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The Red Jackets Of Carnegie Hall

Last week I went to my son Jake’s Carnegie Hall debut.

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I don’t have any pictures from during the performance because you’re not allowed to take pictures during the performance!!!

Now, I’ve been saying things like this (casually, oh so casually) for the past few months:

“Oh, sorry, I can’t – my son is playing Carnegie Hall that night.”

I was proud. I was excited.

The concert was three-and-a-half hours long.

When we got to Carnegie Hall we ran into Jake, who told us that his band was going on at about 10pm (the concert started at 7). We thought he was kidding. He was not. His band went on at 9:58.

At least I think they did. By that point I had lost the will to live and was slipping in and out of consciousness.

You know that old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

The answer is supposed to be “Practice, practice, practice!”

But the answer is actually “Be a NYC public school student who auditions for a band scheduled to play Carnegie Hall. No matter what they sound like, they will still be allowed on the stage.”

Ugh.

Anyway…

I had plenty of time to think of other things while waiting for Jake’s band to perform. And I spent a lot of time observing the ushers in the Carnegie Hall balcony.

They’re my new heroes. They have my dream job. They spend their time telling people to put away their cell phones. Omer and I now call it “being red-jacketed” – getting caught doing something that’s against the rules.

Sometime in the second hour we started nudging each other when we saw a red jacket on the move. And it wasn’t just cell phones: people got red-jacketed for placing things on the ledge at the front of the balcony, taking pictures and videos during the performance, and putting their feet up on the chair in front of them (!).

I’ve seen the red jackets in action before. I’ve taken Jake to two concerts at Carnegie Hall recently, and usually I see three or four people get red-jacketed during a performance.

But during the school performance? It happened every few minutes for three hours (I think they kind-of gave up in the last half hour).

What amazed me was that people – adults – couldn’t shut up and follow the rules. Yes, the concert was too long (why did Staten Island get to have FOUR bands, when Manhattan had one?!?). Yes, I was bored out of my mind. But you know what? So was Fiona, who is nine years old, and she managed to sit still and quiet for the entire thing without the aid of a cell phone or iPad.

Fiona read the entire program cover-to-cover. Twice. She closed her eyes. She conducted with her fingers (in a small-non-distracting way; when her movements got too big Omer put a hand on her arm and she stopped).

If she’d had a book with her I would have let her read it. Normally I would say that that’s disrespectful to the performers, but I think it’s disrespectful to make people sit through three-and-a-half hours of bad music, so in this case they cancel each other out. But the point is, she wouldn’t have been distracting anyone else.

If she can do it – this girl who otherwise never stops talking and moving – then so could every single grown-up in that audience.

And I’m so glad that the red jackets were there, to remind people about good behavior in public. I couldn’t care less if you actually pay attention to the music (or the play, or the movie, or whatever’s happening on stage). But I do care if you start distracting me.

If you can’t get through a few hours without looking at your cell phone, you have a problem.

If you’re not supposed to take pictures and you do, you have a problem.

If you’re not supposed to eat or drink in an historic concert hall and you do it anyway, you have a problem.

If you can’t wait until the clapping between songs to talk, you have a problem.

I wish the red jackets would follow me around to every performance of everything forever.

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