In one tin ear, out the other

We went to the symphony tonight. It was my own fault. It was my punishment for taking Sue to see “Talladega Nights,” the Will Ferrell comedy about NASCAR racing. For two endless hours I had to sit through the tortures of Beethoven, Bach and, well, that’s about the only two classical composers I can name off the top of my head.

It’s not that I have anything against Beethoven, but I’d rather go to a rap or heavy metal concert unarmed. I try to pay attention, honest I do. I try to appreciate it, but there’s something about classical music that makes me squirm and fidget.

I haven’t coughed in two months, but I will guarantee that whenever there is a soft, slow movement (and there are plenty of them) at this concert, the back of my throat will start to tickle and I will have to cough like a chain-smoker at breakfast. My nose will start to run, I will accidentally kick the back of the seat in front of me.

As the conductor walked out in his tails, I pictured him in his tighty-whities running around as if he were on fire like Ferrell does in “Talladega.” I figure it might keep my coughing under control. It did. But for some reason I felt a huge sneeze coming on. The music was building, building, building – OK, now.

Dead silence except for my giant honking sneeze. You know it’s bad when the conductor turns around and glares at you. Fortunately, someone’s cell phone went off on the other side of the hall before he could focus all his attention in on me.

I planned on making it up to the conductor by clapping extra hard at the end of the next piece. Except, when the time came, I was the only one clapping. Seems it wasn’t the end of the piece, just a pause. Everyone seemed to know that but me.

Why do they make going to the symphony such a chore? I didn’t have to get dressed up to see “Talladega Nights.” I wore what I had put on that morning, jeans and a T-shirt. For the concert I had to wear a suit. I feel so hot and uncomfortable. No wonder I never get dressed up. When was the last time I wore a suit. A funeral? A wedding? Wait, there’s something in the inside pocket. Sure enough, its a program from the last symphony concert Sue had dragged me to. I remember now. All Russians. Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Borodin.

I’m trying to think what I did to deserve that. Did I take her to a lawn tractor pull? Forget her birthday?

“Wasn’t that great?” she said as we left the concert hall. It’s a trick question, right? Do I tell the truth? Remember, it’s a sin to tell a lie.

“If only we could go every night,” I managed to get out without sounding too insincere. “No, that’d be too much,” she said. “Some nights we’d want to go to the ballet, other nights the opera.”

I would have wretched, but I hadn’t eaten anything all night. They don’t sell any snack food at the symphony. No curly fries, no nachos, no beer. No wonder they have trouble making ends meet. They should take a tip from NASCAR and the tractor pulls and start letting people buy entertaining food. I can’t think of a concert that couldn’t be improved by guys walking around selling hot dogs and peanuts. Cheerleaders might help, too. And it wouldn’t hurt to have a band play at intermission – a good one. I know it sounds crazy, but think about it, you never get any mail from NASCAR or the NFL begging for donations. You don’t think all those people show up just to watch a bunch of cars go around in a circle, do you?

I saw one of the violin players out in the parking lot walking to his car. I thought I’d say something nice so I shook his hand and said, “I thought you were the best one.” He just got in his car and left. Some people don’t know how to take a compliment.

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at

Copyright 2006, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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