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March 30, 2004


First, thanks to those of you who responded to my question yesterday about line-butting, There were a lot of excellent thoughts in there, as well as some useful tips on the laundering of hats.

It went so well that I want to ask another manners question today. But before I do, let me say that: (1) Yes, I'll probably write a column on this, and (2) No, you will not be paid, though you will have my eternal gratitude, defined as "gratitude that could last for several days."

Anyway, today's question involves saving seats (or tables). When is this OK? My off-the-cuff feeling is that if the persons you're saving the seats for are actually somewhere on the premises, it's OK. The classic example is, you're at the movies, and one part of your party goes to find seats, while the other part buys popcorn.

But my feeling is that if the people you're saving seats for are NOT in the building yet, you really can't deny open seats to people who are actually there. Is that a valid distinction?

And what about tables? Often, at, say, a crowded shopping-mall food court, there will be many tables occupied by people who aren't actually eating, but simply camping out while others in their party get food. Now, under my on-the-premises guideline, this would be OK; the problem is that table-camping increases the average time of use for each table, which makes the crowding worse than if people waited until they actually had their food before sitting down.

Anyway, comment away. Or not! I realize you may have something more important to do. Although I frankly cannot imagine what.


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I'm not actualy posting, but I'm holding this spot for someone who plans on posting shortly.

It's Ok provided the intended chairoccupiers are on the premises and reasonably expected to arrive within fifteen minutes. There should be a limit of one chair holder for every two other chairs held. Bigger parties require multiple holders. Anyone trying to hold more than two chairs would have physical limitations preventing them from a hostile chair takeover anyway.

this is one of those "gray areas," and by "gray area" what i mean is, "perfectly practical when *I* wish to do save a table for myself, but completely rude when other people engage in this activity."

in my defense, however, my table-bogarting primarily takes place when i am alone--and i wish to do the rest of the place a favor.

by way of example: i often take my laptop to a coffee shop nearby in order to (a). leech off their broadband and (b). get breakfast. i will often (before ordering) reserve a small table for myself toward the back of the establishment, but this is only because i would rather save one *tiny* table than sit at a larger table that might still be open by the time i've paid for my food.

this way, i've left a larger table free for a larger party, and i am spared the nasty looks i'd surely get later on from people who are saying to themselves, "what is that obnoxious little woman doing taking up that whole big table, when she is clearly alone?"

so, in summary--table saving:
for me: good.
for other people: comparable to picking a wedgie at a crowded salad bar.

Choose your amusing lead:

1) And what's worse, neither can we.
2) Good one, Skip!
3) Second (well, actually Fourth) Post!
3a) (which is a lot better than I did yesterday).

All seriousness aside, I think this is a less clear cut situation than the one you posed yesterday, Dave (I *can* call you Dave; we know each other that well, right?).

Certainly, in a 'table' situation, there's less of an issue, unless you're saving, say, a 10-top, and there's only you, in which case you should be prepared to exert some effort to hold your ground.

In a 'row-of-seats' situation, my personal opinion is that you should be required to carry along some personal item of each party's, to serve as a place marker. Using items of your own, while it will likely work, is of questionable morality, and will likely lose you points in whatever afterlife you subscribe to.

You can email me the royalty checks. :-)

You are a hard man to please. If they are at table, they are not cutting into your line.

Buy a whoopie cushion and put it in your pocket. Stand in the vicinity of the squatters and periodically operate the cushion while wearing an expression of relief.

Both of those scenarios are okay as far as I care. What bothers me is when people save tables or chairs for people who "may be coming." The result is usually five tables reserved, but noone ever sits in them while others stand around.

Dave, this was a major problem at my High School for a while.

It is now generally agreed upon that those willing to fight for their seats are allowed to save them. It's a self-correcting problem, as the more people present, the more fight they can put up. It's easier for four people to save a seat for one than for one person to save a seat for four.

I have something more important to do.

