When are people going to figure out that all you really need to be a good concert audience is to be quiet? Not to shuffle your feet around or adjust your seat noisily. Not to open and close opera glasses with a snap. Not to whisper sharp little critiques into your neighbours ear while the orchestra is playing. Not to make out as though the future of planetary procreation depended on it. Not to entertain your four year old. Not to drop books / programs or anything else that will hit the floor with a resounding thud or a reverberating clack. No, not any of those things. All you need to be a good audience is to bloody well SHUT UP!!
I mean okay, so maybe there are cultures where coughing loudly through the entire first movement is a sign of appreciation. Perhaps there are planets where devoted aficionados spend days, nay, weeks, finding the one lozenge wrapper that will give the perfect crackle when it's opened in the middle of the adagio. There may even be some remote corner of the galaxy where no opera is considered a success unless at least a dozen children cry out how bored they are in the course of it. But where I live, music is not a participatory sport.
How would all these candy-munching, face smooching, child trawling visigoths feel if we came and did the same to things they (presumably) care about? If we sought them out in the privacy of their sordid back-seat assignations and played Beethoven loudly in their ears just as they were getting past second base. If we went along to their labour rooms and stood around pointing and making loud comments through the entire performance? If we made them sit and listen to the William Tell overture every time they unwrapped another toffee? If all they want to do is munch and kiss and accidentally drop things, why come to a concert, why not just stay at home and watch Monday night football instead?
What amazes me about these people is the precision with which they always manage to come in at exactly the moment where the noise they make will be most easily heard. It's almost as though they have their own little score with all the best interruption points marked. So the orchestra will spend five minutes building into the sort of triumphant crescendo where you can barely hear yourself breathing - and no one will make a sound. But let the music descend to a single sustained note on the flute, and suddenly everyone will need to clear their throats or lean back in their creaking seats. It almost makes you want to jump up and ask if there's an axe-murderer in the house.
Okay, so sometimes you can't help stuff. If you need to sneeze or cough, there isn't really much you can do about it. But at least people could keep their lozenges and stuff unwrapped and not eat things during the concert that make noise (I've actually sat two seats away from someone who brought pistachio nuts, pistachio nuts! in her purse). And at least they could have rules about not bringing in kids below five (or ten. or fifteen.). And why can't concert theatres have a special soundproof box or something for people who know they have a cold and are going to be coughing a lot?
Personally, I've decided I'm going to write a symphony. It'll be called Falstaff's Symphony in F Op 1 SUNS 2 (SUNS stands for Some Unpronouncable Naming System) and will be scored for two dropped programs, two cranky brats, one horny couple, two ringing cell phones, four TB patients, a doddering old lady who sings along to everything, and lozenge wrappers. What's more, when they finally perform it, I will sit in the front row with a violin and play single notes on it every now and then just as a random disturbance. Let's see how they like that.