I arrive at the film screening (I say ‘film screening’ and not ‘cinema’ because I am, as we all know, an intellectual. It was, in many (indeed, all) ways, a cinema) in a bit of a huff. I’d planned exactly when I needed to leave the house to get there in plenty of time, but at the last minute I’d been distracted doing the kind of online Christmas shopping that involves exchange rate maths and some heavy research into duty rates. And then as I was power-walking down the hill there were lots of people in the way, and they all seemed pathologically opposed to walking in single file so that other people could get past. Plus it had started to rain and I’d forgotten that I live in Cornwall now, and just because the sky seems clear it doesn’t mean it’s not tipping it down.
So, I arrive. I stand in a massive queue to pick up my ticket because apparently the world and his wife is going to take in a casual documentary on a Thursday afternoon. But it’s for charity, so I am gracious and only tut nineteen times in the maybe three minutes that I’m waiting. What I’m trying to say is, I’m just not in the mood.
I finally get into the auditorium and find my seat. It is D6. This is important.
Almost immediately, a man walks up to me, indicates the seat next to me with the giant shiny brass plaque that says “5”, and says:
‘Excuse me, love, is this seat five?”
He has walked past four seats on his way to the seat he is now standing next to. It quite obviously is. I give him the tersest “yes” I can muster and turn my attention almost to my phone. I feel bad because I know I should be turning it off for the film, but needs must when confronted by arseholes.
“So, are you in seat six?”
I resist the urge to point out that I must be in seat six because that’s how numbers work, and nod.
At that point some people come to sit on his other side. He doesn’t seem to feel the urge to check what number seat they’re in. As it transpires, he probably should have because soon another person turns up who also has a ticket for seat D5. There’s lots of muttering. Heads are turning around the room. I am staring at my phone while desperately fighting back my past theatre usher self, who likes to make an appearance at moments like this.
The man holds out for a long time. He couldn’t possibly be in the wrong seat. The other person, who consciously bought a seat right next to his friends and at the same time as his friends, must be the one who’s got it mixed up. The man can’t keep it up, though, and concedes defeat.
“Oh I’m in row C,” he says, studying his ticket.
To the front of him are three rows. Anybody in possession of any level of logic knows that those three rows are going to be A, B, and C. This man decides his ticket is actually telling him to sit one row further back next to a very pretty blonde girl who immediately becomes engrossed in conversation with her friend. That is not how the alphabet works.
As the people in D 1-4 stand up to let the man out, he lifts a leg and tries to climb over his seat into the row behind (which the citizens of row D all know is row E, but we’ve made a psychic agreement not to say anything on account of the fact that we all just want this man out of our lives). He manages to kick people on every side, but waves away the nice young student who points out that they’ve moved to let him get out without risking life and limb.
He finally settles down next to the blonde girl and he friend and, almost immediately, someone comes to take their seat because it is, in fact, their seat and not the man’s seat.
The man seems genuinely affronted, as if it’s everybody else’s fault that he continually refuses to pay attention to what his ticket says, or to the lovely volunteer ushers who keep trying to help him to no avail.
He then loudly recounts the tale of everything that just happened to the man in seat C6 who saw literally everything that happened and even caught the wrong end of the man’s shoe as he tried to clamber over a row of chairs. The film eventually starts fifteen minutes late, due in no small part to one man and his obliviousness.
As the lights go down I tap him on the shoulder, and whisper in his ear:
“Bite me, sir.”
Of course, in the real world, what I actually do is stare daggers into the back of the man’s head so intensely that I miss out on a very nice documentary about people who love the sea. The man, on the other hand, seemed to really enjoy it, delayed start and all.