And, Cherie, you've ranked those coffee-shop-attending activities in priority order, right? :-)

Nice LJ design, BTW (except for, y'know, the way-too-small-to-read text); I guess I'll forgive you for making even "Fourth" inaccurate, though you'd expect I'd know better by know.

But how can you be a Priest and a Heretic at the same time?

As long as there is no consumption of carbs, then it is ok. Those with bread should have mall privileges revoked.
Or something like that

As to saving tables; tables are easier to defend as one simply has to lie down on it or remove one's shoes and put his feet up on the table.

Dave, to further complicate matters I would mix both your questions. What about saving a place in line. For instance, a guy comes up while your at a long line in the grocery, he has nothing in his hands,he asks (this may or may not be an exact quote) "Who's last on line?" When you proceed to accept that status as your own, he grunts (again about the quote) "I'm behind you". Not knowing if and how to respond you quizically stare at his back as he leaves without expecting a reply. Five minutes later he shows up with his items, and tells the six people who joined the line "I was behind this guy". Right or rotten?

A variation- the woman in front of you is sitting on line with a heavily laden cart. However, she is still shopping while she is on the line. Dissapearing for a few moments and returning with more stuff. Hey (don't get startled), if it happens once I'm okay. To err is idiotic to forgive insane. People forget things, they even lose things, occasionally their minds. But if she joined the line planning to continue shopping is that problematic? Possibly not- who is she cutting or inconveniencing? Why should she have to waste her time that she is anyways sitting on line wondering if she should buy the flashlight or eyeglass cleaning kit? Or is it rude? It certainly is if her turn comes up and she is MIA.

As you could see, I have lots of other things to do.

I think it depends on how many spaces you are saving, and how many total spaces are available.

If you are one person holding 10 spaces in a full theater, you are evil.

If you are a party of 10 in a theater, and holding two spots, I think that's pretty much ok.

If you are in a crowded theater, and you are saving a seat for only one other person, I still think that's ok...because it sucks to watch a movie alone.

Here's my thoughts, caffeine-addled as they are:

1. Saving seats at the movies is valid, because it's just not as much fun to whisper at the top of the lungs, "WHAT'S GOING ON? ISN'T THAT THE GUY THEY ALREADY MURDERED? AM I IN THE RIGHT THEATER?" to complete strangers. Of course, I'm the kind of person who will move over a seat to let a couple or a family sit together, mainly so I can get a few handfuls of 'sympathy popcorn.'

2. Anyone who is crazy enough to subject themselves to a mall at a time when it is so crowded that the food court is standing room only deserves to be carried away by a swarm of killer bees.

If I ever have the thought, "Wow, it's a beautiful Saturday afternoon! I think I'll spend it standing around inside a crowded bastion of consumer hell so I can get an Orange Julius!," I'll call the bees myself.

Hope this helps. Where's my coffee.

I see this a lot at junior high concerts and dance recitals. People will come and take up the entire center section ROW for people who may be coming to see their little precious darling. Usually it's an older, larger, glasses wearing, looks down her nose and GLARES at you grandmother-type. How DARE you want one of the best seats in the house while SHE's on duty. As these people file in, it's usually the woman with the largest "once-a-week" boufant hairdo who will plop down in front of my six year-old and he'll then say in a loud-ish voice: "Mom! Now I can't see!" So, I'll switch seats with him, and now *I* can't see MY precious darling.

Don't even get me started on all those well meaning folks who have their digital or analog camcorders planted right in front of my seat, blocking any hope of a glimpse of my kid.

Or on folks who, despite all of the good-humored (or not-so) warnings to put all pagers and cell phones on MUTE during the performance, will ignore the "advice", get a call in the middle of a performance and then have the audacity to actually TAKE the call. "What? No, I can't talk right now. I'm at my kid's performance. No, Tuesday isn't good. .. blah, blah, blah"

Oh, that's a tough one. I agree with you about the saving of seats; if your companions are on the premises, and are simply off taking a leak or buying popcorn, that's okay. Indefinite seat-saving is rude.

