Summer's gone, and so is the chance to sit under the stars and hear the big names in pop music at Merriweather Post Pavilion. If your eardrums insist on getting assaulted by live rock, it'll have to happen indoors, at the Capital Centre, at least until next June.
But Jane Dean of Northwest says ta-ta to Merriweather Post, and a lot of words less printable, next summer and any summer. When you hear how she was mistreated by a computer this past July, you won't be surprised.
Jane wanted two seats to a concert at MPP by something called Santana. That used to be a tennis player with a heck of a backhand. Now it's a rock band. They call this progress.
Anyway, innocent as a lamb, Jane buzzed into the local Ticketron outlet and asked for the two best tickets available.
The woman on duty punched up the computer. Bleat. Whir. Out came two seats "whose location we did not like." They were on the far right, about halfway back. Jane wanted to be closer to the center. So she asked the attendant to try again.
"The girl then said she couldn't do that. The only set of two seats that we could buy at that moment were those two. In other words, we'd have to time our purchase exactly to get in the center section. . . .
"It isn't that there weren't empty seats in the center, because when we then checked to see if there were a set of seats for four, something came up in the section we desired. However, the girl said we would have had to buy four tickets."
Jane's question: if four seats were available in the center section, why couldn't the computer have sold her two of those four?
The Ticketron system is "programmed in the best selling manner," explained Ed Dougherty, Ticketron manager for the Baltimore-Washington area. Translation: based on Ticketron's experience with the hall, the computer will draw out the best seats available in the section and price range specified by the customer.
But what's with this "window" during which the computer could only sell Jane seats she didn't want?
"There are 32 agencies in the Washington area, all of whom might be making inquiry at the same time" for a particular performance, Dougherty said. Each computer operator can hold a block of tickets for consideration by her customer for as much as four minutes.
Therefore, for those four minutes, those seats are unavailable, Dougherty said. That's apparently why no center seats were available when Jane first asked, but four were available only minutes later.
Why couldn't Jane's computer operator have sold her two of those four seats in the center section? She could have, Dougherty said. She made a mistake. "If there were four available, then certainly two of those four were available," Dougherty said.
But it's all too late for Jane Dean. As she says, "You and I both know that at such places as the Kennedy Center, patrons are able to choose their seats."
Sorry you got stonewalled by the computer and its operator, Jane. But if that's what it takes to get you away from Santana and onto Sibelius, it might be a blessing in disguise.