Saturday December 29, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON

You know that thing about Jewish people always going to the movies on Christmas? Trust me, we saw plenty of people who were not Jewish at the Triplex on Christmas Day. So much for stereotypes. We went see "Les Miserables." It was terrific, with the exception of the intrusive Sasha Baron Cohen who, as usual, messed up an otherwise splendid film.

That said, I think that what goes on in the movie theater is often as interesting as the movie itself. Once a performance at the Triplex is sold out, bad things can happen. For some reason, there are always people who, knowing full well that the show is sold out, will wait until the last minute to arrive and become irate when they can’t find a seat.

I remember once a few years ago, the elderly parents of a popular town doctor were saving him a seat. A rather pushy lady with a fairly thick Teutonic accent asked if the seat was vacant. The doctor’s parents said it was being saved, but the lady sat herself down and announced that she didn’t believe in saving seats. I was sitting behind her, tapped her on the shoulder and asked her to spell her name. She asked why I wanted to know and I announced that I was going to write a column about her rudeness in this very space. She didn’t appear to be amused so I said to her, "Lady, if this seat were being saved for my son, trust me, you wouldn’t be sitting in it."

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There were a lot of unhappy people looking for seats on Christmas Day.


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As usual, I showed up an hour and fifteen minutes early in order to get my favorite seat. The last full row of the theater on both sides is supposed to be reserved for the disabled and so it was that a man who had trouble standing up sat in the aisle seat at the end of the row.

I heard him ask his wife if she could lower the seat because he just couldn’t. His kind wife did just that, but then people started coming into the rest of the row. With obvious pain, our hero had to stand up to let the rest of the folks in. I really felt for the guy. Then this lady started inspecting the seat at the far end of the row. She asked if it was available but kept looking around for something better. Finally she pushed into the row, the poor guy at the end had to stand up again. She sat down but she didn’t like her seat so she got up -- not once but twice -- and made the guy stand up twice more. We all felt his pain.

About five minutes before the movie ended, during a particularly poignant moment, this lady got up again. As she left her seat, someone at the end of the row said, "Don’t come back!" It was, of course, the best line in the movie filled with great lines.

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It didn’t end there. Five rows ahead of us, a verbal fight erupted. According to a friend sitting there, it seems a lady entered the row wearing what she described as a thirty-something thousand dollar lynx coat. (Where is PETA when you needed them?) The problem was that the coat stank of mothballs and her neighbors, a doctor and his wife, complained and asked her if she could take off the coat and stash it under the seat. This infuriated the lady who apparently announced that she wasn’t putting her thirty-something thousand dollar coat under her seat and major words ensued. Personally, I was for the doc and his wife. Mothballs are horrible. They can’t be healthy.

So here are the rules. Get you tickets in advance. Come early and be nice. Don’t wear anything that has been packed in mothballs.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.