Sunday, September 14, 2008

I will slay you with my kindness (and then feast on your heart)

Some friends and I went to see a movie this weekend and, because of the crowds, we had a minor kuffufle with saving seats.

The saving of seats is a tricky business, fending off an increasingly disgruntled pack of ticket holders - their frustration levels rising in direct proportion to the countdown before the lights dim. They approach, pointing to the guarded seat:

"Anyone sitting there?"

"Yes...they are." I touch the items I have laid out to signify that a warm body is indeed sitting next to me.

(When holding a seat for a friend, most people will just stick their backpack or jacket on the seat next to them. I say this is inadequate. Anyone with a modicum of deductive reasoning can see that it is you and you alone who are taking up two or more seats....and in the back of their mind they are thinking "Well, your friend's not HERE. I'm Here. My Date's here. What if your so called friend doesn't show? Are you SURE they're coming?" If I am waiting on someone who has yet to arrive, I like to arrange a few belongings on the seat next to me to make it appear as though my guest has just stepped away to the bathroom or to pick up some popcorn. A backpack and a scarf and a jacket. A jacket and an umbrella and the Border's shopping bag. Tell a story about your friend with the items you place. You will get fewer looks of disdain.

And yes. I am fully aware of my obsessive nature, thank you for asking.)

The patron eyes the seat, sniffs in my direction and discusses his findings with his companion(s). His discontent is plain and he has no problem showing me that I am the source. Then, within moments his companion spies an opportunity elsewhere and they scurry towards it.

Rewind, repeat. The entire exchange takes about 20 seconds.

If you arrive early and your entire party is with you, you don't have to suffer this ritual. You can sit in your comfy-right-in-the-middle/front-area-that-has-the-bar-if-you-are-in-stadium-seating-so-you-can-prop-your-feet-up seats and watch with godlike pity as the poor late mortals have to beg strangers to sit together.

Needless to say, our party was not in god-seat position. We weren't late, but had missed the initial surge of humanity through the doors at 6:15. We found ourselves closer to the front and and more towards the aisle than I think any of us would've liked, but our place wasn't terrible.

One of us was running behind (which is not surprising considering the rain/flooding. I was shocked she made it at all.) and so, the four of us saved a seat at the end. (Saving one seat is really nothing. Saving five is untenable and you should consider getting a new set of friends if this is requested of you) We placed a few belongings on the seat.

As the room filled, we were asked over and over if the seat was taken. The answer was yes. My resolve was solid. Then came a phone call from our friend that there was a chance she might not make it. My certainty wavered a bit.

Then, a biggish, pulpy, angry looking fellow stomped over. He pointed.

"Is someone sitting here?"

I hesitated. "Um..."

"Is. SOMEONE. Sitting. Here."

The sudden and disproportionate anger with which he said this took me aback and I muttered, "Yeah.. I think..."

The fellow sitting next to me, P., leaned over and with a little force said. "Yes. Yes. The one on the end, no one is sitting there. But this one. THIS ONE is taken."

The man bristled at P.'s tone.

"OKAY then." and he skulked up one step...where he and his partner sat right behind us.


The minutes dragged on. I could hear the man behind us griping about how he wanted to sit on the END. Finally, the lights dimmed and I was sure our girl in the field would not make it. In the darkness, a couple came up and the woman leaned in, pointing to the array of personal belongings.

"Is this seat taken?"

I conferred with P. At this point all bets were off. I didn't think she was coming.

"No...uh...go ahead." I removed the stuff.

I could almost feel the steam shooting out of the man's ears. In a hot whisper he said. "I THOUGH NO ONE WAS SITTING THERE."

To be honest, I kinda felt bad. But not that bad. After our initial contact, I was certain, that I didn't want to sit next to him. I turned around and in a quiet, gentle whisper I said:

"Sir, I apologize. I thought our friend was coming and I don't think she is. I apologize."

I turned around...pleased that I had taken the high road on this one, and secure in the fact that what I had said was sincere. Then it came.

"Yeah (Snort) right."

It was the snort that did it. I spun around and in a stern half whisper/half yell I said:


I held my gaze at him for a second. He looked away.

This whole exchange really took me off guard. I'm not one to snap at people, and I felt kind of like a dick afterwards.

The whole incident (if you can call it that) seems to be part growing sense of anguish, this idea that other people are merely out to get you...or worse, here to ignore you.

I get aggravated at what appears to be a willful thoughtlessness, the Decartes-ish "If I don't look at you, you don't exist." I have my own outbursts, when I feel marginalized on whatever level. But this lumpy man's anger, his instant rage at what occurred between us, I believe, springs from a real sense of hopelessness and isolation. "Why not turn on her? She's got plenty of friends and I have nothing, no one listens to me, and I'll never have anything, my job sucks, I feel lonely and unattractive, and stupid and CAN'T I JUST HAVE THE SEAT I WANT AT THE GODDAM MOVIES?!?"

What turns this kind of thinking into a a lump of cancer, is that it can only find expression in the small gaskets of public life. In line at Walgreen's, at the Movies...the pressure builds and regardless of the situation, it sprays out, like someone shook up a Coke.

At the end of the day, is that satisfying? More and more it looks like we're so terrified of expressing or being the recipient of negative emotion that it gets bottled up, and then you get the itching sensation that no matter what you do, other people are never going to cut you a break, nor to they care. And in some instances, this might be true. The amazing thing is how people respond when you DO say something.

I find myself, more and more unable to ignore other people. If someone is crying out for a response, I am more apt to give it to them, for good or ill. And, much to my surprise, it is a strange sort of release. I kinda feel like a dick (like with this guy.), but at least I said something...right there, in the moment, instead of bottling it up, packing it down inside me until it turns into a gall stone the size of a walnut.

I'm not advocating telling the world off. You will get dead if you do that. But an actual sincere response, right at the time of the event, relieves just the tiniest bit of pressure.

I still hope I didn't hurt that guy's feelings.


Erica said...

I hear you. I almost always say what I feel in those sorts of situations, and it does feel good. If you don't people will walk all over you. So I say, Good for you. You aren't a dick, and that guy probably has already forgotten.

rebar said...

This is why I rarely go to opening weekends of movies. The idea of worrying about beating the crowd, getting tickets in advance and fighting for no way equals the "cred" of seeing something first.

I want to be in a relaxed mood to see a flick and enjoy my raisinettes.

I can't remember the last time some stranger sat less than a seat away (the bumper) or the last time I had to get snitty with someone. Loads of times I see stuff with less than 25 folks in the room.

It's like I'm freaking Howard Hughes in my own private veiwing room. You can't beat it.

-j-j- said...

It's good to see I'm not the only one here...thanks

I just want to make a comment about all the M'er Effin' TYPOS in this post! Most of you are friends and used to my grammatical idiocy...but reading it back and seeing "you're" instead of "your" or 3 "ands" in a row it makes me cringe.


I must endeavor to to be more diligent.

(Seeing what I just did)


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