Monday, November 25, 2013

Front Row Seats to The Jerk.

On the crowded city bus, it's that woman who puts her backpack in the seat next to her, forcing the elderly lady to stand in the aisle.

In the locker room, it's the dude who leaves his toenail clippings scattered on the floor, lying in wait to pierce the fascia of the nude and the innocent.

And in the home, it is the teenager who leaves an empty goldfish carton in the cabinet, dashing the hopes the man who gave her life and now craves the savory pleasures of cheddary goodness.

Look, I know I can be rude sometimes; we all can, right? Sure, I've taken a more than my share of tater tot casserole at the neighborhood potluck. I've even booed the Oregon football squad, a crew of scholar athletes as undeserving of my boorish tactics as they are of being labeled scholar athletes. 

But hey, I do try to keep the karma meter north of neutral, you know?

It happened again on Sunday. My wife and I, both high priests in the Cult of Katniss, ventured downtown to see Catching Fire, part two of the Hunger Games trilogy. The movies and books are thickly layered with themes, from the virtues of loyalty and compassion to the dystopian evils of unbridled power and control. Throw in a little of the Cinerama Theatre's signature chocolate popcorn, and you've guaranteed yourself a Utopian gut ache for the next two plus hours.

We arrived early. Now that I'm closer to a being a toothless centurion than a toothless newborn, my patience has shriveled right alongside the old T level.. Whenever we're late and looking for a place to park, my wife can sniff one out like a freaking bloodhound. Problems invariably arise, however. Most of her recommendations require either darting sideways across four lanes of traffic or the ability to hover and drop. 

No luck. That's a feature on the 2007 Hyundai and we've got a 2006.

Anyway, we got to the theater early and found a great spot to watch my girlfriend shoot arrows and make out with Peeta. We sat behind a railing which separated our tier from another section in front of us. Separated by a walkway, the space between held combinations of free-standing seats so wheelchair-bound folks could sit with their friends. 

A large group of people came in and sat dead center, just in front of a pair of the handicapped seats. Two from the group, a middle-aged couple, noticed the pair of special chairs behind them, climbed over the railing and nestled right on in. 

One of their friends turned around. "You guys, I think those are for handicapped people."

"Oh well," said the guy. He looked at his wife. "You had surgery a while back, so we're good."

"Did you see that?" said my wife. "Come on. What if someone needs to sit there?"

It didn't take long to find out. About five minutes later, another middle-aged couple entered the theater, the woman wearing a surgical boot and hobbling on crutches. Her partner walked over and, nodding toward his wife, politely asked the couple if they'd mind letting them use the seats, since she needed a place to put her crutches and spread out a little.

"No, we need these, " replied the man I'll go ahead and call Ass Bastard. "My wife just had surgery." 

My wife and I looked at each other. Since we had nothing better to do, we'd been watching Mrs. Ass Bastard get up a couple of times, once returning with popcorn. Meanwhile, the other couple sat in single chairs, about ten feet apart from each other. The infirm woman's fury was palpable as she attempted to penetrate the Ass Bastard force field with her laser stares, but to no avail.

Many around us noticed the spectacle. A few patrons even photographed the Bastards, ostensibly to humiliate them via social media. 

The room darkened and the movie started, but I could tell my wife was still slow burning about the jerks in the handicapped seats. All it took to distract my monkey brain was Jennifer Lawrence's awesome three-story face beamed across the Cinerama big screen. 

Two hours later, the credits rolling, I noticed my wife wasn't making any packing-up-type gestures. "Hey, let's go," I said, wanting to beat the crowd to the restroom because I'm old and ridiculous.

"I'll meet you in the lobby," she replied.


I expected to find her waiting for me downstairs, but she wasn't around. My phone buzzed. "Hey," she said. I'm in the bathroom. I had to say something to those people, so meet me by the door."

"Shit. What did you say?" I asked. 

"Just meet me by the door."

My wife is a highly moral individual, plus she's Italian. It's a lethal combination when she witnesses injustice. I've seen her do everything from buying coffee and sandwiches for panhandlers to offering a hotel room for to a homeless woman and her daughter. I should have known that was why she hung back.

She finally appeared and we scurried out of the lobby like a couple of Denny's dine and dashers. 

"What'd you say to them?" I asked, as we walked into the chilly afternoon.

"I just leaned over, looked at each of them and said, "You should both be ashamed of yourselves."

"Oh, that's not too bad. Did they say anything?" 

"Well," she said, "I heard the guy say 'Excuse me?' but I was already walking away…to the bathroom."

"Why? Did you think he was going to punch you or something?"

"I just didn't want to get caught next to them when the crowd backed up in the lobby," she said. "Talk about awkward. I made my point."

Indeed. It's always a slippery slope to accuse someone of being a deadbeat. We can all be a little too quick to judge whether someone's disabilities warrant special treatment or not. 

But when you get a front row seat to that kind of behavior, you have to either speak up or have a spouse who does it for both of you.

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