Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Close Encounters of the Creep Kind

Last Thursday night/early Friday morning, I went to the midnight showing of District 9 (which, for the record, I enjoyed very much). I went with a large group of people, and we were spread out in 2 rows, as the theatre was quite empty and there was plenty of room. I had consumed a large coffee in order to stay awake much later than my usual bedtime and was excited to see the film, which I had been looking forward to all week.

In order to relax and take advantage of the armrests, I left a seat between me and the guy I was sitting next to in the row. All of a sudden, an older, creepy-looking man came up to me and gestured to the seat between me and the guy I sat next to.

Creepy Man: Is that seat taken?

Me (confused): No, uh, uh, I’M sitting there. [I scooted back over.]

[Creepy Man sits down on my left.]

Me: (in a slightly accusatory tone) Uh, is there a reason why you’re sitting next to me?

CM: Well, I thought there would be a good view here.

M: Well, I don’t like sitting next to strangers. [I got up and moved to the next row, where more people from the group I came with were sitting.]

[The creepy man moves another seat over, next to my former seatmate. I think this is because the guy had a pony tail, which made the creepy man think he was a girl.]

M: (Turning around in my seat) I don’t think he likes sitting next to strangers either.

CM: Well, that’s what happens in a movie theatre, you sit next to strangers.

M: I understand that, but this theatre is pretty empty, and there are a lot of other seats you can sit in.
[Eventually the man moves one seat over. I think he realized the guy I had first sat next to had a goatee. Just a theory.]
* * *
This exchange left me feeling uneasy. I was uncomfortable with some old, creepy guy sitting so close to me, and I questioned his motives. I was a little nervous about him sitting behind me, and watched him out of the corner of my eye for sudden movements. After the film was over, I was scared to go directly home because I was worried that he was hiding in the bushes, waiting to follow me home. Perhaps I was overreacting, but I didn’t want anything bad to happen. And not to sound cliché, but I’ve learned to trust my instincts (they’re almost always spot on), and I was not getting a good “vibe” about this man.

While telling this story to my friend/boss/editor Kate, I relayed my uncertainty about being able to make this story into a blog. She pointed out the role that gender played in this scenario. If it had been a woman that sat right next to me, I would probably have been annoyed, but not at all threatened or worried. It is interesting to try to imagine my possible reactions when the variables of age and gender change (i.e., a young man, a young woman, and old woman, a child, etc). Also, it would make for an interesting social experiment.

I also want to get the message across that if someone makes you uncomfortable in a situation, feel free to remove yourself from it, and/or voice your thoughts about it. Even though the setting was pretty benign and I was with my friends, I had paid my hard-earned money for that ticket, and I had a right to feel comfortable. So I spoke out.

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