Beware the Empty Seat

A little before Christmas I attended an evening of music put on by the New Jersey Choral Society.   I enjoy these events for several reasons:

  1. I’m a music lover and they really are excellent.
  2. Because I used to sing with them and always see old friends.
  3. Because it scores huge brownie points with my wife, who still sings with them.

Since the concert was a sell out arriving early was strongly suggested.  Instead a combination of returning visiting children and feeding my offspring ensured I not only arrived late, but after the concert had started.  Fully expecting to find myself in a seat with a great view of a supporting column I was instead ushered to a seat in the last row, right next to the middle aisle, affording it both an unobstructed view and plenty of room.

How could this prime seat still be empty in such a packed house?  I could see it surrounded by a golden halo and with angels singing.  Or perhaps that was just NJCS in their glory. I smugly took my seat and settled in for another glorious concert.

In hindsight little alarm bells should have gone off.  I’ve ridden enough New York subways to know that an empty seat on a packed train usually means a urine soiled hobo as a neighbor.

The first number was a beautiful pianissimo piece and I let the warm, soft music wash over me…right up to the point where I heard “MOMMY!”   I looked to my right to see a toddler loudly talking with the obliviousness of surroundings that only exists in the very young and the very old.

As a father of 3 I wasn’t too concerned.  His parents would no doubt quiet him down or remove him from earshot if that proved too difficult (I know I would have).

Sadly that was not the case this time as the boy continued to chatter with little more than the occasional “Shhh” from the parents and more than a few disapproving looks from the paying members of the audience.  Then a new sound was added to the mix, the insistent cry of a hungry baby followed after a brief pause by a loud thumping as the father attempted to burp the child.  Now if only the thumping had been in time with the music…

Near the end of the concert the baby started to cry again and, as the father reached for another bottle, he accidentally hit his phone which immediately shouted “SAY A COMMAND!!” at full volume.  That was the last straw for one audience member who turned around and expressed his disapproval with some choice words, finally causing the father gather his belongings and head out.  Sadly the concert ended a few minutes later.

For most of the people in that part of the church the concert had been significantly marred.  But there’s a lesson for all of us here – Beware the Empty Seat!

The “empty seat” could be on the subway, in a concert, a can’t lose business opportunity, an open job or a date who seems to have it all.  Somewhere along the way someone else has  decided that  it was too much trouble and passed by.  So before jumping into something that seems too good to be true it’s worth taking a moment to look around to see what dangers are lurking.  Maybe these are things you can live with, in which case go for it.  Just don’t do it blindly.

As the saying goes – if something looks too good to be true, it usually is.

Happy New Year!


Filed under Children, Life - or something like it, The Human Condition

6 responses to “Beware the Empty Seat

  1. It wasn’t the seat that was the problem it was the incredible rude and clueless parent. Sounds like an opportunity for the Choral Society to discuss how to handle those kind of problems in the future…no children under 10? Stopping the concert between songs while the disruption is handled firmly?
    How awful for members of the chorus to have their performance disrupted…I would want to make sure it never happened again.

    • I totally agree, Katybeth! As a parent, I would never have allowed my children to stay and disrupt other guests and would have removed them by the second peep. (However, I would never have brought them to that type of event in the first place – You cannot expect children that age to have ‘concert behavior’ for any period of time.)
      The incident did prompt the Board of NJCS to discuss stricter policies about children… Too bad the organization has to step in to enforce good judgement!
      BTW – For anyone interested in finding out more about this outstanding choral organization, our website is 😀

    • Katybeth

      I have taken chances in the past with bringing kids to events, but I would always seat myself where we could exit with the minimum of disruption if the kids were unable to contain themselves. Sometimes it worked and sometimes we had to leave, but I was always super-sensitive to the feelings of others in those cases.

  2. hard working mother

    As the mother of these children, I feel the need to reply.

    First of all, my husband and I are brand new choir members and we were performing in the concert. Our parents attended and brought our small children. We had informed many choir members that they were going to attend and this did not seem to be an issue so we were under the impression that this was a family friendly concert.

    The fact that the choir included a children’s choir portion should indicate that they do value the arts for children. You may not agree that exposing them at that young of an age is appropriate, and you are entitled to your opinion. However, if children don’t feel this music is special from a very young age, we may not have these concerts in the next few decades (especially since arts is being cut from many different schools left and right).

    If you feel that concerts by the NJCS should not be family friendly, perhaps you should communicate with the board on this matter. Currently to my knowledge there is no policy on that.

    I am probably most upset with the fact that my children, who did nothing on purpose to ruin your concert experience, were compared to a puddle of urine on the subway. That was done in poor taste and I hope that you never have to read something like that about your own children.

    Since you have a connection to the choir, perhaps it would be more effective to communicate these feelings in a more constructive way. You may a better result that way rather than insult the family of two people to worked really hard to give you that great performance.

    • In hindsight I should have been much less descriptive about which concert I attended as the point of the post was not about the concert, or your children, but about looking before you leap. That might have avoided any hurt you felt (which was not intended and I apologize for that) and kept the focus on the real intent of the post.

      There’s a lesson here about not fully appreciating how one’s actions affected other people. I’ll be more careful in the future.

      • Back to read your new post–I stumbled by on this one again…While I agree with this mom about her understanding about bringing her children…I do not understand why her husband did not immediately remove the children when they were disruptive. As a parent whose children attend a Waldorf school–I completely understand the importance of exposing children to the “Arts” and understanding when they have been over exposed and it’s time to call it a night. It’s not fair to the children to experience the hostility of the surrounding audience and it’s not fair to the performers.
        Well said, “There’s a lesson here about not fully appreciating how one’s actions affected other people.”

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