I work in a basement office. I process numbers, edit words, answer phone calls, attend meetings, monitor budgets. How different is that from any other office job?
Yes, my office is in the basement of Popejoy Hall. Just up the stairs are the doors where the public will enter over 100 times this year to see shows, to spend a few delightful hours, to escape the drear of their own jobs.
But selling tickets to shows is akin to selling air. The tickets are the only tangible element of what we offer. Some days it’s difficult to remember what makes our product attractive.
I suppose the customer requests we handle should provide a clue. This week someone asked permission to take a photo of a family member with the performers — during the show. We often get requests from young men to be allowed to ask girlfriends to marry them in some very public way. Most are willing to propose from their seats. Some want to do it from the stage, either before the show, at intermission, or right after curtain calls, brought up on stage by the cast. Every one of them wants, literally or otherwise, the spotlight on their moment and the glow that the stage imparts to their lives.
That certainly speaks to the specific nature of my job. Those opportunities aren’t available at everyone’s place of business, and I’m very glad these people are so enamored by our performances that they want to make them a very significant part of their lives.
I always want to say yes, but I have to remember that we don’t control the artistic content of the show. We are presenters, not producers, so we have to ask permission of the production du jour for anything that happens forward of the first row in our house. There's also the Pandora's box aspect of it all.
Such requests do speak to the joy people feel at a Popejoy performance. A friend of mine from high school contacted me again recently and asked if I still worked here. I said yes, that I was still selling smiles to New Mexicans. He thought that was a great way to put it. I had tossed the phrase off in my email to him, but he liked my serendipitous choice of words.
I've never referred to my job that way before. I reconsidered the words. All the repetitive tasks, all the paper that streams through my hands, all the little failures and frustrations began to take on new meaning. Day in and day out, no matter what the specific task, I sell smiles.
Bring on the paperwork.
Terry S. Davis
Photo credit: Katie Fisher Photography