Opera ain’t cheap. With my friend Christina we were lucky enough to get offered a below-the-proper-price ticket in the stalls. Row C. As close as I’d ever been. You can actually see the singers’ faces. I didn’t know they had them. But we needed another ticket. I was near the box office when I overheard a conversation. I’m afraid we don’t do returns on the day of the show, said the man in the box office to a slight woman with straight hair. But then the woman had an idea. She went outside and gave the ticket to a Big Issue salesman. What a nice gesture, I thought. I waited a moment and then popped out, as though aimlessly. I caught the Big Issue man’s eyes, as though inadvertently. I retained his gaze, as though randomly. Do you want a ticket? he said. I feigned surprise, as though spontaneously. He was ready to give it me for free. It was a £20 ticket. I gave him £10. He was delighted. Even gave me a free Big Issue. When I went back into the foyer I went up to the slight woman with straight hair to say thank you. The Big Issue man gave me a ticket. Thank you very much, I said. Did you pay him something? she asked. Of course, I said. Paid him £10. She seemed quite all right with me. My husband couldn’t make it, she said. She was with another man. They were American. But when I got into my seat the slight woman with the straight hair seemed peeved and ignored me. I could see the problem. She had created for herself a moral conundrum. She was effectively subsidising my ticket. I’d given £10 to the Big Issue man, nothing to her. Maybe if I’d given him £20. Maybe if I’d offered her £10. That would at least mean I’d paid the same as her. But as it was, the Big Issue man was quids in, I was quids in and she was quids out.
I should have gone the whole hog. Sat between her and the bloke she was with, opened my free copy of the Big Issue wide, ruined their evening completely.What was she doing out without her husband with this strange man anyway? She’d inadvertently handed over seat 30 instead of seat 31. I could have insisted on keeping her apart from her friend. It was big of me to let them sit together. And what if the Big Issue seller had used the ticket and sat next to her and her friend? Would that have made her evening any better? Would that have been her good deed for the day? Bringing culture to the hoipolloi? The Opera Ticket. It would make a good play by George Bernard Shaw. Class conflict and culture. His favourite themes.
I dare say I ruined her evening, the slight woman with the straight hair. I know the idea that I’d paid for somebody else’s ticket would have ruined mine. But that’s just me. I’m rubbish. I have a sneaking suspicion she was too.