Tag Archives: interpersonal relations

Choose a Seat, Find a Friend

4 30 16 ReservePersonal space – part two! Last month I wrote about the battle between the human need for personal space and privacy versus the human need for connection. I used as an example that people tend to put space between each other when choosing seats at events. Now there is a new technology forcing us to sit close to one another!

There are new types of movie theaters where moviegoers are required to choose their seat at time of purchase. It’s the same principle as assigned seats at performance theaters and sports events. If you really want that third row/center seat for your favorite summer blockbuster you can even reserve it online days ahead of time! Just be prepared to pay a small fee for that!

I really don’t know why this is a trend for the new deluxe movie theaters; I need to ask! Maybe it’s a “luxury theater” sort of thing. My local theater went through a massive renovation recently, including BarcaLounger type seats and instituted the reservation policy at the time.

I like to sit close to the screen and in the center. The first time I visited the theater my ideal spot was open, but next to some seats marked “taken.” It turned out to be an elderly couple seated in the seats to my right. (By the way, I found this fact eye opening and amusing since the movie was the final installment in The Hunger Games series. Never judge a person by their age! They just might appreciate the “Young Adult” genre!)

I was trying to figure out how to raise the BarcaLounger footrest. Observing my quandary, the woman seated next to me showed me where the button was. Already there was a positive to having someone close by for help! We had friendly conversation before the movie started, and that was that.

Since my last blog, I had another encounter at the movies. I was at the concession stand getting my indulgent popcorn bucket when the cashier asked the man in line next to me what his order was. He quickly chuckled and said, “Oh no, we’re not together!” to the cashier. He and I continued to make small talk while the cashier fetched my popcorn.

Before going to the theater section however, I decided to make a stop at the restroom (it was going to be a long movie!). Afterwards, upon entering Theater 20 and looking for my seat, I smiled to myself to see that same man seated two seats over from mine! He looked up and started laughing. “What were the odds on this?” he chuckled. It would have really been funny if he had the seat next to mine! (No, we’re really not together!) We continued our conversation about the new seating process and about the movie we were about to see.

After a while, another man came in, laden with popcorn and soda, and proceeded to sit in the seat in between me and my new friend, Robert. This made it a little difficult to have further conversation! The second man was checking his cellphone and was unconcerned about our conversation. Interestingly, he got up halfway through the movie and never came back.

When the movie was over, I said to Robert, “I wonder what happened with this guy? He even left a nearly full bag of popcorn!” Robert theorized, “Maybe he was called away for an emergency.” We’ll never know. It was interesting that there was a stranger who had intersected our circle of personal space and we had curiosity over his life and fate. We would never wonder about such things if the person had sat elsewhere.

This intersection of lives happened only because of the choices of the individuals involved. We all had wanted to sit third row and center and we did not care if there would be anyone next to us. Prior to this reservation system, we probably would have moved subtly over a seat or two.

We are an obedient species. When told to select a seat, we do so, and sit in that seat, regardless if there might be another human being next to us. Oh my goodness! What if we dared to move into another seat? Would the theater police come and arrest us?

It’s interesting how technology is bringing us closer, and we don’t seem to be minding it. I’ve only had pleasant encounters so far, and I certainly hope all future ones are pleasant! What repercussions could this new system have? Could people make new friends? Could people find their significant other? Could someone make a contact that will give them a lead on a new job? What if you are forced to sit next to someone of a demographic that perhaps you might have bad opinions about? Will you sit there in peace? Will it give you a new perspective? The possibilities are endless.

So to whomever you are who invented this new system – thank you! Thank you for bringing us closer and maybe breaking down some of the barriers between people. We all know for certain that there are plenty of people right now trying to create division and animosity, let’s not stoop to hate and fear.

Maybe the answer to world peace is – go to the movies!

Enjoy the show!

Advertisements

Personal Space: Crash or Connect

3 28 16 chairsHappy Easter! Happy Spring!

I visited a new church this Easter Sunday. Walking down the aisle, I had my eye on a particular seat, but a gentleman got there before me. Impulsively, I did the one thing that most people wouldn’t do – I entered the row and sat down next to him, while at the same time smiling and making the quip, “Oh, I was scoping out that seat! But you beat me to it!”

Why was this unusual? People in our American society like to put at least one space between them and a stranger. When we go to a movie theater we have our row that we like to sit in, but what if someone is in our territory? Do we compromise our desires and sit elsewhere or fight that isolationist instinct and sit next to or close to the stranger? Hey, they’re really not a stranger, they are another Star Wars fan who likes to sit up close to the screen too!

I remember years ago when I rode the bus back and forth to work, each seat would be filled and people even stood, hanging onto poles or straps. Then, the luxury of isolationism fell away. Of course now wherever you go, whether on public transport or in public places, people shut out others by wearing ear pods to listen to music or talk to others on the phone. (As if I really want to hear your private conversation, lady!)

We put up “walls” all the time, while maybe deep inside we wish we could feel free to touch another human in kindness. A very sweet woman who I met at the art museum last month ended our conversation by giving me a little hug, a kiss on the cheek and said: “I’m Latina! I hug!”

Was that an explanation of her actions as way of excuse or a strong statement about her nature? What made her feel the need to say that? I knew she was Latina and knew that was characteristic of the culture. I loved the warmth of her expression. It needed no excuse or reason.

Each culture is different as to their etiquette on personal space. There is no right or wrong, no global standard, so we must be aware to respect those differences. Suffice to say that whatever enables human beings to relate to each other with openness, love and trust – that is the way to act. Be culturally aware of acceptable behavior and how personal space is defined, but don’t feel like we always need to fear interaction.

In the powerful 2006 Best Picture Oscar-winning movie “Crash,” the term “crash” is a metaphor for the collisions between strangers in the course of day-to-day existence; a social commentary on the interconnectedness of life in the big city of Los Angeles.

In the opening line of the movie, a main character reflects: “It’s the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.”

Do we crash into each other? Not in cars, but in outbursts of rage and emotion because we keep so much emotion unexpressed and we feel out of touch? Are we surrounding ourselves with a bubble, not of metal and glass, but of chair spaces and social media obsession?

We can Tweet and Link and Friend, but do we really spend quality time with each other? The human psyche yearns for a true connection. Science is now proving that real human interaction, touch and compassion is nearly as vital to healthy existence as food and water. Human touch is scientifically proven to change physiology.

I cringe every time I see a family or group of friends at a restaurant table and everyone is on their cellphone instead of conversing with each other. Don’t we all need some human touch?

There is so much fear and violence in the world now. Just this weekend with the Easter bombing in Pakistan added to the recent bombings in Europe, I was shaking my head in disbelief.

We need to overcome our fear that masquerades as shyness and reach out to our fellow members of the human race. Show a genuine interest in the book your fellow bus passenger is reading. Surprise someone by buying the coffee for the person behind you in line. Take your nose out of your smart phone and look at the beauty around you and the people around you. You could be in line at Starbucks and catch the eye of a cute guy or gal in line – but only if you: “Put the phone down!”

People are hungry for human contact. I wonder about all the people committing crimes against humanity and wonder when did they last feel love, feel compassion, or receive a hug?

Let’s stop crashing through life and make a real connection with our fellow brothers and sisters on this planet.

As Albert Schweitzer wrote: “Man can no longer live for himself alone. We must realize that all life is valuable and that we are united to all life. From this knowledge comes our spiritual relationship with the universe.”