R-17 - that was printed on my Pippin theatre ticket last Sunday. Carolyn and I usually go to one show a year, so these tickets were purchased with much discussion and consideration in 2014. We arrived about ten minutes before the show was scheduled to start and headed into the auditorium to find our seats. Aisle R was filled at both ends; in fact, seats 16 and 17 were the only empty ones left. When I looked at my ticket and discovered that the man who was sitting in the seat next to mine was the biggest human I’ve ever seen, Carolyn bravely volunteered to switch with me.
You hear about people this size getting charged for two airline tickets, or you see them exploited on TV getting surgery or struggling through life. I don’t watch those shows because they make my heart sad for the people, their families, and the viewers who find misery entertaining.
But the fact is I’m a germaphobe and having to share personal space touching a perfect stranger makes me anxious. I like to think I’m also a decent human being or at the very least a work in progress. So, I resigned myself to the probability that I’m about to get a lesson in patience. God has been trying to teach me patience for a while . . . 53 years, six months and fourteen days. Yes, it was definitely about patience; right away I was forced up against Carolyn, which is fine for a few minutes, but then both of us need space. However, this man was so big I could not sit up straight in my seat even if I wanted to. Nothing good would come from complaining, that would waste the lesson, so I came up with a mantra be patient and breathe.
In my peripheral vision I could see that my neighbor’s knees were pressed into the seat in front of him, he physically spilled over the armrest between us; be patient and breathe. My head was even with his upper arm, I would have to look straight up at him to see into his eyes; be patient and breathe.
Then it happened; the lesson came, and I nearly missed it. On stage, Pippin’s grandmother invited the audience to sing along with her, and the giant next to me lifted his voice. It came out pitch perfect, like a world-class instrument. His was the only voice I could hear, and he sang from someplace so deep and full of joy, I thought he was an angel. And then I realized . . . he was.
Intermission arrived and someone asked if I was miserable having to sit next to the, “fat, black guy.” Be patient and breathe; I exhaled slowly and told her it was no problem at all in fact he had a beautiful voice that belonged on the stage. This was not the answer she was expecting, but it was an opportunity for me to practice patience.
The lights dimmed and the stranger returned. As he crushed me into Carolyn, he looked down into my eyes and said, “I’m sorry.” I said, “No worries. And by the way, you sing like an angel.” He beamed and act two got underway.