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Scott Barancik is lucky if the only “smell” problem he has in theaters is halitosis (“Tongue Beef,” 6/13). A far more common problem is a seat neighbor wearing perfume. Sometimes it is not very strong and I can avoid it by changing seats with my husband. Other times, there are empty seats nearby, and, as recently happened when I attended the Arena Stage with a friend who couldn’t sit next to my “neighbor” either, we moved to vacant seats. Others around her also moved to vacant seats, so she and her companion were sitting in their own little “island.” There was one time I was actually driven out of the theater when, after moving to a seat across the aisle, the extraordinarily-strong-perfume wearer visited my new “neighbor” during intermission and “contaminated” my new space for the rest of the evening. (It was a free performance so I couldn’t ask for a refund.) Generally, I just sit there sniffling, coughing, and even sneezing while the person who is making me sick gives me dirty looks for ruining her (sometimes his) performance.

This problem should be of interest to theater owners; I know it affects patrons other than me. I’ve reached the point where I rarely go to the theater unless I feel I can move around; e.g., open seating or standing room at the opera. I resent the idea of being forced to schedule around a “perfume-free” night. Just as all restaurants have “smoking” sections, fine restaurants will generally put people wearing strong perfume at a table that doesn’t interfere with other people’s smell and taste. Perhaps it’s time for the Kennedy Center and other “fine theaters” to establish “perfume” sections and leave the rest of us to enjoy the show in a healthy environment.

Barancik, however, did offer a solution. From now on, I will ask an usher for a different seat (at least as good as the one I paid for).

via the Internet