Dear Harriette: I recently took my aunt to a Broadway play for her birthday. It was a big treat for her, and we were so excited. As we sat, ready to watch the performance, we noticed the people in front of us because they were very loud. They ended up talking throughout the performance, rustling food packages and otherwise being rude. It was unbelievable. It took a lot for me to save up to take my aunt to this play. The tickets are not cheap. Why in the world would somebody pay all that money and then not pay attention? It was annoying and embarrassing. During intermission, my very proper auntie spoke to one of them and asked them to be quiet when the show started back up. That actually did help to settle them a bit, but I wonder if there’s anything else that can be done in a situation like that. — Rude Theatergoers
Dear Rude Theatergoers: There is an etiquette to attending the theater, namely that you should be still and quiet during the performance. This unwritten rule is suspended when the audience is encouraged to participate in singing or dancing by the actors, and at the curtain call when you are welcome to stand up and cheer. Otherwise, you are supposed to be quiet and attentive.
Because food and drink are served at Broadway performances now, the rustling of packaged food can provide a distraction. It’s best to open those packages before the performance begins.
In a case like yours, it sometimes works to shush the person next to you or ask them to settle down. But that’s the role of the usher. Just as they come to tell people not to take pictures, when someone is disruptive, they should jump in and invite them to be quiet or leave.
Dear Harriette: I was invited to go to an important dinner meeting with my company. I want to make a good impression, and I’m a bit worried. I have a lot of food allergies, so dining out is somewhat problematic for me. The last thing I want to do is draw attention to myself because of my food limitations. How can I handle this in the most discreet way? — Food Allergies
Dear Food Allergies” You might consider printing up a business card-sized list of your food allergies. You can give that to the waiter discreetly before the meal begins and ask him or her to speak to you privately about food choices rather than engaging the whole group. You can call the restaurant in advance and give them a heads-up that you have dietary restrictions. You can figure out what you can eat in advance and preorder it. You may also want to alert your manager and make it clear that you have it covered so there is no worry.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.