Why Does Everyone Wait to Cough in Between Symphony Sections at the Concert Hall?

It’s time for a night of Chopin and Beethoven. Excitedly, the day is spent with the bangs of a concerto in your head, footsteps in sync to imaginary drums, and fingers moving in the motions of a maestro conducting your ramen noodles to boil in the microwave. You’re dressed with the fanciest items in your closet and it looks as if you’re going to have dinner with the most important people in history, like the cast of Will and Grace or the Pope. As you head to the symphony, you feel a tickle in your throat and a pang of guilt in your chest. There’s no way to back out now, not when you’re dressed in a tux and cufflinks. Cufflinks for Pete’s sake! You drop by a convenience store, pick up some lozenges and continue to the concert hall. You sit confidently and feel like this may not be as bad as you thought it would be. You think, “I freaked out for nothing. It’s better to have the lozenges and not need them, than to need them and not have them”.

The conductor steps up, turns around, lifts his baton and conducts what is the most beautiful barrage of coughs to have ever come out of your mouth. The boom of the percussions mask your societally unacceptable act and you close your mouth. Woven like a dam over your lips your fingers are interlaced, holding back waves of coughing fits. The waves seek an escape and find salvation northward in your eyes, your lids well up with pools of misdirected tears and your throat up for a scratch.

Face red and throat under siege, you’re transported back to middle school. The conductor is your teacher, the orchestra your classmates and you are seated in the midst of a presentation. You’re told to stay quiet, be polite and not to interrupt. The coughs come closer together and tougher in strength. Just when you feel like you can’t hold it in any longer, there’s a shift in the sections, a lull in the presentation, a window with your name on it and you and about a dozen others cough loudly. Relief washes over you with the thought that you aren’t alone and you pop in a lozenge to quell the oncoming storm. The night has been saved by a loophole and a band of coughing cohorts.

We’re taught to always look both ways before crossing the street, say please and thank you, and raise our hands to speak. It’s something we can’t help and something we strive to change. However, events and places like the symphony are reserved for such decorum and restraint and that’s okay. Just settle in, pop a lozenge and wait with your wheezing fellows; the window will open.

Illustration: Arina Shabanova

Win A Tee

Join thousands of New Yorkers who subscribe to my weekly culture newsletter for your chance to win.
No spam, just culture