Monday, June 09, 2008

The Tyranny of Etiquette


One of the joys of dating me is watching me scrap with random strangers. Sunday was no exception.

Tim and I decided to catch Prince Caspian (my review: I’ll take intense battle scenes with a side of bland, please!). We got to the Columbia theater just as the previews began and settled into our seats.

Once the previews ended, the chatter began. The couple next to me began to discuss the film, in a hilariously non-subtle stage whisper.

“They must really be at Cair Paravel!”
“I bet they find their gifts!”
“It must be the dwarf that got captured earlier!”

I couldn’t tell whether they believed the audience required narration, or whether they suffered from some sort of delusion where they believed they were watching the film in their living room and it was therefore appropriate to talk. At one point, I was looking around for white canes to see if at least one was blind. Or perhaps they thought they were watching a different film from everyone else in the theater, and we needed to know what was happening in their version of Narnia. Or maybe they were just jerks.

After twenty minutes of this nonsense, I’d had enough. So I leaned in and calmly said, “Excuse me, could you please stop the discussion? It’s distracting.”

A bit of back-and-forth, and the husband leans in to me and says, “I’m very sorry, but if you’re expecting complete silence, you may want to move.”

I’m very sorry, genius, but complete silence is exactly what I expected. It’s a movie theater. People pay their hard-earned cash to listen to the film, not to a pair of monotone exurb jackasses who are deluded enough to believe they’re better storytellers than C.S. Lewis. Criminy wickets on toast, people. This isn’t hard.

My response was, “It’s not complete silence I expect, but the ongoing discussion is quite rude.” Then I mentioned ducking out for an usher. The Twitter Twins fell unto an uneasy hush, and I went back to watching the movie. After a few scenes, the woman slipped out of the theater.

When she returned, her husband asked, “So, did you speak to the manager?” The woman stage-whispered back that the manager was unwilling to intervene.

And, here you have it, folks, in a package of self-righteous cheek and modern absurdity: someone actually complained to management to fight for their right to talk during a movie. They were right to be in the wrong, to ruin the experience for those of us who actually know better. This is the dawn of a new era of noxious self-centeredness. I deserved to be kicked out of the theater for wanting to watch the film.

After the movie, Tim and I had a good cackle over that one. We theorized that good manners are a form of tyranny, and the next civil rights crusade is going to be on behalf of rude people. Tim says the next culture war will be on behalf of public urinators, however, I think there will be an insurgency of people who turn without signaling. Or to throw darts in a crowded bar.

Or, perhaps, the Rudeness Crusade is already well underway. Saturday night we saw a man wipe his face with the hem of his shirt…in an upscale steakhouse. Awesome. America rocks.

In the comments section, please tell me what side you'd fight on in the Rudeness Crusade. Or debate whether Tim is going to have to wait outside with the car engine running every time he takes me somewhere.
PS - The photo is of Miss Manners, my personal hero.

39 comments:

I have thoughts said...

My most recent movie experience also had a talker, but she was also a heavy mouth-breather. It sounded like darth vader was sitting being me, except there was a slight weez at the end of each breath. Awful. And unlike you, I expect people to be courteous without me having to tell them, so I just kept turning around and giving this woman cold stares and shaking my head in disappointment. I thought maybe I could shame her into being quiet. No such luck.

Shannon said...

Thoughts, I tried the passive-aggressive stare, but they were rather intent on their conversation. And moving wasn't an option, as the theater was nearly full. Also, why should I move when they suck?

I have thoughts said...

i agree. you should've "accidentally" spilled a soda on them. they deserved it!

lacochran said...

Wow. When did movies become an interactive activity?! You'd think the fact that the usher would do nothing to "defend" them might have given them a clue.

Shannon said...

Thoughts, then I'd have to take out a bank loan just to buy the soda. Plus, the goal was to get them to hush, which they did. So I didn't see a reason to escalate.

Lacochran, I am sure the pimply 17-year-old making minimum wage really and truly cared about their plight. As for interactivity, well, I blame the Internet.

lemmonex said...

I am very on the side of manners. Call me nuts.

I had an ex who refused to say "Bless You" when people sneezed bc he thought it was stupid. It drove me insane. INSANE I tell you.

