Friday, August 28, 2009

I'm sorry the back of my chair hit your foot, sir

I saw Inglourious Basterds a few days ago. Alone.

I enjoyed the movie and was perfectly comfortable flying solo at the Upper West Side theater. I know some people who have never gone to a movie alone and find the entire concept a bit bizarre. I've seen dozens of movies by myself. It's usually by choice, but not always.

The only slightly depressing time was when I went to Titanic, about five months after it'd been released (this was before movies came out on DVD about six weeks after their theatrical release). Not only was I dateless, but I was the only person in the entire theater.

As Leo and Kate fell in love and the big old boat drilled an iceberg and went to its watery grave, I shared the moment with no one. I slurped on my soda, chewed my popcorn and wondered what it would take to find a date. There were no tears - at the film or my own lack of lady luck - and I silently shuffled out of the theater as the usher held the door open.

But there was one good thing about being the only person in the theater: no one sat behind me. I have some type of internal magnet that attracts people to sit in the seats behind me. And more often than not it's people who like talking nearly as much as they like putting their feet on the seat in front of them. Again at Inglourious Basterds, I had settled into my seat, cut off from the other patrons. Empty seats in the front. Empty seats in the back. No one next to me. Until five minutes before the movie started, when a man and woman cozied into the seats directly behind me.

Why? There were dozens of empty seats throughout the venue.

"Where do you want to sit, honey?"

"Maybe in the middle there where no one's around."

"No, why don't we go down to the front. Let's sit behind that tall guy. Maybe we'll have a slightly obstructed view."

A few minutes later, the gentleman's leg kicked the back of my chair as he made himself comfortable. His wife or girlfriend or blind date chattered as the final preview concluded. And his wife or girlfriend or blind date chattered as the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds appeared. He did nothing to silence her, but encouraged her through a mouthful of popcorn as she talked about a problem at work. She eventually quieted down, except for about every 15 minutes when she'd ask a question or deliver a cunning observation. Every few minutes the man adjusted in his seat and his sneakers delivered another blow to the back of my chair.

So why didn't I change seats? It's because of some internal deficiency, which prevents me from moving in such situations or from turning around and lecturing the pair about their movie etiquette. I don't know if it's because I don't want to offend them or I don't want to draw attention to the fact I'm moving because of them or what. Would they care? Of course not. But still I sit there, taking the kicks, listening to the inane conversation that covers up the movie dialogue. Silently I seethe. It's Minnesota Nice gone horribly awry.

Fortunately these types of situations happen less today, now that I'm married. Louise has no problem moving us to a new area of the theater. And if there aren't any empty seats, she'll turn around and chew out the offending parties, reminding them that her next step is to find an employee who will remove the patrons. And she's very persuasive, perhaps because of the accent. This is the same woman who cajoled/bullied Delta into giving her a free upgrade to first-class for a 20-hour flight from Cape Town to New York, much to the chagrin of the friends she'd made in the terminal, who had to trudge to their substandard quarters in back of the plane while Louise reclined and sipped her champagne.

Whenever she does confront a movie moron, I worry for a few moments that the person will put some used gum into my hair, or dump an overpriced, flat 72-ounce soda on my head. But they never do. They sit there silently, watching the movie like everyone else.

Next time. Next time I'm alone and someone kicks my chair I'm going to move. Or ask them to stop it.

Well, I can dream anyway.

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