If life has ever been inexplicably cruel to you, God himself has forsaken your soul and you have run out of chocolate chip ice cream you may have found yourself watching a live snooker* match on television.
You will notice that the only thing more mind numbingly irritating than the game itself is the constant sound of people coughing and spluttering for no apparent reason. From the crescendo of phlegm hacking noise going on you get the impression that a particularly virulent strain of tuberculoses is laying waste to the population but instead of killing the afflicted, which might actually be helpful, it's just making them cough, almost constantly.
This wretched symphony of ill health is becoming ever more common in the theatre these days. Our collective, fuzzy memory here in TheLab™ remembers a time when you could attend a performance safe in the knowledge that the silent parts of a particular show would be just that, silent!
You can pretty much guarantee that when the music drops a little and a bit of dramatic tension is called for it will begin. It starts with one person, innocently clearing their throat of, what sounds like, a rusty bag of nails and that's your starter for ten. Like a wildfire in tissue factory it begins to spread as more and more perfectly healthy people try their damnedest to hack up one or both of their lungs.
It's not the disease the first person has that's infectious it's the coughing itself. The group cough is a disgusting form of "keep up with the Jones's" with retching noises and nasal mucus! (yikes! Ed!)
Let's be clear. If you're coughing like that because you can't help it then clearly you are sick, very sick so you have no business hanging around the general population making the rest of us sick and, more importantly, ruining the show. Stay at home or check yourself into a hospital because whatever you have, we don't want it and being doused in Dettol™ and bundled into the boot of a car is unpleasant at the best of times.
If you're coughing like that and there is nothing wrong with you then you're just sick in the head and you need to get out of the theatre because the rest of us are going to throw you under a bus.
We would urge all theatre goers to exhibit just a little bit of self control when you're in the company of others. If you think you might want to cough then buy a bottle of water and sip out of it for the duration of the show. Failing that, stick your head in a pillow, stop smoking or immediately refrain from doing whatever it is that's causing your permanent respiratory distress.
As for the sympathy coughing? We're listening and there are plenty of buses due!
*To our American friends. Snooker is a longer, more boring version of pool. It takes about four hours to play one "frame" and there are more rules than there are flavours of pasta sauce. Speaking is also frowned upon.