WWYD – theatre situation

My friends were recently at the theatre for a concert – it was a treat for an upcoming birthday. They had bought tickets, and had really nice seats. They were looking forward to their evening out for weeks on end.

They got to the theatre early, scoped out their seats, and settled themselves. A little later a group of three older women entered their section and upon looking at their tickets, sat themselves next to my friends.

The lady that was sat right next to my friend was wearing a face mask. You know, one of those surgical masks that they all seem to wear in China and Japan. But this was a high class theatre and seemed out of place.

Various things ran through my friends’ heads. Is this woman sick and preventing herself from breathing her germs over everyone? Is she afraid that everyone will breathe on her? Or is she just being antisocial? Is it even appropriate for her to wear such a mask in the theatre?

My friends became increasingly uncomfortable and went and asked the usher if he could move them. He totally understood their discomfort and reseated them elsewhere.

So WWYD in the situation? Would it have made you uncomfortable to be sat next to someone in a facemask? Would you have spoken to the woman herself and found out why she was wearing a mask? Would you have done as my friends did and asked to be moved? Or would it not have bothered you one whit?

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11 Comments

  1. RubyV says:

    Your friend was pretty rude. There could be 101 reasons for the mask, and not a one is their business. I’m sorry, but they weren’t the only ones who paid for tickets – the woman with the mask did as well.

    When we caught a broadway show this Feb, there were a few people in masks. Ultimately, the theatre is a public place, and unless the person is really being disruptive (talking during the performance), you have to accept that not everything is in your control.

  2. lady lock and load says:

    I would have only have asked for a seat change if the woman had been coughing loudly and obviously sick. There are many reasons why she could have been wearing a face mask, wouldn’t have bothered me.
    What DOES bother me is people talking during a show or movie, or making noise with their cell phone…very disruptive.

  3. HillaryGayle says:

    As a nurse and a flawless people manipulator, I probably would’ve worked some magic to find out why she was wearing it, but no, I do not think I would have moved.

    If she wasn’t sick, she may have been overreacting to a perceived public health threat. If she was contagious, she was being polite protecting the other people in the theater. My bet says she was doing what I have seen MANY people do in the past: she was wearing the mask because of neutropenia. People with certain types of cancer may reach extremely low white blood cell counts & the common cold your friend may have been carrying could kill them. If they want to participate in public life, they must wear masks to keep those things out. My grandfather did in the last year of his life, and a woman who goes to my parents’ church does it right now. Keeps her healthy & involved without risking her life from things you & I would brush off.

    • mrsmelissasg says:

      Ditto.
      I would have assumed neutropenia and being a medical social worker may have tried to work it to get info, but more to be helpful and make her not feel more embarrassed, b/c she knows she looks funny wearing a mask!

      • HillaryGayle says:

        Exactly! Many people with obvious medical issues are suddenly MUCH more at ease when they’re in the presence of a smiling, accepting medical professional. :D I like being able to make people feel better outside the hospital as well as in. <3

        (Also HI! Yay Other Medical Professionals!)

  4. tesyaa says:

    More likely that the poor lady was herself undergoing chemotherapy or some other treatment that weakens her OWN immune system. I wouldn’t have asked to move.

  5. Otir says:

    My first reaction when I read that the friends move to other seats was dismay, and hope that they didn’t hurt the person’s feeling. There are lots of ways to be disruptive, but being perceived as a disruption because of what you wear, or how you look is disturbing to me. I agree that it was rude to move away without having been actually prevented from watching the play by anything else than their own discomfort at being overreacting.

    If the lady was behaving in a noisy or sick way she should have been the one to leave the premises, but it does not sound like this was the case.

    Unfortunately there are no mask to protect ourselves from other people’s scares and I am sorry for their losses. That was far from chessed.

  6. Mark says:

    Your friends need to take a trip to Asia someday. Lot’s of people wear face masks there for various reasons (disease, smog, etc).

    I say MYOB and don’t move. If a person is irresponsible and inconsiderate enough to come to a theater full of people while sick with a communicable disease, then they are very likely to also be inconsiderate enough to not wear a face mask. Therefore, you have no idea whether the person next to you is sick or not, in this case, you at least know that the person cares enough (or is ill enough) to wear a face mask. Or perhaps in their culture wearing a face mask isn’t something that concerns people.

    Reminds me about when I took my girls to see “Princess and the Frog” a few months ago. We sat down in the theater and some caretakers wheeled in 4 severely disabled/ill children in various styles of wheelchairs. All of them were attached to a bunch of monitoring systems and the caretakers took positions to the left, the right, and in the middle of the group of 4 kids. One or two of the kids even had what appeared to be “remote” monitors that one of the caretakers carried on his person. It became a brief learning experience for my girls as I explained to them how sick those kids were and that they required 24/7 monitoring, but that perhaps they also enjoy watching movies once in a while.

  7. mrsjessica says:

    I would definitely say that the most likely reason for the mask was a deficiency in her own immune system, rather than any threat she posed to your friends.

  8. RivkA says:

    I used to be suspect about people wearing masks, until my doctor recommended that I wear a mask when my kids were sick with the swine flu…. For the first time, I realized the mask was to protect me! It made me aware that most of the time, people wear masks to protect themselves. Someone who is sick (and contageous) is usually NOT out and about….

    It was very difficult, emotionally, for me to put on a mask; most of the time, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t put that barrier in between me and my kids.

    Thankfully, I did not catch the swine flu, though I did get sick…. oh well. My blood counts were fine and I got over it.

  9. Another view. . . says:

    Yes, it’s entirely possible that the person in the mask was dealing with neutropenia. But I have known people who have been sick but who also haven’t wanted to miss a show for which they’ve had tickets. However, it seems to me that the person in the mask also has a social responsibility to note and respond to the discomfort of others. A simple “Don’t worry. I’m not contagious.” would suffice quite nicely. And I don’t see your friends’ decision to quietly ask for another seat as a lack of chessed. In fact, it was a way to avoid embarrasing the woman while also feeling more comfortable during the performance. Just my two cents.

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