Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Finest Hour

I'm in my second year of ushering, and my first year of supervising ushers. I tend to think other usher supervisors know better than I do. In fact, I'm often fairly sure I don't have any idea what I should be doing.

But today, I rose to the occasion.

High school basketball tournaments operate by sessions, with two games in each session. The first game plays, then the winners of the first game are presented their medals or trophies or Denny's coupons or whatever it may be during the halftime of the second game. Often, this means that the arena-level student section of the winner of the first game empties en masse after halftime. This also means that the students for the current game, who are in the mezzanine because their student section sold out, see the mass exodus and move down, also en masse, to occupy the abandoned arena-level seats.

Are you with me so far?

So I'm working in the arena, and I get a call on the radio from the mezzanine seating supervisor warning me that School X is rushing down to occupy School Y's abandoned seats. We have no plans to do anything about it; they are occupying seats that no one will return to claim, and if they do return, we'll resolve individual conflicts as they come up.

So School X, who all hold tickets for seats upstairs, are now sitting downstairs. Everybody's happy, right? No. The people behind them, who have no particular affiliation to either school but have come to watch the entire tournament and who have no interest in standing and cheering, are unhappy that School X is now standing in front of them through the entire game.

So what are you gonna do? Ask basketball fans not to stand and cheer for their team? No. Policy is, you are entitled to stand and cheer in front of the seat you paid for if that's what you want to do. But a patron complains. I explain that I understand that his kids can't see, but it's a basketball game, people stand and cheer at basketball games. He persists. I offer to move him and his kids to a different section.

Other patrons complain. Suite holders complain. That tips the balance. Maybe it's not fair, but the squeaky wheel that paid the most money and knows the most people gets the best grease. There's talk on the house radios about moving School X back to their mezzanine seats. Supervisors hem and haw. No one's eager to jump into that mess. There's discussion on the radio of involving police. There's talk on the radio of involving school administrators.

Seeing the lack of desire to get involved among some of the more experienced supervisors, I think, OK, well let's just see what happens first. Before we bring in the cops and turn it into a whole thing, let's just see what happens if I ask them to sit down. So I did. I yelled the school's name into the crowd of 70 or 80 students a few times until I had a good number looking at me. There was a lot of noise. I put my arm straight out, with the hand open and the palm down, and I pushed it forcefully downward. "You can sit down," I yelled. Then I pointed with authority up to the mezzanine. "Or you can go back upstairs." I repeated this performance 3 more times.

Let me tell you, my friends, there was no one watching who was more surprised than I when the entire pack of kids sat down as one.

I tried not to let my surprise show on my face, as I thought it might undermine my authority in the crucial moment. One girl yelled back to make the other school sit down. I told her they paid for those seats, and they can stand in front of them if they want to. She said they paid for theirs. I asked for her ticket. She had nothing else to say.

And that was it. Crisis averted. Complaining patrons and suite holders satisfied. Inexperienced supervisor's confidence in himself boosted. It was a good night. I think if I didn't have my football supervising experience under my belt, I wouldn't have stepped up. I've learned to tell people "no," and to like it. I'm trying to remember that my instincts are as good as even more experienced supervisors, and that sometimes what matters most is decisive action.


anne said...

nice work - most times your first instinct is correct - good job!

Lisa L said...

good job mate...good job. i'm in awe that the kids actually listened and behaved.

Jennie said...

Go YOU! Impressive!!

She Said said...

Sa-weet! Nice job!

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