She signs herself "A 37-Year-Old Who Longs for the Good Old Days." Boy, oh, boy, does she have reason to long.
Ms. 37 and a friend attended the Bruce Springsteen concert a few weeks ago at MCI Center. Ticket prices would cause lumps to form in even the hardiest throat. We're talking more than $100 apiece for much of the house.
My correspondent says she was "very excited" because she expected the same electricity that surrounded Springsteen concerts of 20 years ago. Instead, she got middle-aged self-absorption.
"During every lull, every slow song, every quiet moment, I realized that everyone around us was talking!" Ms. 37 writes.
"During a sensual sax/harmonica duet -- chat, chat, chat. During a lazy acoustic rendition -- blah, blah, blah. And do you know what these people were talking about? Was it, `Yeah, when I was younger, I used to follow the E Street Band up and down the coast,' or maybe `I can't believe we got tickets?'
"No, Bob, they were all talking about work! Their jobs!"
Milady knows that "this is Washington, D.C., and I'm very aware that the average age of the Springsteen fan there was [an ever-so-career-oriented] 35-45." Still, she thinks the chatter was way out of bounds. She asks what I "make of this behavior."
Ms. 37 doesn't say whether she complained to an usher. If she didn't, she should have. MCI doesn't want to get a reputation as moron- friendly. It wants 37-year-olds to show up, time and again.
Nor do I know if Ms. 37 complained directly to any of the chatterers. Yes, that can make a bad situation worse, especially if the chatterer has ingested large amounts of alcohol and feels atop the world. But you can start off slowly with most morons.
Don't threaten them with citizen's arrest. Just say: "Hey, I spent a whole lot of money for these tickets. Would you please be quiet?" If they refuse, find an usher, even if it might seem like a wimpy way not to fight your own battles.
Better yet, MCI could provide a special room for chatterers who can't stop, even when The Boss is being boss. Lock them all up and let them network to their hearts' content. MCI could even provide laptops so conversationally challenged Web-heads can e-mail each other. But please, MCI, get them off the showroom floor.
By the way, I haven't been to a concert in about four years, for similar reasons. Like Ms. 37, I had been looking forward tremendously to hearing Bonnie Raitt at Wolf Trap. My wife and I got seats. Lovely summer night. Great artist. What could go wrong?
What could go wrong was being seated next to a pair of lovebirds.
Here was Bonnie, spilling her musical guts (as only she can) about bitterness and betrayal. That needs a certain mood. But here were the lovebirds, smooching, sighing, pawing as if they were teenagers on a movie date.
No, I didn't take my own advice and say anything to them. Nor did I summon an usher; I might have missed "Love Has No Pride." But I haven't been to a concert since that night. That's my loss -- but it's Wolf Trap's, too.
Meanwhile, in Beltsville, a story of how to do it right.
Gregory Martin is a commander in the Navy. A few months ago, he was scheduled to do some business on the West Coast. The Navy being the Navy, Gregory would be expected to wear his all-white Navy uniform.
Gregory owns several sets of "whites," but one fit especially well. It was the one he planned to take when he left the next day.
Alas, while packing, "I discovered a black grease stain about the size of a dime on the front of the trousers. No way to hide it," Gregory writes.
He tried two nearby cleaners. Neither could oust the spot for three days. Time was running out when Gregory noticed a third place -- Nu Look Cleaners, on Powder Mill Road.
"A big fellow who looked more at home on a Harley than over a steam press took my pants, worked a little chemical magic on the stain, gave them a crisp press and handed back to me what looked like a brand new pair of pants," Gregory reports. "He wouldn't take any money.
"Three times I asked (and pleaded) to pay for the service -- getting those pants cleaned was that important. He just smiled and sent me on my way."
Mr. Harley turns out to be owner George Stratigis. He has run Nu Look for the last 13 years. He bought the place from his father, Gus, who opened it in 1967.
"It was an easy spot to get out," George said. "I try to do a lot for those in the military." For example, if a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars brings in an American flag, George will clean it free.
"I try to cut some slack for the military," he said. "They do a lot for us, and I feel obliged to them. It's how I was brought up."
Gus Stratigis confirmed that his son "does that sometimes for good friends and good customers." But he added, "He couldn't make a living doing it all the time!"
With all due respect to Gus, his son couldn't make a living without doing it all the time. What makes one cleaner different from others? Precisely this sort of service and attitude.
Gregory Martin proves the point. He thanked George profusely on Spot Day. But he continues "to thank them with my business."