The Seat Hopper

The Seat Hopper

As I’ve mentioned one of the jobs of an usher is to periodically check the auditoriums. Usually this would be some time after the feature started. You wanted to be sure that nothing was going on that shouldn’t be. You would enter one aisle, check the screen to make sure there was a picture up there, – that it was in focus etc., check the thermostat, spot any smokers and ask them either to go out to the lobby or to put it out. You then would exit out and go over to the other aisle, check the same things there (and to confirm that anyone you had had to talk to was complying with your request).
Once on one of these forays I ran into a little situation. I had just come in to the small side – Cinema II, and paused to get my bearings – sometimes you had to acclimate your eyes to the light, especially if the scene then on was a night time shot. It was a matinee and the auditorium was sparsely populated. A family had just entered, a mom and her kids. The mom chose to sit in the back, and her three kids raced down to the front of the auditorium and plunked down somewhere in the first five rows.
I was about to leave when I noticed someone sitting on the side section, get up and walk to a seat on the same side further down and across from the children. I had an uncomfortable feeling. I decided to stay.
He then got up and moved to the center section in the row behind them. We had a term for people that behaved in this manner – a seat hopper. They weren’t just trying to find a better view from which to watch the film, they wanted to offer a view of themselves, or worse. My father had told me about an incident with one back in Peabody, MA. Now it looked to me like we had one here in Renton, WA.
I strode down the aisle, and entered the row with the kids. I told them that they would need to move back with their mother. They didn’t want to leave, but reluctantly preceeded me up the aisle. I felt satified that any potential problem was nipped in the bud. The kids were out of harm’s way, and the “hopper” knew he was being watched.
However, the mother came out of her row and met me on the aisle. She upbraided me in a torrent of words, unintelligible to me – for you see, she could not speak a word of English. But I could tell, in her mind I was the villain that had chased her children away from where they had wanted to sit. I couldn’t explain my action. I could only stand there and take her villification.
Having said her piece, she gathered her brood around her and sat down.
I headed out with the words from that old saw nagging in my brain – “No good deed goes unpunished.”