On the food court situation, it's situational. Say, for example, that you are like my husband and myself, forty-something parents of two children under the age of three. In that instance, it becomes absolutely crucial that we have a table, because if there end up being no tables, and we are trying to eat standing up, balancing food and wiping noses and keeping the little boogers from clouting each other, this would be a disaster. So yes, I will camp out at a table while my husband buys our food. As opposed to if we had come to our senses before having children and it was only the two of us, then a table would not be so crucial, and we would refrain from camping out.

But that's us. People in general are so rude, you're tempted to just go ahead and be rude yourself, because if you're considerate, no one will notice, or if they do, they will sneer at you for being such a pushover.

On the issue of saving tables, if the food court is so crowded that someone feels it necessary to save a table, you are well within your rights to sit down and eat your luch at their table. Chances are, the food court is so crowded you will be able to eat your lunch and resume shopping well before the other party can get through the line that usually only has one register open anyway.

This is a chronic problem at a bagel place where my wife and I sometimes have breakfast. The place gets busy on weekend mornings, and tables are in short supply. Often, when a party of four arrives, three people will get in the line, while the fourth nails the only empty table in the place. So we go through the line, pay, and stand around with our trays like damned fools while six of the fifteen tables are occupied by "squatters." The ironic thing is that the table shortage is actually created by the squatters. If it weren't for them, normal turnover would provide plenty of tables.

What to do about it? Life's too short for a weekly hassle over tables with people who are too damned rude to realize that they are rude, and certainly would not appreciate being instructed on the point. So we go down the road to a place that has decent bagels and enough tables to go around.

well Baylink, i'll tell you.

first of all, yes--i've got my priorities straight, thank you very much. free wireless before food, that's what i say.
second, check your monitor settings. that's 10.5 pt. font, and it reads fine for pretty much everyone. but thanks, and i too am pretty happy with the design.
third (and finally, because i really DO have other things to do here at work, believe it or not), Heretic Spire, a Damn Lie is an anagram for my full name. furthermore, i'm not even catholic. go fig...


Baylink wrote: > In a 'row-of-seats' situation, ... Using items of your own, while it will likely work, is of questionable morality

I agree. (Please see my post from yesterday, when I, Carnak-like, anticipated this survey and posted my seat-saving thoughts in the line-butting survey). My wife always expects me to save seats for others by putting my jacket on one seat, my hat on another, her purse on another (and being seen in public carrying her purse is a WHOLE other issue), etc, etc. It's easier in wintertime, you have more articles of clothing to use; in summertime, saving seats for a large group can lead to - well, questionable morality.

I think, saving tables and/or seats is all dependent on the crowd level. For example if you are a Barry Manilow Concert, there will be plenty of seats for all, so it's ok to save whole rows, sections or even the entire venue for you and your party from the hospital, however, if it's say a sold out movie, or the "hot new place" well then as they say in my neck of the woods "your S#it outta luck, but I hear Barry Manilow is playing at the Stadium"

I think, saving tables and/or seats is all dependent on the crowd level. For example if you are a Barry Manilow Concert, there will be plenty of seats for all, so it's ok to save whole rows, sections or even the entire venue for you and your party from the hospital, however, if it's say a sold out movie, or the "hot new place" well then as they say in my neck of the woods "your S#it outta luck, but I hear Barry Manilow is playing at the Stadium"

MOTW's scenario is what originally came to mind. All I could think of was that I would be dead, truly dead, meat if I didn't save seats for my parents for that kind of event.

As between being rude or dealing with weeks of guilt induced by my parents, I have to err on the side of being rude.

But at least I wouldn't say to other people, "They mind that I'm saving seats, but they won't say it." I'm not THAT rude!

Such a Quadry. I seem to agree with cherie priest ...if it is for me it is good. If it is for other...not so good.
I usually base the length or number of chairs to hold based on the crowdedness of the location I am at. If it is packed and everyone is standing room only. Then the person you are saving for better be on the premises. If it not very crowded and there are other chairs or tables to sit at the location then who cares how many you save and for how long. If there are other seats/tables available for the masses then I don't think it really matters.
That is my take on it...maybe wrong..but it is my take...

