same way about doing man-on-the-street interviews when I was a newspaper reporter. I didn’t want to stop total strangers on the street and ask for their opinions on the topic du jour.
But I always found that as I talked to people, I got more into doing the interviews and before long I was cheerfully flagging down more victims.
The same thing happened as we looked to sell the ticket.
“We got a ticket here!” I shouted like a hot dog vendor in Yankee Stadium. “Good seat and cool company!”
Still, we weren’t getting anywhere. In these days of the Internet, people can get a theater ticket just by pressing a few buttons.
So we had our own little drama out there on W.20th Street and met a whole cast of characters.
Get ‘Em While They’re Hot
There was one odd fellow staggering up the theater steps on roller skates—yes, really—who refused our offer in hopes of nailing a last minute discount at the box office.
We met Sue, a very nice young woman from New Jersey who chatted with us while she waited for her friends to show up.
And, since misery loves a duet, we befriended a lady who was also trying to peddle a spare ticket after her husband had taken ill. I saw that she was sitting in Row F, just like us.
“We’re F’ed up!” I declared.
As the time ticked away, I felt the pressure mounting. Now when you’re stressed in New York, who is the last person in the entire world that you want to see--and who invariably shows up?
And did he keep going and disappear? Don’t be ridiculous. Our local loon picked a spot about 20 feet away from us and continued his senseless rant for what felt like forever.
I thought about giving him our ticket to punish the tightwad audience, but Sue noted that he’d be sitting next to us and we would be suffering the most from my little act of sabotage. Shucks…
Then another character, the helpful nitwit, came along in the form on an older gentleman with glasses.
“What do you have there?” he asked, sounding all kinds of curious.
“A ticket to the show,” I said.
“A ticket?” he repeated with amazement.
“Yes,” I said, my excitement mounting. I was going to make a sale; I just knew it. “You want to buy it?”
“No,” the man replied after a long moment. “I’ve got my own ticket.”
What? How dare you waste my time like this, you pointy-headed douchebag? I must’ve lost five possible customers jawboning with you.
We never did sell that ticket and we wound up using the extra seat to hold our coats. The Night Alive is a great show, but the day wasn’t quite the same without our auntie.
Still, we met some very nice people and I learned an important lesson about salesmanship.
I don’t ever want to be a salesman.