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Ask Ann Cannon: Farting theatergoer really stunk up a show, what should we have done?

Published May 3, 2017 12:03 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dear Ann Cannon • During the intermission of a recent performance of "The Lion King," the 20-something man sitting in front of us passed gas. It was bad. Hold-your-nose bad. So I said, "Something or someone stinks" loud enough for the offender to hear. The father (I assume) whispered something to the young man, who began laughing silently so hard that his shoulders shook.

You'd think that would take care of the problem, right? But no. The lights dimmed. Act two began. And he farted again. And again. And again.

Our experience was ruined. We left our seats and stood at the back of the house to watch the rest of the play. My question is this: Is there a person at the theater whose job it is to take care of this kind of offensive behavior from an audience member? Or should we have confronted this person ourselves?

— Well Now THAT Really Stunk

Dear Well Now • Your question reminds me of the time a guy sitting right next to me on a flight from SLC to New York quietly passed gas as he slept. Which was for most of the trip. It didn't occur to me that I had any options except to hang my head out in the aisle and hate my life for the next five hours.

Here's the deal. If your remark at intermission, which the young man and his father clearly heard, didn't shut him down, I doubt confronting him directly would have, either. Meanwhile, I reached out to friends who are involved in the theater to ask how problems like the one you've described can be dealt with. The general consensus was that if the behavior of another audience member crosses the line, you should let the house manager know. These individuals have experience in dealing with such situations politely and discreetly. Michael McCurdy, managing director of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, does point out that unless a problem is clear-cut (a crying baby, for example), mediation can be tricky. Heavy perfume is a common complaint. But, he says, it's important to remember that "the offending party has spent as much money as the offended to be in the theater. Usually we handle these situations by moving the offended — if possible — not necessarily pointing out the offense to the offending."

Meanwhile, people, let's all recommit to keeping our smells to ourselves, shall we?

Dear Ann Cannon • How do I tell my new boyfriend that his table manners are atrocious? I love everything about this super cute guy — he picks up after himself, likes his mom, roots for the right teams, loves to read, lets me rant about politics, eats anything I cook (and I'm not a good cook). But he eats like a pig — a loud, sloppy one. I'm mortified.

— Mortified

Dear Mortified • How new is "new"? If the relationship is just getting started, I'd give things a little time. Maybe his bad table manners will end up being a deal breaker for you. Or maybe you won't notice them anymore.

If the relationship progresses and his table manners still bother you, then you can bring up the subject. Old married couples do this with each other all the time.

Dear Ann Cannon • My grandmother didn't give me a birthday present this year. It's not that I necessarily expect a present from her, but I was surprised. When I mentioned this to my mom, she said my grandmother has decided to stop giving gifts to the grandkids who don't write her thank-you notes. This seems like a heavy-handed way to make a point. What do you think?

— Gift-less

Dear Gift-less • I think your grandmother is doing you a big favor, is what I think. Formal thank-you notes are not as de rigueur as they once were, which is a shame. To paraphrase Shakespeare, a thank-you note blesses twice: the recipient, who feels appreciated, and the sender, who has a chance to once again reflect upon the generosity of others. Write your grandmother a thank-you note.

Do you have a question for Ann? Send it to askann@sltrib.com or visit the Ask Ann Cannon page on Facebook.






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