Get Off My Space Cushion

I was reading the latest post at the redhead papers the other day and it reminded me of something that happened to me a couple of months ago. I don’t think I wrote about it at the time, either because something else happened or because I trauma-blocked it. Anyway. Now I’m about to tell the tale.

A couple of months ago, I went to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by myself on a Sunday afternoon. I went to The Grandin Theatre, which is a historic theatre in town that used to be an actual theatre, with a stage and a balcony and stuff. Now the balcony is split into two (or three, maybe) sections where they show movies to smaller audiences. On the day I went to see Eternal Sunshine, it was showing in one of those small screening room-type places.

There were only a handful of other people there, really. A couple of young women, one bald guy by himself, another small group (3 people, maybe), and me. I was one of the first people in and I’m really, really picky about my seat in a theatre. I like to get as close to the actual center (horizontally and vertically) as possible.

It’s kind of hard to do here, because one quirk of turning the balcony into screening rooms is that the seats aren’t exactly centered with the screen. So I picked a seat near the left side of the row, one row in front of the two women but not directly in front of them. Everyone else spaced themselves out reasonably, like you do. It’s a small room but there were lots of seats open.

About five minutes before the movie is supposed to start, one of those granola-eating, natural-fiber-wearing, unwashed-feet-in-birks-sporting hippie type couples came in. You know the couple. They’re both really androgynous and somehow all the same color from top to bottom including hair, clothes, and skin. That’s not unusual in this particular neighborhood, and under normal circumstances I wouldn’t even have noticed them.

Except that when they came in, the guy let the girl pick their seats. And she walked into my row, and stopped at the seat right next to me, on the right. “Is this one okay?” she asked the guy, as if I weren’t even sitting there. He said yes, and she sat down right next to me. And her guy sat on her right.

I was tempted to get up and move, but there was the whole picky-about-seats thing, not to mention the fact that the place was so small and there were so few people there that I’d be making an inadvertent scene by getting up and moving, and I didn’t want to do that. So I sat there. And I felt totally gross, like my personal space had been unforgivably invaded.

I don’t like getting very close to strangers. In particular, when I’m going to a film alone and I know it’s one that I want to soak in and really feel, I need a space cushion. And now I didn’t have it. And I was freaking out and the poor couple hadn’t even done anything yet – they were just sitting there.

But then Granola Girlfriend had to put her stupid Coke in the cupholder next to my seat, instead of the one between her and Granola Boyfriend. And then she had to take her nasty smelly Birks off and put her nasty smelly feet up on the back of the seat in front of her – and the seat in front of me. And she was one of those really skinny fidgety chicks who folds her entire frame up into a theatre seat like a pretzel, with arms and legs everywhere, and then shifts her position about fifteen times a minute. Throughout the movie. And Granola Boyfriend was an Inappropriate Laugher – you know, the one who laughs really loudly at the shit that’s not supposed to be funny? Yeah. That guy.

I wanted to kill them both. I wanted to accidentally on purpose spill her Coke all over her shoes. And by the time I realized that I would have been better off moving to begin with, it was well into the film and I’m not going to get up and shift around in the middle of a movie, because, see, I have manners. So I just sat there and tried to block them out and fumed. And they almost ruined the movie for me.

It’s probably a testament to the power of that film that I was able to enjoy it so much despite my stupid neighbors.

Isn’t there an unwritten rule that you’re supposed to space yourself out at the movies? Unless it’s a sold-out show, and the managers come in and herd everyone to the center, in which case you pick up your coats from the coat-seat and make a big fat deal out of moving one seat to the right under extreme duress and all that. Am I just incredibly anal, or were those people really weird and rude?

17 Replies to “Get Off My Space Cushion”

  1. OK, yeah, that's a bit strange. But I suppose they have the right to do it.

    So see, your moving might have been equally as strange, but you should have done it. You shouldn't have been worried about the message it would send or if it was rude. You should do what makes you most comfortable.


  2. I generally find the “7 up, 7 in” rule still works well even outside of LA (where the theaters are old and do not have stadium, balcony, orbiting seating).

    Now, I do believe there is a rule – and I'm sure it's written down somewhere, that the fewer in a given space the greater amount of area around them each. I think the addendum to that rule is that, should an individual fail to observe the rule then the offended party has full right to:
    1: Remind them that, “it's a big theatre with plenty of seating and I'd rather you not sit next to me unless we're going to have sex right here.”
    2: Start coughing “uncontrolably” emiting spittle and allowing a small stream of drool to begin ambitiously from your lip to your knees.
    3: stretch your arms to either side as they approach and if they get close enough for an embrace merely point your middle finger up and the rest down on the hand nearest them. Smile sweetly and hold the gesture there at waist-level until they sit well-enough away to avoid discovery of that hand's other functions.

  3. People who sit next to people they don't know in any situation where other seats are available are very very weird. Extremely. The reason anyone would ever do it is beyond me.

  4. Fuck that shit. I don't even move when the manager comes in. If those people wanted seats together, they should have shown up early enough like the rest of us did.

  5. What the hell, man? I hate Granola People in general (and that's my new term for them, totally), but that's just straight-up weird. Once, when I went to go see Hannibal when it came out in the theatre, there were about three people in the entire place besides my ex and myself. This couple comes and sits RIGHT IN FRONT OF US, and then the girl actually THREW UP during one of the more graphic scenes. Talk about invading somebody's personal space!!

  6. Hooray Craig! Again, he just said, “thanks for the offer but I earned one myself.”!

    My day has brightened for me considerably.

  7. In Italy (I spent a semester teaching there) it seemed that movie theatres were invitations for folks to sit together, including two men (none of that silliness of putting a coat on the seat in between to prove you aren't gay). Perhaps the granola heads were anxious to make you feel loved and part of a community.

    Then again, maybe they were just smelly jerks.

  8. I definitely would have moved if I were you…my head would have exploded otherwise. I cannot tolerate people like that who have NO consideration for others!

  9. i dunno about rude, but defintely weird.

    rosemary and i onc snuck taco bell burritos into the evansont theatre, and wouldn't you know, that SAME FUCKING THING happened to us. how do you hide burritos in this situation? I DON'T KNOW EITHER.

  10. That's exactly why I put my bag/coat/whatever on the seat next to me. That happened to me once in VA. There was about 5 people in the whole theater, watching Mulan, and a man–strange that he was there in a Disney movie by himself–came and sat directly next to me. There was no need. I call these people “Space Invaders” These are the ones that do this in movie theaters, stand super close to talk to you (when it is not warranted), follow you around room to room in your house…etc.
    My solution was to get up and move on the other side of my friend. The creepy guy, got up and moved next to her instead.

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