Sofie and Carlo, the two interns working for this renowned festival somewhere in Europe, are also facing times of uncertainty.
“All audience members are wonderful,” Sofie intoned to herself again and again like a meditation mantra. She walked round and round her bedroom. “All audience members are wonderful. I mean it. I really mean it.” She glared at her phone.
Ever since fierce Oxana, the General Manager, the week before had given her the job of dealing with the public during the virus crisis she had come to hate the festival's ticket holders, sponsors and so-called 'friends' in equal measure. She had also come to have new respect (though not much more liking) for her flatmate, Inez, who had been doing the same job for the city's airport for well over a month.
She had been shouted at, pleaded with, threatened with being fired (sponsors would withdraw unless she was) and verbally abused about once per hour. She had been explaining, gently, that the festival had not been cancelled or postponed as there were still nine weeks to go and things might well have changed by then. Therefore she could not arrange an instant refund of ticket money. If the new practice of antisocial distancing was enforced by the authorities, then ticket holders would be given choices at that stage.
Sponsors seemed not be be worried about tickets. They just wanted their money back because they had less of it than they expected – and there was no point promoting themselves at a festival with no rich people going to it. And how could they enjoy pre-concert Champagne two metres away from the guests they were trying to impress?
Sofie was just there to state Oxana's position, she knew that. Moreover, she was not getting paid to be given a hard time – or paid at all, for that matter; at least not enough to interest any tax inspector. Once more the phone buzzed and Sofie's heart sank. Who this time, she thought, and diffidently pushed the button.
“Hi, my name is Carlo. I have to go to several events and I want to know if...”
“Oh, get lost!” yelled Sofie and cut him off.
Seconds later the Skype tone on her laptop sounded. Guess who. Sofie was tempted to ignore him and it but the ring was replaced by the incoming message noise which Sofie knew would not shut up until she told it to.
The written message from Carlo was very unlike him. “Sorry, bad joke perhaps? In fact I was calling with good news.”
Sofie grunted, went to the fridge a collected a bottle of chilled water. Good news from Carlo was as unlikely as her water turning into white wine, she thought, but she might as well hear it. She turned back to the computer and pressed the video icon.
Carlo answered quickly and Sofie decided she was seeing more of him than she wanted. He was dressed only in a pair of lemon-yellow shorts. Either his flat was warmer than hers or he saw no need to dress when he was at home.
“So what's the good news, or is that another of your brilliant jokes?”
“No, Sofie bella, I mean it. This crazy sponsor has called me, at least he called Oxana and she made me deal with it. She thought he was going to pull out all his money like the others.”
“He was doing the opposite. He said we must be worried. He had been to some concerts in the festival last summer and had enjoyed himself, more or less. He has a company making plastics that they use for medical gowns so, unlike everyone else, he is doing very well at the moment. He wants to underwrite half the festival costs but he told me to call you first.”
“Amazing, but why call me?”
“It seems you were very nice to him at a concert, or his wife, or something. But he will only give Oxana the money if you are still working here and will accept a presentation during an interval reception.” Carlo chuckled. “Imagine Oxana's face if you say no.”