Sunday, June 18, 2006

Movie seating games

We went to the movies this weekend: just the two eldest and I. A game ensued. As usual, we were one of the first in the cinema. We sat in our assigned seating with the youngest on a booster seat. It was quite comfortable and we could all see the screen.

Then a family arrived in front of us. Two parents and two children. The parents dutifully sat themselves down in front of my two children, obscuring their view. Of course, they could have done the opposite but chose not to.

So we shuffled, and took a seat outside our assigned seating and hoped for the best. Now you might be expecting that someone turned up next to us. But that wasn't the case.

Instead, five rows further down, two people -- a parent and child -- sat themselves down. I then observed a cascade -- or maybe an avalanche of seat moving -- as the folks in the row behind them -- six people -- shuffled around and that pushed the next row to re-optimise and so on. Until it all reached back to us, leaving us back in our original positions as the family of four sat how they should have done in the first place.

Now sitting there for 15 minutes watching all this unfold made me wonder whether we could do better in this day and age. Certainly, selling tickets near the front first would help but that would also be unfair.

What would be better would be for there to be some use of information technology with adult seating being recorded at time of purchase and some great algorithm working it all out. Perhaps that is too hard but I would be happy to commit to our specific seating if it would avoid all of this.

But the best thing that might happen is something that would be altruistic. When you get to the theatre, just look backwards and think for a second what harm you might cause others. I know there is no reason to care at any particular time but similarly you have no reason to stop talking, stop your children jumping around or turn off your mobile phone. We have norms on this sort of behaviour, why not on seating. Sounds preachy but the inefficiency and stress gets to me.

You are no doubt asking: did I look back? Yes, indeed, I did. Sadly, that only caused harm because when we were forced to move and then move back, chaos behind us was generated. I tried but this is one case where we need everyone to play ball.