Empty chairs everywhere and nowhere to sit

I was 2 minutes late for class last Tuesday. I had to sit on the front row. As I worked my way up the aisle, stepping over backpacks and whacking elbows with my own bag, I couldn’t help but wonder why the only seat left was the most difficult one to get to.

Is it just nature punishing those who deserve it? I was late, after all. Maybe it was because I was the sixth late person and all the convenient, slip-quietly-in-the-back seats had already been snatched. Either way, it was irritating for me and distracting for the class.

I recently attended a class on BYU campus. As I entered the stadium-style classroom, I perused the options and saw plenty of empty seats, but none could be reached without climbing over someone who had planted down on an aisle seat. Is it really more comfortable to have people stepping on your toes and kicking your shins than to sit in the center of the row?

Most egregious was the episode this summer at a rodeo in Pleasant Grove. The arena is general admission and is regularly packed to the brim. As we squeezed our hineys into the only tiny spots available, we noticed a long section of seats covered with a blanket. No spectators, just blanket. I gazed longingly at the ample space and noticed at least a dozen others climb up the steps only to turn away, disappointed that the row was being saved.

When the event started, the row was still empty. When we hit calf roping, halfway through the show, the row was still empty. People were still wandering around looking for a place to perch, and the row was still empty. Finally, two-thirds through the rodeo, a group of 20-somethings showed up and told surrounding spectators to put their feet down, sit up, and move over because these seats were reserved for them. They sat down, stared at their cell phones for 10 minutes straight, watched the motorcycle event, then left. I should point out that this row was smack in the center of the grandstand — prime location.

I learned a few things from these experiences. No one wants to sit on the front row. Everyone wants to sit on the aisle. And seat saving is one of the most annoying, selfish, inconsiderate things a person can do. Holding your friend’s seat while he sees a man about a horse is one thing. Taping off a whole row in a sold out stadium moves into the realm of odious behavior. Saving a whole row then not showing up, showing up late, or only staying for 15 minutes (I tremble with rage even as I type this) is deplorable. Seat hoarding sucks. Enough said.

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