Silence of the Fans vs. The Fandom Menace

The last time we were in Vegas, Joe and I went to see a show that had recently opened in the new Wynn Las Vegas hotel. Created by long-time Cirque du Soleil collaborator Franco Dragone, Le Rêve reminded me a lot of Cirque du Soleil shows I’d seen in the past except, surprisingly, the “plot” mostly made sense. The show consisted of various acrobatic tricks, diving stunts, people hanging from dangerous-looking apparatuses, and young buff men building human pyramids; in short, it was quite lovely. Unfortunately all this loveliness was somewhat marred by the behavior of a couple seated a few rows behind me. For some reason they found it necessary to whisper/talk throughout most of the show.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this happens to be a pet peeve of mine, although in some moods I am able to ignore the intrusion of noise and stay focused on what I’m watching. This wasn’t one of those nights. What made it more disturbing for me is that I knew how much I had paid to be there, and how much all those around me had similarly forked over for their tickets. Ultimately, because I wanted to relax and enjoy the show, I tried to see the situation from the other side. Maybe, I thought, some people can’t get full enjoyment out of something unless they can talk about it while it’s happening. Maybe, but unfortunately this behavior comes into direct conflict with what I need in order to enjoy a show: namely dead silence.

Later on, as I reflected on this conundrum, I realized that I feel the same way about intrusive noise as I do about second-hand smoke: that people are free to do what they want as long as they don’t interfere with the happiness or health of others. Just as patrons in a smoky bar cannot escape second-hand smoke, so second-hand noise is unavoidable for those who prefer quiet when watching a performance. Of course noise is rarely such a health hazard, although it has been known to raise its sufferers’ blood pressure to dangerous levels, and to unsettle their usual tranquil state of mind.

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