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The Seat Thief

Bad Behavior at the Movies


This column usually focuses on significant ethical dilemmas that many of us have faced for which there are no clear-cut answers.

Not today folks.

I want to call out specific conduct, maybe not unethical in the sense of life and death issues, but it certainly is ruining one of our pleasurable experiences.

Ben Bycel

Blogger and movie critic Matt Singer (screencrush.com) laid it out: “ I always loved going to the movies. Now more and more I hate going to a movie theater. What happened to the movie theater as haven, a refuge from the problems of the outside world?”

Last Saturday night, as the lights were just dimming in the Riviera movie theater, I sat down in one of the few seats left in the jam-packed theater. I picked an aisle seat, which accommodates my long legs far better than the other cramped seats in the ancient movie house. When I sat down, I felt a lump under me. As I reached down to pick up what I realized was a purse, the person seating right behind me tapped me on the shoulder.

“Excuse me, that’s my purse.” As I started to hand it back to her, she put her hand up.

“Could you not sit in that seat? I am saving it for my grandmother who will be here soon.”

No way was I going to snatch Grandma’s seat.

“Sure no problem.”

I moved with my significant other to the second and third seats in the row, leaving Grandma’s seat vacant.

The coming attractions, which seem to grow in number each week, came and went, as did the movie title, and the opening credits.

Grandma was still a no show. About 15 minutes into the movie, I decided I would move to the more comfortable aisle seat. I whispered to the owner of the purse, who I was now thinking of as “The Seat Thief,” that I would put her purse in my old seat. If Grandma showed up, I’d vacate the seat, I said.

Now the Seat Thief’s story quickly changed.

“I can’t see if you sit there, ” she said as she grabbed her purse from me. “ Can you just move?” Now her tone was nasty.

A quiet evening at the movies had turned into a showdown at the OK Corral.

“No, I’m not moving until Grandma shows up,” I said as I folded myself into the more comfortable seat.

The woman said something under her breath as she climbed over her friend to another seat.

You guessed it. Grandma was a no show. Probably stuck in one of those traffic jams on APS.

This behavior of keeping a seat in front of you vacant at the movies for “Grandma” is just one of a number of rude behaviors that seem to occur with more frequency these days at the movies, a pastime that has become “sometimes more stressful in real life, “ said movie critic Singer.

I checked the Internet for “movie theater etiquette” and found at least a dozen sites devoted to what not to do in movie theaters. I may be a cranky old guy, but I’m not alone out there. There are a lot of angry moviegoers out there taking their frustrations to the Internet.

One top complaint was about the old “Grandma will be here any minute story” to keep the seat in front of you unoccupied. Genuine seat saving, however, is okay

Some of the other no-nos that made every list were:

• Turn off cell phones. Don’t even keep them on vibrate.

• Don’t put your feet up on the seat in front of you unless there are four or five vacant seats in front of you.

• Don’t sleep in the theater if your snoring sounds like a motorcycle revving up. (I may have done this a few times. Enter my guilty plea.)

• Don’t throw garbage on the floor. Where else outside a move theater would anyone think that was acceptable?

• Don’t give a running commentary (especially a loud one) on the film, i.e., “Here comes the part where he kills her” or “He’ll never get off the airplane.”

• Don’t kick the seat in front of you.

• If you have a hacking cough, stay home.

• My favorite from Talk Amongst Yourselves: Don’t be a butt thumper. “You have to pee? Your kid has to pee? You have to get more soda? You have to get popcorn? That’s nice. Do it in one trip … because no one has paid to see the butt thumper’s hiney as they pass you for the dozenth time on yet another pee run.”

If the Seat Thief from last Saturday night is reading this column and wants to make amends for her rude behavior, don’t apologize to me. Instead, take 10 grandmas and grandpas to the movies.

Not X-rated, of course.



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