What is the rule in saving chairs when you are out by the pool? There are many people who put their bags or extra towls on two to three chairs at a time? Is this ok if the person(s) arrive within a certain amount of time?

I am a princess and I will save the seat next to me, even if no one I know will be sitting there, just to ensure I am not sitting next to some stranger. I know thats that the nice thing to do, but I need at least 3 feet of space around me at all times!

My feeling is: Life is too short to get worked up about this sort of thing.

We were involved in this sort of situation last May at a high-school graduation ceremony. There were about eight of us going, and we were told that people show up at least an hour early to start reserving seats.

So everyone in the group was instructed that if they arrived first, they should use coats, handbags, or any other unneeded clothing to reserve seats for as many other people as possible.

My response to this was to be sure not to be first and let someone else make an ass of themself.

Is it really that important to sit next to people in such a setting? If you're sitting in a row of seats, chances are that 1) it's not the sort of event in which you should be having a conversation, playing cards, or whatever else would make it necessary to be next to someone and 2) you're in a row -- so there are only a few people you can see/hear/touch anyway.

So, the rule on saving seats in a row like this is if you're alone and saving the seat next to you for one or two other people, that's OK - even if they're not on the premises. However, if you're two or more people waiting for two or more other people, there's no need to save seats -- everyone will get to sit next to someone they know.

Tables in a cafeteria setting or whatever else are another situation though. In that case, talking and otherwise interacting is reason for doing this sort of thing together. In that case, saving the seats necessary for your party is reasonable, as long as you're sure you'll have enough to occupy all the seats. All this within limits though -- as Baylink said, one person saving a table for ten might not go over that well.

Then again, if I have a party of ten and I'm alone saving a table for them, and a party of four is looking for a table and there are plenty of options, I would hope that explaining that to them would be enough for them. The larger your party, the less likely it is that there are tables to accomodate and so it's reasonable to save the space, assuming you're not displacing a group that has already arrived.

My feeling is: Life is too short to get worked up about this sort of thing.

My view on the whole "saving" concept is that it depends on 1.) for how long, and 2.) how busy?

For instance, I don't see it as overly rude to save seats in a movie theater, even for people who aren't necessarilly on the premesis, if there are other seats available--it's reasonable to tell people "would you mind sitting somewhere else? We're sitting together" if, say, they can sit in the row right behind you. Similarly with tables--if there are other tables, I don't see it as overly rude to take 2 tables together and hold them.

On the other hand, if it gets busy, and the fact that you're holding these seats/tables means other people either don't get a seat at all, or can only get a substantially worse seat (e.g. neck-straining front row theater seat while you're saving prime seats in the center), then you start the clock on them.

From the "excuse me, is someone sitting here?", you have a fixed amount of time to produce an actual person to occupy the vacant seat. Failure to do so should mean the seats are forfeitted.

The amount of time allocated can depend on the situation. Here are some suggestions:
* Movie Theater, if there are available-but-worse seats, you get until the lights start to dim for the previews.
* Movie theater, no seats at at all, 5 minutes or until the lights dim, whichever comes first.
* Food court, other lesser seats available (e.g. 2 tables for 2 people each when this is a group of 4), 10 minutes or until the person actualy occupying the table is done eating (no stalling allowed!), whichever is first.
* Food court, no seats available. 5 minutes max.

My coworkers will sometimes go out to eat, and a few will leave early to grab seats for those (like me) who don't have the luxury of leaving work early. My thought is that this is acceptable since they are putting in the time and effort to plan ahead to get a table before it gets busy. This has nothing to do with the feeling of superiority I get out of getting to the resturant and pushing past the waiting lines of people to a waiting space.

I'm saving this seat for someone, but I'm willing to be bribed into letting them fend for themselves when they get here.

