Friday, November 15, 2013

When Not To Tell A Loud Person to Shut Up During a Public Performance

Act #319:  It's not always about you.

Last night we took our 6-year old to a breathtaking performance of Japanese Taiko drummers.  It was a school night, and he is a squirmy little lad, so we had plenty of talks (and made plenty of threats) about the importance of remaining quiet and sitting still in his seat.  He was a perfect gentleman, who was clearly enamored with the performance.  We even ran into two of his first-grade classmates who ended up sitting with us and all three were exceptionally well-behaved.  Drums, who knew?  So there we sat enjoying this powerful performance, with perfectly behaved children...........and then FINGERNAILS ON A CHALKBOARD, well  that's at least what it felt like.  As soon as the performance began, a voice behind me also began (and never stopped) - a female voice that spoke in "regular" volume, painfully and articulately describing each and every human being, piece of clothing, hair style, color, and movement of the five drummers.  Throughout the entire 2-hour performance.  Not in a whisper, but in everyday normal conversational volume, like she was causally at a party or something. 

And now the bald-headed white guy, dripping with sweat is talking. 
One of the three women has stepped to the front and is playing the flute. 
All the drums are lined up and all five of them are drumming next to each other in a straight line.
It drove me up the wall.  In ancient Japan, Taiko drums were used to frighten invaders, inspire troops in battle, and call the gods.  But all I could hear was some American's (who has probably never been to Japan) rudimentary play-by-play commentary.  And I pleaded in my increasingly annoyed brain, "Please, annoying woman, shut it down.  We don't need your commentary.  We all see what is happening on that stage."

Or do we? 

Well not if you are blind or visually impaired and are attending a Taiko drumming performance with your friend who wants you to fully feel the spirit of the group that has "catapulted Japanese Taiko drumming into the 21st century with an eclectic experience that is part martial arts athleticism, part dance, and all rhythm."  And as you may have guessed, that is exactly who was sitting behind me, when I subtly and curiously caught a glimpse during the height of my annoyance - a young visually-impaired woman with a walking stick, and her commentator friend. 

And after a whole minute of me shriveling up into a little graceless, humble ball of guilt and embarrassment, I did the only thing I knew to do, in order to remotely redeem myself. 

I closed my eyes.

And imagined what it would feel like to not have accompanying visuals to paint a complete picture of all that I was experiencing.  I felt the deep, throbbing beat of the war drums in the floors, in my chest.  I imagined the drummers moving in perfect synchrony with that beat.  I imagined their hair flying wildly along with their muscular arms.  But there were five drummers, which one is doing the lead piece?  And there's the flute again.  I wonder who is playing it?  And the crowd is laughing?  And my son is shuffling and stomping his feet beside me. Why?  And just when I was about to pull my privilege card and just open my eyes already, like clockwork, the reliable, consistent commentator chimed in, with precision timing, "The old man just put on some kind of lion puppet costume with a red face and snapping mouth - and he's acting like an overgrown cat!"  And I opened my eyes to get a glimpse of the reason my child was cackling beside me.  And I was thankful that the young lady behind me also got to "see" the lion, through the lens of her friend, whose voice no longer sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard.

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