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

Oh I had this experiance at the Zohan movie this weekend, chuckles the clown sat in front of me and everytime Zohan said "Silky Smooth", she would shout it outloud. She got a lot of shushing, but that didn't stop her, I got up and moved to the back... I wanted to enjoy my Zohan.

I am on the side of manners and have your full support, dumping a bag of popcorn on their heads would have been grand as well.

Carrie M said...

I think you may be my twin in another...not dimension...zip code. Unless you're rocking the 20850. I've had several conversations like that with people, I just can't believe they went to go ask the manager for HELP. I may have started laughing hysterically at them.

This morning, I was waiting to cross the street where there's no crosswalk (no light either, it's a side street and a common occurrance b/c the sidewalk is blocked by construction on the side where you COULD cross) and two people turned into the parking garage without putting their signals on. If they had, I could have crossed. But no. So I saw one get out of their car and walked over, "Hey, I just wantedto tell you your turn signal isn't working." a WTF look on their face. "No, I don't think it's broken." "Oh, so you're just a jerk and can't use it. Okay then, have a great day!"

Shannon said...

Lemmonex, of COURSE you say bless you! Otherwise, your soul might fly out of your nostrils.

Zipcode, you should have told her, "Forget the Zohan...don't mess with the Zipcode!" then tossed some ice cubes at her head. (Concessions are just too expensive to be used as ammo.)

Carrie, nope, I'm not in the 20850. Tim got a good laugh, I was just too stunned at first. But now I think this might be one of the funniest things I've ever experienced.

KassyK said...

Oh ahahahha I have BEEN you in the theater. Well played.

I have gotten to the point of yelling SHUT UP to old people yapping and got the usher to remove a woman who brought her FOUR KIDS to see the remake of the Omen.

They were screaming and crying..

She was oblivious. Or on crack.

Something that I cannot deal with--People who touch their noses, mouths, or eyes and then go to touch you. Whether they work in public service or are your boss...that is so nasty.

Seriously?! SERIOUSLY?!

KEEP THE CHANGE.

I hate germs. :)

Shannon said...

Kassy, someone brought their kids to see a horror movie? I'm 31 and can't watch those things! Unbelievable. Well, believable. But depressing.

Ibid said...

I get in to a lot of movie screenings. Talking is never an issue at those things.

Never ever go to Union Station for a movie. They not only talk but run up and down the aisles having conversations and yelling at their friends.

I've had several of the "hey, this is a theatre, not your living room. Shut up would ya?" conversations.
I also had one
"I wish you people would learn not to talk to the screen."
"You people? What do you mean you people? You mean black people?"
"No, I mean assholes."

I've done the "Your turn signal is broken" routine several times. Once to a cop.

Ibid said...

Steven King went off on a woman who brought her toddler to see "Hannibal". He stood up and got loud.

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

I saw kids in the Sex and The City Movie and it shows wang. People are nuts

Jamie said...

I am completely on the side of manners and consideration for others.

But that picture of Miss Manners scares me, a lot.

Shannon said...

Ibid, I used to LOVE going to Union Station for movies. I saw the first Lord of the Rings movie there...and actually heard a woman say, "Uh huh, that ogre didn't get up in that!" Complete with a snap.

Zipcode, indeed.

Jamie, come on - you think she's kinda hot, don't you?

Gilahi said...

You may not believe this, but there once was a time when people knew to be quiet in all sorts of places: the library, the office, classrooms, outside the window of the person you're stalking, etc.

If there were more people like you that didn't let them get away with it, we might have some return to civility.

Ibid said...

To be fair, as a kid my parents did have to remove me from one particularly scary movie. "Airplane" still freaks me out a bit.

Shannon said...

Gilahi, I'm going to report you to the manager for saying that.

The thing was, I was very calm and polite when I asked them to hush. I try not to get hostile when asking people to be polite, as that's just another form of rudeness. But their response was, shall we say, stupid.

Erika said...