It is always ok to save a place in line. The fact that people are in a line shows that they are not important enough to worry over. Ever hear of a President, Senator, or even assistant to the alternate pretzel vendor standing in line? Alrighty then, you can save places for imaginary people who probably won't show up, since they aren't talking to you anymore.

Same rule applies for tables. Important people don't even make reservations, and the little folk are simply tossed into the street when they arrive. Let's face it: "I got thrown into a busy street so that Dave Barry could order a double-half-caf-vendi-cappuccino" is a much better start to a story than "I think Dave Barry was going to come to my coffee shop, but it was too crowded."

This is why most people stay home and read Dave Barry instead of venturing into public, which, by definition, nearly always involves people.

I've got to vote with the "life is too short" crew...

and, encourage those who don't like lines to avoid going to Disneyland!

I don't go places where i have to wait, because I HATE waiting, and really have better things to do than try and craft ways to avoid doing so.

and, the bottom line is, no matter what we think...the world is ruled by the aggressive and the strong......

But, I suspect, Dave plans to show us that the pen is mightier than the sword.. (or "sord" for those that prefer the phonetic spelling)

I don't mind someone saving a table, as long as it's with SOME consideration of others (i.e. the rest will be there quickly or are waiting in line).

I DO mind someone hogging 2 rows of movie theater seats for people who are not at the theater yet. They force people who are timely (but who do have jobs and cannot get to the theater an hour before showtime) to sit so that they are staring directly up Aragorn's left nostril for an entire feature whilst their 'friends' show up 5 minutes into the feature, crunching loudly on popcorn and saying "What'd I miss?". Of course, I can't hear the friends because I'm too busy trying to decide if it's better to tilt my entire head to the left or just watch the $10 movie with my left eye only. I hope there's a special place in heck for people like that (the savers and the latecomers).

I hate linejumpers with a passion and make it my goal in life to abuse them verbally. The proper thing to do is excuse oneself to the back of the line if one sees an friend at the end. The proper thing to do one one is cut in front of is to call attention to the idiot. P.S. Guy B, while initially embarassed, is at fault in this deal, too. He should have absolutely refused and made the idiot...oops, I mean, Guy A, aware that lines exist for a reason.

On the subject, a very rude 'woman' jumped in front of me just as I was entering a newly-opened lane at the local supermarket. She said "I'm really, sorry, but it's the store's fault, because I've been in that other line for over 15 minutes!". I said (loudly) "Well, my daughter has pneumonia, but I'm sure she doesn't mind waiting behind you." (Said daughter is 9 months old, coughing her lungs out, and we'd just come in to get a prescription filled and some Pedialyte & Motrin for her....this 'woman' was by herself buying pretty much nothing but junk food.) The 'woman' pretty much kept saying it was the store's fault, but the whole rest of the line gave her some very dirty looks and nasty comments, including the cashier (look, but no comment). The guy behind me took my 3 items out of the cart for me so I could continue holding the baby. I hope she never does it again.

Ettique for Movie Theatre Seat Saving

Saving seats for a people that is going to join you at the movie is acceptable for the purpose of allowing your group to sit together, but it is bad manners to occupy spaces for others who just want you to "save me a good seat!"

If you are saving spots you should not do so in the best seats in the house. You run the risk of being personally damaged when people walk into the theatre, see empty seats right in the middle, and you force them to sit in the nosebleeds or neckcracks instead.

You are also obligated to abandon seat saving of various degrees once the capacity of the theater passes certain thresholds. Opinions of the exact values may vary, but a good rule of thumb is:

Entire Row: Theatre 1/4 full
Five Spaces: Theatre 1/2 full
Three Spaces: Theatre 3/4 full
Two Spaces: Theatre Almost Completly Full
One Space: Only when an attractive person of the opposite sex is walking down the isle looking for a spot.

What about at weddings, when they always try to save the first couple of rows for the immediate family? As if a garland at the end of the pew is really going to stop anyone. And then the ushers get all tense about it. This same type of nonsense happens at funerals, too.

