We just returned from a night at the local renovated opera house. There we saw a much-anticipated national comedian who delivered a wonderful show that was everything we hoped it would be …however (you knew that was coming).

Ten minutes into the main act an aroma that can best be described as late-season-bottom of the-gym-locker-sweat-soaked-sneaker announced itself. It was so strong I missed the punch line of one of the performer’s best efforts. There were three young men sitting behind us, but the angle was wrong. Unless one of them played in the NBA and had managed to get his feet under our seats and to the right, they were not the source.

Fifteen minutes into the act, the smell got stronger and into my peripheral vision crept two tiny feet, wrapped in black woolen stockings and resting on the ledge of the balcony wall in front of me. Such petite tarsals and metatarsals belonged in fairy tales, being proffered to princes or daintily traipsing across mud-sodden cloaks. They should not however have come equipped with the ability to tan the very leather that should have encased them. I unwrapped a mint and with the help of Lifesavers, was able to regain my focus on the show.

That was until the knee massage began. At first I thought the woman was compensating for the tight quarters and restrained joints. Then I realized that the hand in circular motion on her left knee was not her own, but rather belonged to her companion seated to her right. This hand moved to a beat heard only by its owner, one of those few gifted percussionists who could channel Ricky Ricardo. I did my best to keep my eyes front, on the man I had shelled out hard-earned cash to watch, but the show on my right was as compelling as a car crash. When the hand slipped from the knee to regions south, I had to raise my own and use it as a blinder.

The director of our local arts association is often quoted on the benefits of live theater; how it builds community, breaks down barriers, and gives one with a sense of life beyond one’s own. The next time I see Jim, I’m going to let him know some barriers especially those in the community of the audience need to stay unbroken.

And to my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Balcony One, Row A, Seats One and Two, kids: get some foot powder and a room.

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