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Any Seat Will Do

Kenyon Sayler

WHEN OUR CHILDREN were little, we had season tickets to the Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis. We started taking our older child, and then brought his brother along when he was old enough to enjoy the show. We had tickets in the front row of the balcony.

Before my youngest son’s first show, he looked over the balcony railing at all of the people below. He asked why we were clear up here, when there were all of those people below us. My oldest son told him in a conspiratorial whisper that it was “because Mom and Dad are cheap.”

I reminded them that, while we may be cheap, they were here at the show. In my defense, I believe that, in many venues, the first row of the balcony is one of the better seats in the house.

For several years, we held season tickets to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Our seats were in the second balcony. But as I’ve gotten older and our finances have become more secure, I find that my ticket purchasing has become a bit less thrifty.

For instance, a friend is coming to town and we’re going to a Twins game. We’re sitting in the seventh row behind home plate. Similarly, when Manhattan Transfer was doing one of its last concerts, the venue was the Dakota, an intimate jazz club. My wife and I secured a booth right in front of the stage. Meanwhile, we took my mother to the touring production of Hello Dolly. We were in the first row of the main floor. My mother’s smile while watching the show made the price of the tickets immaterial.

I still can’t bring myself to pay for tickets on the 50-yard line when Purdue, my alma mater, comes to town. But I’m closer to the 40-yard line than the end zone, which is where I watched the games when I was younger.

I justify all of this by citing the research that says we’re happier when we spend money on experiences rather than things. Still, I’m not 100% sure that you get more happiness by sitting in the front row rather than the cheap seats.

For many years, my father-in-law had season tickets to the University of Minnesota’s Gophers basketball games. He would take me to the game when the Gophers played Purdue. His tickets were literally the very last row of the highest section, behind the basket. I have wonderful memories of those games.

I’m not sure we could have enjoyed the games any more than we did—which means that perhaps I’m wasting money buying more expensive seats. What I do know for sure: It would be a shame to miss building those memories with the people you love and care about—and you should go even if you can’t afford the best seats.

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