Experience Meets Inconvenience & Interpretations

Dave reflects on his box office experience, uncertainties of communication, and the advantage of a Duke School education.

I’m the first to admit it—I am not a fan of Ticketmaster. I certainly appreciate that they make it easier for me to buy tickets, yet I find their fees exorbitant. My frustration came to a boil on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when I tried to buy four tickets to The Second City. Unbelievably (to me), the fees were more than the cost of a ticket (I could buy four and have paid for a fifth—yikes!).
 
To avoid such fees, I committed to go to the box office and purchase the fee-free tickets there. I headed down to the Carolina Theater on that cold, wet and windy Wednesday. I was shocked to see the three lines—all 20 people deep at the normally sleepy box office; reluctantly (and remembering my abhorrence of Ticketmaster), I vowed to wait and buy my tickets. Time ticked slowly by, as it is wont to do in line, as I inched forward. After about 15 minutes of waiting, a ticket agent announced, “All sold out. All shows!”
 
I watched the crowd disperse and found myself confused and alone at the theater. I was just on the Ticketmaster site and there were plenty of seats available for The Second City. I could think of no reason for a last-minute run (though people were starting their holiday shopping). I hesitantly approached the ticket window and tried to clarify that all shows were sold out. I was assured they were. Desperately, I whined, “So I can’t get tickets to Second City?”
 
The agent’s dour expression instantly brightened, and he said, “Sure you can.” The confusion must have been written all over my face. The agent explained that everyone else was in line for Dave Chappelle tickets which had gone on sale 20 minutes before I arrived and now all three Dave Chappelle shows were sold out.
 
Happily, I got my tickets with no “convenience fee” and went home tired, wet, but victorious.
 
On my way home, I contemplated on the vagaries and uncertainties of communication. I asked a question about all shows, in my mind including The Second City, and the clerk trying to be helpful answered the question about all shows limiting his universe to Dave Chappelle. That made sense from his perspective as everyone in line, except me, was there for Chappelle tickets.
 
How often in life does that happen? We are sure we are being clear with our question, but the person we are talking to hears a different question. We may believe we are explicit in our explanation, but somehow it is misinterpreted. This is not caused by malice but by the assumptions people naturally and inevitably make.
 
This part of human nature challenges educators. Teachers cannot simply say something and always expect students to understand. Students bring assumptions and preconceptions that may color what teachers are trying to communicate. As the quotation under my email signature states, “You see things as you are, not as they are.”
 
One of the many advantages of Duke School’s hands-on education is that students get to experience what they are learning rather than just hearing about it. Students are more likely to interpret experiences in a more objective way. They see as well as hear what we want them to learn. This experience makes the lesson more comprehensible as well as creating longer-lasting learning. Deeper and better learning sounds as good as avoiding ticket fees.
 
What could be clearer?
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