The Rude Avenger

The movie theater lights darkened following the previews and the main attraction, The Avengers in 3D, had begun when the distractions started.

My husband and I and our two youngest sons had been out to dinner and were settled into our seats for an entertaining family movie when the girl sitting next to my husband began coughing and sneezing like a tuberculosis patient, spraying snot on my husband’s shoulder with every sneeze. My husband wanted to change seats, but the movie was in full swing and the theater was packed on a Saturday night. I – for some unknown reason – was worried about hurting the unseen girl’s feelings if we moved, but at last our sense of health prevailed. My husband stood up and headed toward the aisle to search for two seats elsewhere. Our kids, at the young teen stage, were happily sitting a few rows away from us, so we only needed two empty spots.

My husband’s search was successful and he motioned me to join him in what seemed like the last two seats in the house. We jostled our way over and my husband took his seat. I was about to plant my bottom when I noticed the very large purse that was occupying my chair. I looked at the woman next to the seat, figuring it was hers, and asked her to move it so I could sit down.

Wearing her 3D glasses, she was engrossed in the movie and did not notice my request right away. I asked again, and she promptly removed her bag and I hurriedly sat. A few minutes later her oversized airplane carry-on-sized bag came slamming down onto the armrest between us, but mostly into my lap. I was already absorbed in the action flick and was startled by the aggressive act. Nonetheless, I politely asked her to move it over to her side rather than resting it on my left leg. She said,”Well, I don’t want it on the floor and I don’t have anywhere else to put it.  Everything was fine until you sat down.” Huh?

I responded sharply, “Everyone buys one ticket and that entitles you to one seat; that is yours and this is mine.” She told me to be quiet so she could watch the movie and only nudged her purse a little. I shoved the purse back and employed my left elbow and some wriggling to carve out my space. I was pleased with my response as I usually don’t think of a clever retort until days later. At that point however, I just really wanted to shove her, not the purse, and tell her to stop being a b#@ch.

Somehow, I managed to summon up the calm part of my brain and reason that I am a middle-aged mom at a movie with my family, and that my preferred response would be a tad inappropriate under the circumstances. At that point I noted the irony of being at a movie watching the character of Bruce Banner (a.k.a. The Hulk) attempt to control his temper. If I had exploded, I would have been the other big green thing in the theater making a scene. I sat fuming for the next several minutes at the rude behavior of this woman and missed several lines of snappy dialogue. She did eventually place her entire purse on her own lap. Perhaps she was having second thoughts about her actions.

The darkened theater may have made the woman feel anonymous, allowing her to behave like a deviant commenter on the internet. She did not need to make eye contact or reveal her identity, which might have tempered her actions. As the conclusion of the movie was approaching I was looking forward to seeing her in the light and in the very least having a good stare down. However, she scattered like a cockroach as soon as the credits rolled.

Although I was not able to completely “avenge” the wrong, it was tiny transgression in the scheme of life. I was not fighting aliens or evil against mankind. I was just asserting my right against rudeness and to a mucus-free space. I sincerely hope the woman was just having a bad day rather than a bad life.

As Chris Evan’s character, Captain America Steve Rogers said in the movie, “At this point I doubt anything would surprise me.”

Carol Lewis Gullstad

May 28, 2012

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