Ever since I wrote about the theatergoers who were put out of their seats when somebody else showed up with their tickets, I have been hearing from readers, some of them lawyers.
The lawyers tend to dwell on the assertion that one who is put out of seats he paid for can sue for breach of contract. Most of the letters from laymen started off. "The same thing happened to me," and described the various ways in which various theater managers handled the situation.
From Lewisburg, Pa., Alvin S. Wagner wrote, "The same thing happened to my wife and me when we lived in Washington. When we were taken to the manager's office, he sympathized with our predicament and found two other seats for us.
"In answer to your question about where the other fellow got the tickets, I discussed this with the manager afterward. He guessed that the tickets had been taken from the mails. Thereafter, they could have been returned to the box office for a 'refund,' and then sold to a new and unsuspecting customer. Or they could have been sold or given to an unsuspecting person by the one who intercepted them from the mails. I do believe the theater made a mistake in sending out tickets in envelopes marked 'National Theater' instead of in plain envelopes."
A letter from Col. Donald C. Odegard of Carlisle Barracks, Pa., offers another variation on this theme. "Some 10 years ago in Salt Lake City," he wrote, "my wife and I and two other couples bought tickets to a hit production. On the night of the show, we met at the theater about 15 minutes ahead of time. The couple that had the center pair of tickets announced that they had inadvertently left their tickets at home on the kitchen table.
"We told the theater manager about our problem and showed him that we had tickets for the two seats on either side of the seats for which the tickets were missing, so he said all right, we could all be seated.
"But just as the show was about to start, in walked a couple with tickets for the two center seats.
"It couldn't be. But there they were.
"So the usher seated the newcomers and asked our friends to accompany him to the manager's office. Our friends were so convincing that the manager sent an usher to examine the tickets presented by the other couple, and this was done. The row was right. The seat number was right. The date was right. There was no mistake.
"The manager was thoroughly bewildered. So were our friends. They called their children at home and asked whether the tickets were still on the kitchen table. They were!
"Again the manager examined the other couple's tickets, this time in better light. And this time he noticed that there was a slight difference in color between these tickets and the tickets his theater sold. It quickly developed that the other couple had bought tickets to a different show that was playing in a theater around the corner."