“Where you Wanna Sit?”

THE MIDDLE SEAT: Column by Steve Matuszak

We have a lot of controversial ground to cover as we kick of the first article of this column by explaining the title – which is where I like to sit! And here’s why. I need to see the movie straight on. And that’s not just at the theatre. I will go for any seat in any living room that gives me the most centered view of a movie.

Popcorn-200x300Plus, I don’t want people crawling over me or passing in front of me when they go back for more concessions or the bathroom. If you can’t hold it for two hours, stay at home – or, time your beverage intake better. It’s possible people! This goes back to an issue you will hear from me time and again – I do not want anything to distract me from the, if it’s a good film, “willing suspension of disbelief” that the movie and I have mutually created.

I never go the bathroom during a movie, even a bad one … ever! I also never get refills unless I have consumed it all during the trailers. Ever do that? I need to experience the film from frame one to end credits as a complete, uninterrupted thought.

On airplanes, at church and everywhere else, however, people tend to prefer the aisle. But on a plane, I am a window guy because I don’t want distractions there either like the flight attendants bumping my shoulder as they go by or people hitting me on head with luggage.

I think the aisle seat anywhere is a bit of a “non-commital” choice. And here’s why! First, it’s like hanging out in the kitchen at a party – you don’t want to really be committed to being fully at the party. It’s a social-psychology issue. People want to check out a party and, if it’s “no good,” feel as if they were never really “there” (which would equal sitting in the living room or any other room deeper in the home/apartment). Come on, who drifts to the kitchen at a party? And why? I know you are out there and have your reasons.

People who always want the aisle seat are usually looking for a quick way out before or at the end, whether it’s a movie or other experience. They want to get to their car quickly at the end of a concert or amusement park day – “I am not sitting in THAT traffic!” The aisle is more about prepping to leave than staying for the duration. Come on, who does it? Why?

Airplane-aisle-people want go to the bathroom easier and have more body room in addition to getting off the plane a little quicker. Either way, there are aisle people, and then there are window people. Which one are you? There are probably a few “middle seat on a plane” people. They should be watched closely and get an extra pat down in security.

And people tend to be territorial about where they sit for all types of events. This is true for places we visit frequently – a classroom, church, local movie theatre and such. People tend to go back to the same seat or same seating area of the room. I am territorial with my middle seat in theatres, but otherwise I like to mix it up in class or other places, just to see and experience things from a different vantage point (which, by the way, was a lousy film). Are you territorial or do you mix it up? Bring it!!! Here’s a litmus test for territoriality, you either get mad when you see people in “your (public) seat” or you believe that, since you shoveled it, the street parking space is yours (Chicagoans, you know what I mean).

Ok, I know what you are all thinking, “What about up front or in back?” Well, I like the middle OF the middle. But, if need be, I can crane my neck up and watch a movie from up front. I can also watch from the back if I must. I can improvise and go with the flow.

There are those who must sit up front and those who must sit in the back. I say the back-sitters are more obstinate. Which one are you? Hey back-sitters, whatever your reasons you need to hear this from someone who has spent a career onstage, especially in comedy and improvisation – MOVE UP! The live performing arts need your energy and we can’t feel it if you are all spread out and far away. For movies, it’s ok, but not for comedy. It’s says ”Hey, I am here to have fun through watching others get involved, but not me!” Life is what happens down on the field, not just in the stands – get in the game! All the world’s a stage.

I’m glad I got that off my chest. I’ve probably stirred a hornet’s nest so let’s get even more down and dirty. If the theatre has very few people, do not sit right in front of me! That’s creepy and rude. There are lots of empty seats. You should get a security pat down as well.

And what is this bizarre phenomenon known as the “guy seat?” I was introduced to this a few years back in Chicago by a male friend. When I sat next to him he said, “Dude … what are you doing?” “I am sitting down to watch the movie,” I innocently retorted. “No way man … can I have a guy seat please?” he exclaimed. He then explained how (some) men must have an empty seat between them and another man with whom they are viewing a film. Since when did touching shoulders become uncomfortable? Imagine these guys on a plane! Guys, do any of you demand the “guy seat?” Girls, you don’t care do you?

