This week I went to the movies with some friends and saw Hereditary, which is terrifying and awesome. As a huge horror buff, I absolutely loved it.
The movie-going experience itself, however, was anything but awesome.
First, my three friends and I picked a row and had to step past a single woman in the aisle seat. She was not happy. She was shocked we wanted to step past her, that she didn’t get a row of twenty or more seats to herself… to the extent that she LEFT THE THEATER a few minutes later, aggravated beyond measure. My friend Shaunta just wrote the story about the incident, check it out!
In all my years of going to the movies I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve seen a lot, trust me. A man who whistled through an entire movie. A family of five who smuggled a massive chicken dinner inside a theater and ate loudly in the row behind me for a good thirty minutes.
But the idea that a moviegoer would believe she OWNS the entire row of the theater, and then leave the movie she just paid for because of her eleven seconds of inconvenience, genuinely baffled me. I still can’t believe it, and I don’t understand what was going on with her.
But after a few minutes, the thirty-six trailers ended, and the movie began, and I was able to settle in.
The theater was pretty empty. Maybe five or six people behind us.
And exactly one beneath us, about three rows up.
About five minutes into the movie, the man in front of us took out his phone. He texted someone. Then looked at some kind of news feed. It was annoying. His bright white screen illuminated the front of the theater, distracting me from the film. The phone was out for awhile, before he finally put it away.
About a minute later, he brought the phone back out. Stared at it again. Distracted me again.
And for the first thirty or so minutes of the movie, the man kept doing this, over and over again, sometimes staring at his phone for three minutes or longer.
And all I wanted to do was ask him to put the phone away. I wanted to shout across the theater and say, hey, COME ON, is it that hard to watch a movie for two hours without staring at your phone the whole time?
But I didn’t say a word. I blocked out him and his phone with my left knee, by putting my left leg on the seat before me, and did my best to concentrate on the movie. Eventually he put his phone away.
But then he brought it out again. Shaunta told me to say something. She knew it was bothering me. I kept my mouth shut. I wouldn’t ask him the very simple question: can you please put your phone away?
As I sat in the theater, pissed, annoyed, I thought to myself why I wouldn’t take the two seconds to ask him to be a considerate human being.
Fear. Of course, fear.
I was afraid. I was afraid if I asked him to put the phone away, he wouldn’t put it away. He’d keep staring at the phone, and my rage would simply grow. I was afraid he would turn around, yell something at me, some kind of “I paid good money for my ticket and I can do what I want.” And, again, I’d be more enraged.
And I’m not going to lie. The thought crossed my mind that if I asked this man to put his phone away, he would get up, walk over to my row, and physically come at me, just for pointing out to everyone in the theater what a dick he was being.
Shaunta nudged me again. Told me to say something.
And I just did it. I asked him, “Sir, can you please put your phone away?” He did, a second later, without turning around. “Thank you,” I added, and settled back in.
For the rest of the movie, he didn’t take the phone out. He even looked to be engrossed in the film. When Hereditary ended, he got up, left the theater. We didn’t see him after that.
It’s so sad to me that in this world we live in I’m too scared to ask someone to put his or her phone away in a movie theater. It shouldn’t scare me. It should be immediate, because that behavior is so absurdly inconsiderate.
As I walked to my car, I kept thinking about what my dad told me all the time growing up: “You don’t ask, you don’t get.”
There are times in life where maybe it’s in your best interest not to say something, and keep to yourself.
But this was not one of those times. Fear is awful. It hits you in even the safest, most mundane circumstances.
And I hope this outcome proves that in the future, when I’m met with situations like this, that it is in my best interest to speak up.
Fear has its place. But in a movie theater, it should only be about what’s on the screen, not what’s in the theater itself.