It’s not unusual for people to hang up on us when we call from BPO subscriptions offering them tickets (at drastically reduced prices, as it is more important to have subscribers and get matching NEA funds than to sell individual tickets, even if individual tickets cost the patron 30% more; if you and go to the BPO more than once a year with anyone, even just one person other than yourself, it’s financially better to find a package that fits you, and it benefits the BPO as well in terms of federal aid). Conversely, it’s not unusual to get into half-hour conversations with people as they describe their concert-going experiences and we walk them through the many packages and subscription deals in search of one that might fit their concert-going needs. Conversations ramble: I had a fascinating one with a man who’d just returned from a trip through South America with his wife; a man I talked to tonight about buying tickets cracked me up as he kept earnestly referring to his wife by a ridiculous pet name (I could hear her giggling in the background too). But tonight was the first time that I felt a weird connection with someone on the line. As in door-to-door sales, one encounters another so briefly. Selling door-to-door is like looking at dioramas, but some families and individuals still stick in my mind from seven years ago– particular children playing, particular mothers making dinner, etc. Because it’s a physical encounter– one looks into another’s eyes and home– selling door-to-door is very personal, very immediate. I hadn’t expected the same intimacy to ever occur over the phone, but each day that I work I become more comfortable giving myself over the phone and I find that the concert patrons begin to give more of themselves, too. The interaction, that is, becomes more intimate and direct. Tonight I talked to a man who sounded my age or slightly older, who had recently moved out of Buffalo for an long-term temporary architectural job in Pittsburgh. I told him that the Pittsburgh Symphony is much better than the Buffalo Philharmonic, which I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s probably true– I wanted to help them out. But I added, “we have the best concert hall” (since I now know, from research, that my boss isn’t just saying that– we actually do have a phenomenally well-designed auditorium). And he said, “I know, I worked on the restoration.” And there was something about him– his willingness to talk at 8pm on a Monday when he doesn’t need tickets, his interest in architecture– and something about me, definitely, my die-hard desire for romance and my romantic view of architecture– I was actually growing interested in this total stranger.
(Luckily I am interested in other much less risky people. But it makes for a nice beginning of a story.)