You can stretch your ability to defend saved seats to seven or so if you employ technology such as rubber vomit or those fake spilled soda can things. But this requires planning and an artistic touch.

I think it depends on the length of time you plan to be using the space. If you're at a food court, it doesn't really make sense to camp out because of the turnover argument outlined in other responses.

Movies are a different story, because you're stuck in those seats for at least 1.5 hours. This turns it into a situation where, rude or not, you don't have much of a choice if you want to sit together.

I go to a weekly pub quiz. It's in a moderately sized bar, and lasts for about 2 hours. When it first got started, no one knew about it, and our group of 8 or so could show up right before it started and get a table together no problem. Now it's pretty popular, and people have started sending representatives for their group to save tables THREE HOURS ahead of time. If you show up an hour early, you'll be standing. Rude, yes. But now we also have to send a squatter if we want to participate as a team.

we'll never really know if they're friends are on the premises.we'll have to find other seats.Pretend they need the chairs more than u,u never know.maybe they've just come back from that Manilow concert.

anger managment 101

This is tougher than the "cutting in line" question. It requires an intense and complicated mathmatical equation that involves several variables :

a - the number of seats being saved
b - the number of people saving the seats
c - how many seats are left
d - how "valuable" the seats are - for instance, it's not too bad to save four seats at a theater near the back and to the side. It's much more rude to save four seats front row center at the general admission Barry Manilow concert.
e - how cute the girls are saving the seats

I can't remember exactly how the variables fit into the formula, but I do know calculus is involved, so it's best to just avoid saving more than two seats per person as a general rule of thumb.


This is a tough question. I try not to go anywhere that is so crowded that I may not have a seat. I really appreciate, and use, call ahead seating and reservations, or we have the pizza dude bring the food to our uncrowded dining room. We have a 7 year-old and two toddlers so going out to eat is, frankly, not much fun with the whole family. At a food court a table is a must. Momma gets the kids lunch on the table and cut up and ketchupped, etc. while the Daddy purchases - HOT food for Momma, REALLY!

Go to a theater? What is a theater? Can you save me a seat? I'll be there in about ten years.

When going to a movie or mall with friends, always bring along a few yards of yellow Crime Scene tape.

I cannot sit idly by while Tomorrow's Man disses the Orange Julius.

That said, there's good pre-movie entertainment value in watching late-comers look for empty seats.

Those two empty seats in dead center are soooo tempting. The late people stand in the isle staring at them, hoping against hope that those seats are available. They make a move toward the seats, clamboring over the isle people, only to be turned back when the designated seat-saver gets wise.

Here's a movie-going tip, if you see two seats open in the middle row of a crowded theater, move on. It's fool's gold. It's like driving around your neighborhood trying to find street parking, and constantly getting duped by the fire-hydrant space.

How about: a guy who holds the White House for somebody who'd actually be elected President?

My feeling is: Life is too short to get worked up about this sort of thing.

Posted by: GDogg on March 30, 2004 11:26 AM

AHA! You must be one of those saving seats for people who aren't even in the complex type of people!! Boo! Go see Barry Manilow. We Don't Want You Here.

Once again I bring you: What would a college kid do?

In terms of movies, you'll want to:

A. Show up at least 15 minutes before the movie starts.

B. Show up half in the bag.

C. Find good seats.

D. Ensure they are good seats by being rowdy so no one would want to sit around you.

E. Get booted out of the theatre for being too loud.

F. Announce that your seats are then available to anyone.

G. Always have a designated driver.

H. Kobe Bryant was named after a steak.

Movie Theatre Solution:

If your town has an independent movie theatre wherein they do not show Hollywood movies, going there at 1 PM on any given day guarantees no one will hold seats. Additionally, no crying children.

Eventually, you get used to movies with no discernable ending or beginning and the clown stops crying.

I agree with the life is too short philosophy but at the same time try to avoid situations that iritate me like the crowd at the food court.
I haven't been to a movie theater in a few year since I have a small child, but I think it's ok to save a seat for the rest of your group.