And movies for first dates can be difficult when you both enter the theatre and begin to “feel each other out” for where you like to sit. Relationships have ended on this potentially non-negotiable issue. How awkward when you discover you have very different preferences. Tell us your story. What about dating/marriages with different seat preference partners? How do you work it out? Do you wander around for a while?

And now there are theatres that charge more to choose your seat? Scam or convenience? And let’s not forget stadium seating. I will not even go to a movie theatre unless they have stadium seating, or at least a slight rake to the audience. Come on people – rake your theatres! All new Cineplexes tend to have stadium seating style. Wait, don’t tell me …. someone out there does not like stadium seating?? Why?? … Security! Pat down!!!

Yeah, there are a lot of side issues to this one issue, but let’s face it – people care about where they sit. So, if I have scratched an itch, poked a wound or walked on hallowed ground, then let me know! That’s what this column is about. I want to hear your comments and especially give you a chance to read each other’s comments. Agree, disagree or just tell a relevant story. You are all co-authors. (And yeah, I use lots of exclamation points and italics, deal with it!!!) So … sit wherever you like but, given the choice, I don’t want any angles and I want to sit, stay and watch right down the middle!


  1. Love it!! I agree with you on EVERY seating choice (especially airplanes), although there are times that I simply must occupy the aisle seat, in the back, and as close to an exit as possible. One example: an 80-year-old friend of mine and her 50-year-old, brain-injured son were performing in an “Evening of Music” at their church. I think that is enough description. I sat with a group of other fearful friends in anticipation of the awkward applause and the inability to have eye contact with each other … not to mention the relief of easy escape.

    HOWEVER, much to my surprise – and that of my friends, it was amazingly enjoyable! We laughed, we cried, we sang along. Next time I promise to sit up front and “get in the game!”

  2. I sit on the end because:

    1.) I have long legs

    2.) I am over 50 and …. you know. Gotta go…often….

  3. So we’ll pay extra money to sit as close as possible to hear a featured speaker we admire or to watch our home sports team in the playoffs or to see our favorite band perform, but if we’re unsure about some event, or if we simply want to be a fly on the wall and get a good view of what everybody else is doing, we’ll sit passively in the back (read a new comedy show or a worship service at your home church). I think where a person sits, if they have a choice in the matter, reveals a lot about that person’s attitude toward whatever event he or she is attending.

    I’m like you: at movies, I want to sit in the middle in both directions, and I pray that the theater is either empty or that no one else sits within a twenty-foot radius of my presence. Maybe I should watch movies after a three-hour workout or mowing the yard? You know, to build up a strong stench. And in an airplane too, I want as much space as possible, which typically means, on the other hand, an aisle seat in the emergency exit row. Get away from me people!

    Great column!

  4. I suppose I gravitate to the middle if there are seats avaialbe there. However, when you rush in AS the movie is starting, you sorta have to take what you can get!

    When you talked about people being territorial about their (public space) seats, it reminded me of a psych experiment we learned about in high school. Once people use a bathroom stall, they will usually use the same stall every time they visit that bathroom. Relevant? YOU decide!

  5. Laurie – I hear you, sometimes it is hard not to be ready for a “quick exit”
    Brownie – Get your urine problem fixed, surgery, anything, or get younger
    Wesman – I once saw a movie by myself in a HUGE movie theatre, best experience ever
    Nancy – NEVER thought about going back to same toilet/stall, intriguing! I bet people do!

  6. We went to see one of the LOTR movies & the theater was full (naturally). There were two seats together, but the man sitting by the seats said that they were “saved.” We honored that & wound up having to split up. However, the people after us went ahead & sat in the seats, even after being told that they were saved. The man was irate & went & got the manager who asked the people to move. One of them asked if the theater had a “policy” of allowing saved seats. That stumped the manager who said no. The manager & the man then left the theater. Don’t know if he was given a refund or what happened after that, but it started me thinking about the whole “saving” seats thing in a crowded theater. Any thoughts?

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