Friday, May 21, 2010

Random Misperceptions

In the days when radio was my primary source of entertainment I listened to many of the popular shows of the day: Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy; Inner Sanctum; Gang Busters; Lux Radio Theater; Grand Central Station; and Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons. (It wasn’t until many years later that I realized the theme show of Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons was Noel Coward’s “Someday I’ll Find You.”)

Radio show sponsors often held contests where all a listener had to do to win a prize was send in a postcard with her name, address and telephone number. The announcer told the listeners that the names of the winners would be selected at random from all the entries.

For years, when I heard “at random,” I thought the announcer meant the winners would be selected at a town called Random, and for some unknown reason I thought it was located in upstate New York.

Another of my misperceptions as a child had to do with Yosemite National Park. Since these were the days before television documentaries, my fascination for the national parks came from reading. As a child, I did not read Yosemite correctly as “Yo sem’ i te” but as “Yose’ mite,” with a long “o” and a long “i.”

I believe I finally learned the correct pronunciation from the cartoon character Yosemite Sam one Saturday afternoon at the Farragut Theatre on Flatbush Avenue. As he sang “I’m an old cowhand from the Rio Grande,” he asked the audience to join him by following the words on the bouncing ball. I was sitting next to a little boy who was too timid to sing out loud until suddenly Yosemite Sam pointed his pistol at the audience and yelled, “Ah said sing!” The boy next to me nearly jumped out of his seat and started to sing.

(The photo is of me and my litle sister in the 1940s.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Thank You For Thanking Us or Customer Service 101

The New Amsterdam Theatre on West 42nd Street is a lovely old theatre with a “beaux-arts entrance and a magnificent art nouveau interior of painted plaster, carved stone, fine wood, murals and tiles.” Unfortunately the steps in the mezzanine leading down to the rows of seats alternate between long and short. That’s the reason for my tumble into the third row, resulting in cuts and bruises on my face.

No sooner had I discovered that blood was trickling down my neck than Tania, an usher, was at hand with her first aid box. My daughter’s sister-in-law Sue, a nurse, accompanied me and Tania to the lobby where I was provided with bandages and an ice pack. Tania also said EMS was available. She reiterated several times that I should ask for anything I needed. At the intermission of Mary Poppins, Tania and Louis, another usher, appeared again to see how I was doing and to refresh my ice pack. At the end of the show, they were back again.

I was so impressed by the actions of the theatre staff that I wrote to the theatre manager and the guest services manager to express my appreciation. I don’t mean to be cynical when I say that it’s been suggested that this type of customer service is in place to avert lawsuits. Regardless, it doesn’t affect my opinion of the ushers' actions.

Three days after I’d mailed my letters, UPS left a package at my door. Inside was a letter from the theatre manager that thanked me for my comments and assuring me that copies had been placed the ushers’ files. The letter ended this way: “In today’s world where many folks are more apt to criticize, it is refreshing when someone takes the time to write a letter commending service. Please accept the enclosed original cast recording of Mary Poppins as a token of our sincerity.”

About the show itself: a grand old-fashioned (meant in a good way!) musical with stunning sets, terrific actors, singers and dancers. And yes, Mary does fly out over the audience.