...a potent blend of Miss Manners and Batman

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Movie Theater Manners

Some people just don't get the message. They take 'sh' as a suggestion rather than an order. They act like their continuing chatter is only annoying until I get used to it, like a fart on a lengthy elevator ride. Coincidentally, when it comes to loud whispering in a theater, it's old farts who are the worst offenders.

Shortly after we moved to New Paltz, I sensed that Voice of Society Man might be able, at long last, to hang up his cape. People in the country are far more thoughtful to each other. Proof: When we lived in The City, I honked in anger almost daily. In the year since we moved here, my car horn has been put on the endangered species list.

It's not only that people are generally more considerate in this necka. There is also a different set of expectations. I know that if I'm cut off while driving, it's more likely driver inexperience than driver aggressiveness. But even more importantly is our shared realization that the person you might want to give the finger to on Monday could be sitting beside you at a PTA meeting on Tuesday. You keep your finger on the steering wheel: That might be the motto of small-town life.

Poughkeepsie is another matter. Like Kingston and Newburgh, it's an actual 'city.' Anonymity rules the day. It was in a movie theater in Po'town that Voice of Society Man made his first Ulster County appearance.

The wife and I had hired a babysitter in order to go on our first date since moving from Brooklyn. We chose a fun movie, drove a half-hour to the theater, milled about the mall for another 30 minutes, and finally headed to the show. Our anticipation was high, but our mood shifted another 30 minutes later when Mrs Fogey asked Mr Fogey to explain something she'd misunderstood.

Public schools devote 15 seconds each morning to a robotic chanting of the Pledge of Allegiance. This time could be far better spent on vocal training. Most kids seem to know how to speak really loudly, so I'd spend those precious seconds on whispering. We could even combine the two: Children could say the Pledge sotto voce each day. It would make the recitation even eerier than it already is.

The Fogeys behind us made no attempt to whisper, and their son and his wife apparently had given up trying to educate them about their woeful behavior. I figured I'd give them the benefit of the doubt, too; maybe this would be a one-time offense. Minutes later, however, she struck again. This time she had to share her guess as to who had committed the film's murder. I shushed. She continued. I turned my head and re-shushed her, loudly. This time I shushed in anger. Her husband wagged a finger at me in a teasing manner and shushed me back. He had Gone Too Far. Voice of Society Man had to act or else there would have been an off-screen murder as well.

Standing up in order to block their view, VoS Man spoke calmly: "We have three children. We haven't been out on a date in over a year. We've paid for this movie, just like you, and we are also paying nearly $50 for a babysitter. On top of that, someone in my immediate family might be dying. Now please shut up so we can enjoy the movie." Facing Mr Fogey, I continued: "And put away that finger; you don't know where it's been." Voice of Society Man is nothing if not dramatic. And don't forget honest: Everyone in my family is dying at some point; it's part of the contract we all sign when we're born. As for the finger comment: It's always best to throw your victim off the scent with a confusing statement or question.

Happily these words were enough to shut up the Fogeys; even their son and his wife sat mutely agape. We enjoyed the remainder of the movie. Voice of Society Man has not reappeared in Ulster County since that day.

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About Me

My pesky alter ego who will set you right if you break one of the unwritten rules of getting along