Last night I ushered for our community theater’s performance of Dracula. My job: check every patron’s vaccination card to verify they’d been fully inoculated against Covid-19 before they were allowed entrance to the theater. (They could also show proof of a negative Covid-19 test result, issued by a government entity or health provider, within the last 72 hours.) They should also be masked and would remain masked for the entire show. The theater’s entire last season had been cancelled because of the pandemic, so this was the compromise in order to have any season at all. Patrons were notified of the requirements when they purchased their tickets and had been sent a reminder email before the show. The restrictions were on the website. In other words, there should be no surprises.
Still, the House Manager warned me to be prepared for irritation, or worse, although so far so good in the show’s run. She gave me a stack of photocopied instructions to give out to the unvaccinated turned away, informing them how to be refunded or how to exchange their ticket.
I was more than prepared. This was what I’ve been waiting for! The power to bar entrance to the droopy masked or the unvaxxed! Real muscle, not just the stink eye passive-aggressively leveled in the grocery store. I might have swaggered with bouncer attitude.
Instead of a clash, I encountered something that goes unmentioned in the vitriolic vaccine wars: the sheer unbounded joy of the vaccinated. Jubilant patrons arrived eager to show me their cards, and a few bubbled over with new elation, as at the birth of a new grandchild: “I got my booster!”
Not all were prepared. One woman pulled out every card in her thick wallet before she found her vaccine card: the last card she tried out of surely a 52-card deck she shlepped around with her. She didn’t complain, just cheerfully pulled out one card after another, apologizing. One woman returned to her car for hers while her husband scrolled through his phone, looking through thousands of pictures to find his snapshot of his card. They were flustered but not annoyed.
Only one patron showed his ire. He arrived with his wife, who had neglected to bring her wallet or phone. She explained that she was in a different wheelchair from her normal scooter, so she’d been thrown off her routine. He threw up his hands and marched away. “You didn’t bring your vaccine card?! That’s it! We’re going home!”
She, the other usher, and I coaxed him back. “You have half an hour before the show starts,” I said. “Could you go home and get it?”
This was something I would never have suggested in Seattle, where parking alone would prevent a feasible second trip. But with ample and close free parking and no traffic, everything around here was three minutes away. I keep feeling like I’m on vacation, because every outing here—even MIM’s colonoscopy—is so easy.
“I’m not loading everything up again! It takes too much time and effort!” He was not yelling or angry, but just had that husband-exasperated-with-wife tone.
“Why don’t I stay here while you drive home and get it?” she asked.
He deflated and perked up at the same time. Brilliant idea. Away he went.
The night was not unpleasant and there was no rain, and the woman patiently waited, chatting with us. I mentioned the height of Count Dracula. He towered over the other actors.
“He’s my son,” she said.
If anyone was likely to beg and berate to be let in, putting up a fuss, rules be damned, it was Countess Dracula. But she and Dracula’s dad never uttered a word of protest.
So that glorious Saturday night, out in the world enjoying live theater, with some of the ladies dressed to the nines, the entire audience, as well as the hapless virgin onstage, had all been eagerly, blissfully jabbed.