When I went to see Iron Man, right after the ad reminding people to turn off their cell phones in that dead silent space before the previews start someone's cell phone rang. And she answered and proceeded to talk loud enough so we could all hear. Her conversation went like this: "David? Hey how are you. I'm at the movies right now. What? Oh Iron Man. Oh really you saw it? And he tells everyone he's Iron Man at the end? You're kidding" ...yepper. We all heard.

Shannon said...

Erika, that's awesome. Maybe you should go back in time, follow that woman to a screening of Sixth Sense, and yell, "Bruce Willis is dead!" Or, further back, "Soylent Green is people!"

KassyK said...

Yep...and the Omen remake was suprisingly gory! And the kids are crying and she has NO thought to take them out of the theater?!

Horrible.

:(

Jamie said...

I've never seen Soylent Green, and now that you've ruined it for me, I never will. Awesome, thanks.

Just for that, the chick in the crying game's not a chick, and the planet on planet of the apes is earth. Damn you! Damn you all to hell!!

Shannon said...

Kass, maybe she was properly desensitizing them so they could grow up to be way awesome at Grand Theft Auto? Nah, she was probably just dumb.

Jamie, Rosebud's a sled. Nyeah.

freckledk said...

I ruined The Crying Game for an entire sneak preview audience. Blurted it out, completely without thinking. That's the only time I've ever spoken aloud in a movie theatre.

I went to a film once where there were six 13 year-old girls who were sitting in a row up front, who were receiving multiple phone calls. Phone would ring, girl would answer, jump up from her seat and run past us toward the exit. Minutes later, would run back, sit down and another call would come in. Repeat.

Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I left my friends, sat at the end of the row, right next to the girls and, when the next call came in, turned my head toward them, leaned in, and just stared at them.

They stopped talking, but I had to sit with them in the third row for the duration of the flick. Got a next cramp.

freckledk said...

Neck cramp.

Shannon said...

FreckledK, why not just trip them as they run up the aisle? I can't think of a single 13-year-old girl who doesn't DESERVE to be tripped.

restaurantrefugee said...

you know where i stand on this one. damn the verbal torpedos, stock the literary grenades, load load up the rounds of righteous civility. the rude must persish.

Darian Carmichael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Darian Carmichael said...

How much do you want to bet that her conversation with the manager went as follows: "My husband and I are whispering very quietly about the movie, and there's this unreasonable woman who's fussing at us about the whispering that she probably can't hear!"

It's very difficult to have patience with stupid people. As far as choosing sides in the Rudeness War, I believe in fighting fire with fire. If they wish to be unreasonable, then I say match wits! That way they get a better understanding of their sheer lunacy.

Shannon said...

Refugee, indeed.

Darian, I almost wrote an entire post about the conversation between Chatty Cathy and the manager. Like, what do you say in that sort of situation?

"Excuse me sir, this obnoxious woman very calmly asked us to hush so she could pay attention to the movie. The nerve of that lady!"

Marissa said...

Wait, are you trying to tell me you've never urinated in public before? In other countries it's an art *cough Russia cough*. A friend of mine once peed on the Hermitage and didn't think twice. I'm not sure it's a "crusade," per se, but more a way of life.

Shannon said...

Marissa, I don't pee at all. I'm too much of a lady.

Matthew Grant said...

Wow....Peeing in public. I may have jumped in at the wrong time... :-)
Anyways....I totally agree with you. It's absurd how bad it's gotten. My wife has perfected the art of the angry shush, and shuts people down pretty well, but we have yet to meet a set of idiots that decides to debate us about it....good for you for sticking to your guns.

Shannon said...

Matthew, yeah, usually it's better to get here before Marissa has weighed in. And thanks - I was trying to figure out if I'd been a jerk, but no.

Tina said...

Sorry for arriving late to the party but I had to say - you were very nice. My evil twin told one very loud set of movie talkers that they were in miminent dager of getting their ass kicked right there in the middle of the theater. They were dissing the movie and one of her favorite actors Viggo Mortensen. she ust have been scary because not only did they move - they left early. I know because as soon as the credits started to roll she jumped up to fulfil said prediction only to find them already gone.

Shannon said...

Tina, I think your evil twin should get her own blog.

Amanda Hess said...

I think the dawn of the new era obnoxious self-centeredness is better known as "blogging."

Shannon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.