Wot's a pub quiz?


This post has nothing to do with the issue at hand; i.e. seat saving. The point that I would like to make is that people do not stand ON LINE...they stand IN LINE!!! This incorrect expression has been increasing over the past few years due to the expression of being "online" while surfing the web and has started to really irritate me. Probably nobody else cares about such a meaningless problem as this, but it irritates me to no end.

In my group of friends, I am usually the one who goes to the theater early to get good seats. I try to bring as many people with me as possible, because (while I do it anyway) I think saving more than two seats per person is very rude. One thing I like to do if it is just two or three of us saving seats for 10 or 12 people is to either:
A) pretend you don't know each other or
B) Save seats in two different rows
I like B, because not only does it keep the group more consolidated, but it doesn't look as rude. It just looks like 2 people saving 4 other seats each than 2 people saving 8 seats.

This is, like line-cutting, not so much a matter of etiquette as it is a matter of institutional control: the particular venues should establish the rule, post it clearly, and enforce it.

Heck, maybe they can even put it in their mission statement.

I am a recovering OrangeJuliusaholic; even though I believe the secret ingredient in them is ground up St. Joseph's aspirin, I could snork one down in Olympic-record speed.

My advice is this: be pro-active. Learn seat-saving techniques that get you seats, and subtly teach others to shake the habit via Pavlovian conditioning. When in need of sitting-space for you and yours at a movie theater, mall food court, church, etc., simply sit down next to anyone after removing your pants. I guarantee you will soon have plenty of room for the family, and the person who slowly backs away from you will have second thoughts the next time they dare consider sitting down anywhere in public.

Voila! Problem solved. Now where's my pants...dammit, left them at KFC again....

I think it's a balancing rule: how many people, how far away, how crowded the room? The higher the value on any one factor, the less likely it's acceptable. Saving a seat for one person who just left home for an uncrowded movie is probably okay. For one that is thisclose to selling out, I'd say the friend had better be in the restroom. Saving a seat for ten people who are actually on the premises and quite close to being seated is also likely okay, if there are enough seats for others. Saving a seat for ten people in the back of the ticket line is not okay. Of course, all this presumes the person the seat is being reserved for is actually en route. "They called two weeks ago and said they were coming" isn't good enough.

Personally, I believe there should be a time limit on how long a seat/table/place in line can be held for. For example, I go to a lot of really crowded briefings and Lord knows I don't want to sit any where near the front where I can get caught playing games on my cell phone, ect. However, there are a bunch of ___holes who always take 45 seats in the back, by the food mind you, and will hold these seats for people who show up 30 minutes late. I feel that all saved seats should be given up 5 minutes after the start of the movie/program/meeting, whatever.

Ok, here's my two cents. I'm probably repeating the sentiments of others who have posted here but you did ask, Dave.

Saving seats is not that big of an deal, really. I don't mind saving seats for someone who's with me (1-2 others). But when it comes to a HUGE group of people I say, if you want a seat, get your own. I think it's rude for a group to send one person to reserve an entire row so they can do something else instead of getting their own seat. You save the seat for the persons in your party who are taking care of legitimate business (eg. getting snacks, going potty) but if they are out mucking around, screw them.

As for the food court, I think saving one table is fine. Even (especially) if it is busy. Most people do this and it's commonly accepted, or so it seems to me. Either way I don't get upset about it. If the place is so crowded that I can't find a seat in the first place then I go somewhere else.

Either way I don't get pissy about it.

What about seats on an airplane? I clearly established my “rights” on the open seat next to me during a trans-Atlantic flight; I had a coat and books on the seat and 1000 nautical miles behind me. I heard a French guy speaking English to his wife in the row behind me (who had 10 seats in total), “My dear, zee must sleep…zee see..ssee. I didn’t think much of it until he was standing next to me pointing at my open seat saying “Do zee mind if zit there? It’s for the zee children….for zee children.”

