Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Keith Olbermann Addresses the Guy Who Sat Behind Him at the Movie Theatre

Finally, as promised, a special comment for the guy sitting behind me at the 9:15 showing of “Iron Man” last night.

I don’t assume for a moment that you are familiar with Ralph Waldo Emerson, sir, but there may be something for you to learn in his aphorism, “Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy.”

Because last night, before the movie even started, you abandoned courtesy with a swiftness bordering on psychotic.

You saw fit, during the preview of “The Love Guru,” to voice the vulgar acts you would like to perpetrate on Jessica Alba. Your taste in female pulchritude notwithstanding, you’d do well to keep those comments to yourself. The imaginary exploits that were so intriguing to you held no such fascination for those of us within earshot of you, a group which, if I am not mistaken, included everyone in the theatre.

Not content with that act of inconsideration, you took it upon yourself to begin nudging my seat.

I am no Pollyanna; I know that a certain amount of jostling is to be expected even in a crowd of the most careful and considerate people. But it became clear that this shifting was not brought about by the act of innocently settling into your seat, but was rather the result of you propping your feet on the back of the empty chair to my left.

I glanced back at you, hoping to remind you with my eyes that you were in fact not in your living room with a coffee table in front of you, but rather at a public venue filled with strangers who had paid for the privilege, not of listening to your witticisms, but of watching “Iron Man.”

You gaped back at me with your uncomprehending eyes and finally asked, quoting here, “What is your problem?”

(TITLE SCREEN: “What is your problem?” – The Guy Sitting Behind Me At The Movie Theatre)

What is my problem? What is my problem, sir?

That you would exhibit such blockheadedness that you wouldn’t know and/or care that your actions detracted from my experience. That you would be so brazen in your entitlement as to be immune to censure and embarrassment. That you would wait until the movie started before slowly and noisily unwrapping the cellophane on your box of Dots. That is my problem.

When at last I stood up to leave that aisle and find another seat, suddenly you were aghast at my rudeness, snapping at me to sit down, and lambasting me for daring to block a portion of your view for three seconds’ worth of the film.

It is at this moment that you made the transition from ignoramus to traitor. In spite of your impressive list of crimes against every other moviegoer in attendance, you chose to play the injured party – a sensitive, upstanding soul in a world gone mad – at the slightest hint of inconvenience presented to you.

It is an upheaval of the social construct to expect the rest of us to conform to your gerrymandering standards of etiquette. That is my “problem.” That is the problem of every other paying audience member in that theatre. And at last, that is your problem, sir. For you have gotten this far in your life without the implications of that hypocrisy managing to creep their way into your skull.

Finally, I appeal to your self-interest, since you have demonstrated your incapability to experience the slightest trace of empathy. Someday, perhaps not today, perhaps not tomorrow, but surely some future day, you will find yourself seated in front of a fellow audience member even more lowbred and oafish than you are.

Perhaps he will demonstrate his intellectual vacuity by repeating every one of the movie’s idiotic punch lines. Perhaps he will answer several calls on his cell phone throughout the film. Perhaps he will bring a squirming toddler to an R-rated picture, and you will bear the brunt of all the fussing and scolding.

Then you will realize too late which side of this social conflict you are on.

Good night and good luck.