Etiquette for Your Ass

March 8, 2010 at 3:39 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Living in and commuting around the city have given me many opportunities to reflect on the sitting strategies of the general public.  I’ve noticed that people will generally leave a spot or two in between themselves and the nearest person, especially when there is ample seating available.  This happens on the bus, the Metra train and the L and it appears to be some sort of unspoken rule.  However, there will always be those who break the rules and this post is dedicated to them.

See the nice, comfortable amount of space between these two men?  One could even move a bench length over and each would still have plenty of room in their personal bubble.  This picture just goes to show that when there is room, there should be space, especially amongst strangers.  There is a man on my train who could learn from this.  He’s a nice enough older guy and we chat every now and then.  Last Wednesday, he followed me to my usual seat in the top row and then proceeded to sit down directly next to me, even though there was an entire row of unused seating available.  It made me uncomfortable but his ride wasn’t long and I managed to overlook his faux pas.  Cue to Friday, when he again boarded behind me.  I was prepared this time and waited until he sat down before placing my bag firmly between us.  He’s an amiable guy but after spending my day in my very own spacious office, the last thing I want is to feel claustrophobic on my ride home.  Now, if the train was packed and there was no other choice but to sit knee to knee, I would be fine with that.  Not so cool when there’s enough space to go around.

I had a somewhat similar experience in a movie theater yesterday, which is what prompted me to create this post.  I went to The Music Box Theatre again (I’ve fallen in love with that old place) to see a film called North Face.  No, it wasn’t about dark-haired girls who wear Ugg boots.  It was actually a German film and told the true story of two men who, in 1936, attempted to climb the North side of the Eiger mountain in Switzerland.  This here is a pic – all of the colored lines represent different paths up the mountain, though when these men did it these paths didn’t yet exist.  I went to see this movie because I have a slight obsession with tales of mountain climbing, though I don’t know why.  I’ll never climb one myself, mostly because I’ve read too much about how quickly things can go wrong.  Anyway, I went to this movie solo and found a good seat in the middle of the theater, in one of the back rows.  I was good and comfortable as the lights dimmed and the previews began.

So there I sat, the only person for rows and rows.  Enter some old guy.  He walks to where I was seated and proceeded to sit as close to me as he can get.  I had my purse and coat over the seat next to mine, and he sat down right next to that.  I was watching him with interest this entire time, because I thought it was odd he chose to sit right next to me and because I was slightly worried I was going to have to keep an eye on him during the entire movie.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, I would like you to envision the scene where Kumar is peeing in some bushes in the middle of nowhere and a random dude walks up and stands right next to him to relieve his own bladder.  I felt about like Kumar did, although it was slightly less creepy since both the old guy and I were fully clothed.

Anyway, the man in the theater sat down and went to throw his jacket on the seat next to him (this was also the seat that had my things on it).  He looked confused as to why there was something already there, and then he turned to fully face me.  And stared, for about thirty seconds.  I stared back, not quite knowing what else to do.  I also waved a bit, in case he thought I was a mirage.  Then he just about jumped out of his skin.  Apparently he had no idea I was there (it was dim but I’m not invisible – though he was old, so I’ll be tolerant of his near-blindness).  He looked embarrassed, apologized profusely and then moved three rows ahead of me, where his wife (or lady-friend) soon joined him.

I was glad to know that he hadn’t sat that close on purpose, but it did start me on this whole tangent about how much space is appropriate between strangers in large public areas.  Perhaps I should begin a non-scientific survey where I consistently sit unnecessarily close to people I don’t know and gauge their reactions?  That would actually be sort of fun.

Last but not least, here’s a photo I took of the theater before the movie got started (and before the old guy got close to sitting on my lap).  Notice all the empty seats?

I thought it was particularly cool that a middle-aged gentleman played the organ before the previews got started (he’s in the little halo of light).  I wonder how he would have reacted if I had wandered up there and sat next to him on his bench…



  1. claireeee123 said,

    Is that the guy that sat next to you?! Up there with the ladys arm around him?

    • webpaige said,

      Haha no, that photo was taken before the old guy sat down. I would say they were about the same age, though!

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