“Sorry,” said the guy at the box office. “Sold out. Completely sold out. Been sold out for weeks.”

Well, so much for that. It had only been a whim. I wanted to take my mom over to the Auditorium to see The Phantom of the Opera. Yeah, I had heard it was sold out, but I figured if we arrived around show time, there had to be some poor chump stuck outside with two tickets he couldn’t use. No luck.

“All right. Let’s cruise,” I said. “We’ll see if there’s anything interesting playing at the Fine Arts.”

But as we left the building, a voice behind us called, “Leaving?”

A woman whose jacket said “usher” on the back was closing the doors facing Congress.


“You’re not gonna see the show?” she asked.

“Nobody turned in any tickets,” I said. “There weren’t any cancellations.”

“I can get you in,” she said.

“You have tickets?” I asked.

“I can get you in,” she said. “But tickets cost 50 bucks apiece. You have 50 bucks apiece in cash on you?”

My mom looked in her purse, and I rifled through my wallet. We came up with 60 bucks between us.

“We don’t have a hundred,” I said. “We only have 60.”

“OK, wait here,” she said. “Wait for the guy at the door to tell you where to go.”

She disappeared, and a few moments later a ticket taker motioned us in. He mimed taking our tickets, pretending to rip them and give them back to us. Then he said in a whisper, “Go to the last aisle. Turn the corner. Wait there.”

We walked quickly, following his directions, and turned the corner where we were greeted by the usher we had talked to before. I began to pull some bills from my wallet.

“Put your money away,” she hissed. “Go up the stairs. Take the first two box seats. Wait to pay me till the end of the first intermission so you know I’m not just taking your money from you.”

We sat down as soon as the houselights dimmed, and during the opening scene, I heard some talking behind us.

“I’m sorry, sir,” a different usher from ours said. “You didn’t come in time. We’ll have to seat you someplace else. These people have already been seated here.” She poked her head between the curtains of our box. “You folks were seated here, right?” she said.


“See,” she told the disgruntled man. “We’ll find some other seats for you.”

We waited uncomfortably through the first act, wondering if we were going to be booted or arrested. But we weren’t. And sure enough, at the intermission our usher came back, and when the coast was clear, she stuck her hand out and collected her dues.

“How’re you liking the show?” she asked us.

But the joke was on us. My mom hated the show, and there was no way to ask for a refund.