This Seat Is Taken

There are few things that cause me greater stress in my life than having to save somebody's seat, or even worse, seats. I can't handle it. Physiologically my body goes into panic mode and the whole experience is blown way out of proportion to the point that I am no longer physically present in the moment, but actually existing in some higher plane of blind panic and near cardiac arrest.

I think for most people the task of saving a seat basically involves them hanging out and waiting for their friend to return while kindly informing any inquiring parties that the seat next to them is in fact occupied.

On its face it actually seems pretty simple.

For some reason though, when I'm in that moment, I have trouble maintaining a relaxed demeanor. All my senses go into a higher state of alert and it becomes all I think about. My head swivels from side to side every 4 seconds to see if my friend is returning. Every single person that enters the room becomes a potential enemy that I will have to fend off.

Are they making eye contact with me? Are they looking at this seat? Oh my god they are coming over here, are they going to beleive me? What if they don't?

It's unbearable. Nevermind the fact if I'm in charge of holding multiple seats without the coat collateral to send a visual warning, I feel like I'm trying to use a butter knife to guard a fox hole in the Vietcong.

The earliest I can remember having to save a seat was at a movie theater near my homewhen I was in my early teens. I was there with my family. The four of us went in and found our seats. My parents and sister got up to go to the bathroom and grab some snacks leaving me behind to guard their seats.

Shortly after they get up, a slightly larger than normal woman comes by and and says "are those seats taken?"

Oh I'm sorry my family is sitting there.
Well where are they?
They went to the bathroom.
Well I'll just sit there until they get back.

And she pushed her way into my row.

So now I'm panicking. What logic do I have that I can use with this woman that is going to make her understand that I'm not just trying to have the row to myself or save the seats for nonexistent people? All I can think is that when my family comes back she's going to have to get up and find another seat but there will be even fewer seats available at that time. It's in her best interest to find something now so as not to end up completely out of luck.

But I wasn't able to verbalize any of that, mainly becuase she kind of scared me.

Maybe she thought that I was saving them for people who weren't even at the movie theater yet and that at a certain point, if they had showed up too close to showtime she would have made some judgement call about it being too late for her to get up and find a new seat.

Maybe she was in the habit of calling people's bluffs. Maybe she had experienced luck with this type of strategy at movie theaters in the past, taking seats that were supposedly saved only to find out they weren't being saved at all. Did she think that I was just trying to keep her out of my row? Did she think it was personal?

All of this was running through my head and an incredible pace for what seemed like hours before my family came back 6 minutes later. They were initially a little surprised to see a strange woman sitting with me, but my new companion quickly realized the jig was up and stood up to go find new seats without saying a word.

Every experience since then has been nearly identical for me.

But in the past year I have gotten better at standing my ground. Like when my giflfirend and I showed up 70 minutes early for the latest Batman movie (I like Batman) and 20 minutes after we sat down a girl walked over to me and said the following:

Hi would you mind moving over? We have 9 people coming.

(This is different than we have 9 people here. And besides, what is it about sitting in the same row that makes a movie more enjoyable for you? Would you find it less entertaining if you couldn't lean over and see your cousin Hal smiling at the end of the row? Wouldn't it make more sense to sit in even groups in two rows so if you wanted to talk to somebody it made it much easier? Even though you shouldn't be talking in a movie in the first place?!)

Ahem, anyway.

No. You don't get to save seats for 7 people that are not there yet to see the most highly anticipated movie of the year. If they want to get good seats they should come early. Like me, because I like Batman. Yes I was aware I was being slightly ridiculous. But I was not going to let my spine go jellyfish this time for people who had failed to plan for this momentous occasion.

For these reasons, and many more I don't have the time to illustrate, I was both greatly irritated at the gentleman saving seats for 7 people at Christmas Eve Mass this week.

For those of you who have never been to a Catholic Mass on Christmas Eve, it's pretty much the most popular service of the year. People show up very early. Seats dissapear fast and are forced to start standing along the sides of the church.

Twenty minutes before the service even started, there were no less than 100 people standing along the sides and every seat in the building was taken... except the 7 empty slots behind me.

I could feel the laser focused anger from every standing person in the church pointed at the guy behind me whose head was swivling around so fast it appeared dislocated. This guy was living my nightmare. I struggled to empathize with him as he kept whisper arguing with his wife 7 empty seats away, and checking his phone, and making phone calls, and whisper rationalizing his reasons to nobody in particular.

I think if I were him I might have just lost it, had a silent breakdown, left the church and spent the rest of the day praying in the backseat of my car. He stuck it out though. He hung in there depsite repeated requests from multiple people to make room for people who were actually in the chuch. People with small children, pregant women, etc. He managed to fend them off until eventually, after the service had started, all 11 of his guests showed up.

I was glad, for his sake, that his party had arrived if only for the fact that I could stop being mentally connected to this incredibly stressful situation, though it didn't make me like him any more. In fact I was still kind of glad I didn't have to shake his hand when it came time to make "peace."

I'm going to hell I know.