June 4, 2013

ON CAMPUS: Saving seats a sore spot

Writer irate at practice of saving seats for latecomers.

Fair warning: This is a rant. Straight up outrage at a practice I suspect annoys lots of folks.

Let me set the stage: My youngest graduated from high school last week, for him the culmination of four years of working his tail off, and for his dad and me the last rite of 28 years of school-days nurturing for our three kids. It was a big day.

The weekend before I bought the better camera I’d wanted for years (and spent the rest the week figuring out how to work it). I took the day off work. Waited in line with family for the nearly two hours. Watched as the first 40 or in line before us entered at a dead sprint. Not worried -- with 3,000 seats there would be plenty left.

Wrong. Wide swaths of white folding chairs with great views sat empty. They were “saved.”

Not just a seat or two for folks who couldn’t get out of the office early or grandparents still working their walkers over the grass – we’re talking whole rows.

We ended up about half-way back, staring over a field of white that gradually filled up while the grads filed in and the speakers spoke. Attendees arrived in the row directly in front of me as the first graduates’ names were being called up for diplomas. That would be the “A”s, as in Austin.

My son’s few seconds of glory I spent dodging for a clear shot as the disorganized newcomers arranged themselves. More important than the lost enjoyment and poor visibility, their “saving” left others fuming at a time that should have been all about celebrating.

This seat saving business happens all the time. Sunday we entered a movie theater with less than 20 people in it, walked toward front-and-center seats only to be shooed away. You guessed it – those seats were “saved.”

Protecting the precious center section was a matriarch with attitude. She waved off strangers as if she were the lone hero saving the last cholera vaccines for needy children instead of keeping only marginally better movie seats for friends (who never showed).

When did “saving” become a right instead of a request? What gives a single ticket holder claim over 5, 10 or 15 seats? And why do we bow to these bullies, reflexively choosing to be polite to the utterly inconsiderate?

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