There is nothing worse than coughing during the middle of a classical music concert! It's the essence of impropriety. It can ruin all of your neighbors' enjoyment of the music. I came prepared though, with kleenex, 2 kinds of cough drops, plus a bottle of water. I'd taken a decongestant and 2 advil right before I left. I haven't been coughing a whole lot, mostly it's all been in my sinuses and ear, so I figured I'd be fine.
Alas, it was not to be. Shortly into the first piece, I felt a dreaded "throat tickle". I coughed once, trying to be rid of it. No luck, so one additional cough as I fumbled for my cough drops. I could feel the tickle taking over my throat. I frantically held the coughing in, as I fumbled with the cap on the bottle of water, trying to take a sip. Of course when you try to hold a cough in, try to keep it quiet, this just makes your need to cough ten times worse. At this point it was too late: my throat muscles had started making convulsive coughing motions, trying to struggle their way out of my mouth, and I couldn't even swallow.
I was covering my mouth, holding the coughs in, trying to be polite and stay quiet. But I was far past the Point of No Return, and it was clear that nothing but a loud prolonged hacking fit would make this go away. "I gotta go," I was barely able to whisper to my sister, who was with me. One hand covering my mouth, my face getting red, I gestured with my other hand to the girls seated to my right, trying to indicate my need to pass.
They eventually figured out what I needed and stood up. I stumbled down the stairs, holding my bag, heading for the nearest exit sign I could see. My throat was spasmming, trying to begin its very disruptive coughing fit. I somehow contained it: I had my hand over my mouth, and I could feel my face turning beet red while my eyes started watering. I was no longer capable of speech.
An Usher met me as I stumbled to the bottom of the stairs, looking for the exit. "Do you need help?", she softly asked me, grasping my elbow. I shook my head, gesturing to the exit. Another one silently pinwheeled her arms pointing me which direction to go. I started that direction, and more Ushers swarmed around, holding my elbows, waving coughdrops, and then they...well... I guess they ushered me out the door.
The door to the hall closed, and finally I could let loose the coughs that and been building and building in there! Ah, sweet relief. They pointed me to a water fountain, but I wasn't yet ready to drink or speak. I slumped on a window sill and hacked my lungs out, until that darn tickle was thoroughly gone. It took awhile, since I'd held it in so long. When I was through, my eyes were watering, my nose was running, my voice was raspy, and I still had to pause for several more coughs. A lovely sight to behold, I'm sure.
One of the nice ushers came by to make sure I was okay, and make conversation. Unfortunately since I'd just briefly destroyed my voice, keeping up my end was difficult. Also, all this chest and sinus excitement had fuzzed my brain, and I wasn't thinking very linearly.
He had given me a cough drop. I showed him how I had two different kinds here in my bag! "I tried to come prepared," I mourned. We discussed the advantages of the various cough drops. (His tasted like orange soda, I later discovered. Quite nice!) I told him that I hadn't been coughing that badly all day, and I don't know where the sudden fit came from.
He tried to tell me about something that had happened on the main floor last week, but I'm not sure if he finished the story or not. I got confused partway though. He asked me if I was sick, and I said I had a sinus infection. Then he said it was a good thing I wasn't feeling well, or he would make fun of me for... at the point I coughed, blew my nose, or just spaced out perhaps, because I don't know why he wanted to make fun of me. Like I said: my brain was all fuzzy. (I spent the rest of the concert occasionally wondering what he would have teased me about, had I not been ill.)
Then he told me that in the Hill Auditorium they have big bins of cough drops sitting out for people to take. This triggered a memory, and I said, "YOU used to have those, didn't you?" I looked around. "Not here, maybe on the main floor? Or by the bar?" He looked unconvinced, but he acknowledged that perhaps they'd done that awhile ago.
It wasn't until after the concert that I remembered: it was on my trip to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where I'd seen the bowls of cough drops. I wanted to go back and tell him, but he was surrounded by people, busily ushering them along.
It took me the rest of the Copland piece to truly recompose myself after that mess. I blew my nose several times, coughed several more times, Wiped the tears from my eyes. Finally drank a few times from the water fountain. Then I felt like my throat was still shaky, but nearly steady enough to try again. I told him, "I'm going in!" He sent me upstairs, so I could walk just a few steps down instead of a lot of steps up.
The elderly upstairs Usher was also very nice. "Are you feeling better?", he asked me, grasping my arm, and I could tell he really cared to know. I reassured him and thanked him, then he led me securely to my seat.
I made it through the next two pieces without further incident, although I made certain I always had a cough drop in my mouth and a water by my hand. Luckily the next two pieces were excellent, especially the guest cellist for the Brahms, which I enjoyed very much. At least I didn't miss the good stuff.
The last piece, the Rachmaninoff, was also good. I was pleased to noticed that the guest cellist had decided to join the orchestra for the one as well, just sitting in the back, turning pages for one of the usual DSO members. Kinda cool. I can just picture him saying excitedly, hands clasped together, "Oooh, you're doing Rachmaninoff? Can I play??"
All in all, a good concert, despite the initial excitement. I wore my schoolgirl boots and skirt, which everyone liked.