Hello Polite Readers!
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending a large dance festival and watching a whole lot of bellydance. It was a wonderful time, but it was slightly tainted by the horrible behavior of some of my fellow audience members. And I've noticed a lot of bad behavior at the movie theater and other entertainment venues. So this week I'd like to address some of the things I've seen, and the best polite way to point them out to the offenders.
1. Taking up more than your fair share of space. My main annoyance at the show was a man who was sitting directly in front of me. He kept stretching his legs forward, pushing his seat back and leaning back, sprawling in all directions. Eventually his chair was shoved against my knees and his head was well inside my bubble of personal space. Similar problems I've previously experienced have been people who lean way over a shared arm rest, or people who are taking up an extra seat with their belongings.
Solution: "Excuse me, could you please scoot your seat forward/move your bags/give me a little space?" I did ask this of another person at the show who pushed her chair back into my knees and she politely obliged.
2. Carrying on a conversation during a performance. So rude and distracting, and think of how badly it's going to reflect on you if someone catches it on their video, or if loved ones of the performers are nearby and can see/hear that you care so little about what's on stage or screen that you're talking through it. If you're not interested in a performance, take that time to go stretch your legs.
Solution: I actually usually don't address people like this because I feel like it will make more of a distraction. But if they're getting really loud, you can say "Excuse me, could you talk a little more quietly? I'm really enjoying this piece."
3. Making a mess. Ugh. One reason why I don't go to the movies very often anymore is I can't stand to see popcorn and soda spilled everywhere. It's disgusting how much trash people leave behind! Likewise, at the live show I was at, many people left their food and drink refuse under their chairs rather than taking it with them when they left, leaving the people who were there at the end of the night to clean up after them.
Solution: Smile sweetly and say "Oh, don't forget to take your plate to the trash!"
4. Moving around during the show. Obviously if there's no break during the show and you have to get up for some reason during the performance, there's not much you can do. But in a variety show with an emcee announcing each act, is it really so hard to wait 5 minutes for the next chance to get up? I got really tired of having to stand up and let people in and out of the aisle during really amazing performances.
Solution: Not much you can do when they're looming over you, sadly.
5. Blocking everyone else's view of the show with your camera/phone/tablet. Ok, look. One of two things is true in this situation: either video and photos are not allowed, so you shouldn't be taking them, or video and photos are allowed, so pros will be doing a much better job of it than you are. Want to snap a quick picture of your favorite performer as she takes the stage? Go for it. A lot of dance performances start out with a beautiful walk or pose to make it easy for you. But don't hold up your unholy phone-tablet hybrid (about the size of a paperback book, for pity's sake) and film the entire performance. Or several performances in a row. When the only way I can see what is going on on stage is through the screen on your device, something is wrong.
Solution: I actually saw some ladies a few seats down from me take action. They started tapping people on the shoulder and saying "Please put that down, you're blocking everyone's view" and things along those lines. I wanted to high-five them so hard.
Don't forget that in some situations, you may be able to enlist an usher or other employee to help you deal with especially offensive people. I generally think it's best to try to handle it yourself first, but if your polite entreaties don't work, or if you feel like the person in question is not just offensive but possibly unbalanced and dangerous, don't be afraid to get help. Remember that whatever event you are at, you probably paid money to be there and you deserve to enjoy the show. Don't let the boors of the world take that away from you!
Do you have a question for me? Please send it to Politelyworded@gmail.com and you could be featured in a future column!