So he’s sitting there, what does Mr. Compassion do? He takes over the arm rest! Not a candy a**, subtle “let’s establish half this arm rest now and take the rest during a weak moment when he scratches his nose.” He’s got his arm two if not three inches over the arm rest in my territory, which was mine…I say mine!. He falls asleep immediately. I stew for a while. “For zee children…for zee children”……It gets a little fuzzy but I’m pretty sure I counter attacked and established a beachhead on the arm rest for the rest of the flight.

Now that I'm entering true adult-hood, and I have 2 small children, I've just decided that while I'll be as nice as I can in doing so, I'm going to take the seats I need.

Case in point: We're at the mall on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, trying to avoid a nasty swarm of bees that keeps coming our way, and it's time to eat lunch. We grab our food from one or more of the high-quality restauranteurs in the food court and start searching for a table. If there are no empty tables, we just look for empty chairs. Two people at a 6-top, we're 4 people, perfect! "Excuse me, would you mind if we joined you? There are no tables available." No one ever says no.

c. Life is too short to really care about these things ... but just long enough to enjoy bitching about them. ;)

Well said, Punky, well said.

I suspect that this question, like many others, cannot be answered by a finite rule ( on-premesis/off-premesis) nor a quantative rule ( 2 is OK, 4 is too many) and that the answer lies in the question, "Am I inconveniencing others by my actions if I do such-and-such?"

Mostly, however, I am pleased to note that blog-commentor, Steve, in the 3rd comment has coined a new word "chairoccupier", which is really great if you pronounce it like it were in French, "sher-Oh-ku-pierre!"

I think, also, that it depends on the number of seats the person is trying to save. If it is only one or two seats it wouldn't be a big deal but someone trying to save a whole row of seats is a different matter.

I've never run into this issue at a food court. I might be likely to just not eat at the food court if it was that crowded.

To Anna - Bravo...I love people who use common sense, and sit where there are available seats. What I hate though are people who see you sitting with at a table and assume they can help themselves to the empty seats around you. I always want to say "If I wanted a 2-seater, I would have sat at one...now give me back my d@mn chairs!!" But I never do.

I find it amazing that there are so many people in the world who have less to do than I do.

Also, I think that it is ruder for one person to take up an eight person booth when they are alone than for someone to hold a table for people who are coming soon.

Rufus wrote: >Probably nobody else cares about such a meaningless problem as this, but it irritates me to no end.

I care!! While we're at it, how 'bout:
"I'm waiting on him to finish" (instead of "for him")
"We were playing horseshoes, and I won him."
"I could care less"

As Mr Language Person would say, mistakes like these are the most stupidest thing in the whole entire world!

ps. I also have an incurable hangup about correct spelling - which makes nearly all online communication painful to me.

I think seat-saving for friend(s) who "will be arriving soon" is rude and thoughtless based on how I've felt doing it. In the theater, spouse needs restroom break--no problem. As a mom of 2 young kids, getting a table while friend or husband gets food is a simple matter of survival. But holding seats or tables or lines or any other so that someone else has permission to sleep later or work longer on their hair should be illegal! ...or at least highly punishable. LOL

for the comment about "in line" vs "on line" it is a regional thing. My husband (a New Yorker, but I love him anyway) says on line, so I ask him how he likes broadband vs dial-up, where as I (an inveterate Connecticutarian) prefer to say in line and he asks my why I'm not wearing pads while skating....ah love, nothing you can do but laugh and point!

Saving seats and tables are pretty clear, really. You must have arrived with this person (or persons), will depart with them, and have no reason to suspect they have wandered away from your company for a prolonged period. Classic examples: they are off to purchase your sugar needs or leave urinal pennies. You have barely lost visual contact with them; in fact, their seats are still warm. In crowded situations, you may stake a seat (even one at a table) for a person who has not occupied it, but only at a 1:1 ratio. If you need to leave a urinal penny, you'll have to plan shifts.

As for yesterday's line butting, I regularly have people shove me in the grocery store, actually KNOCK ME OVER in the anxiousness to get, say, a can of soup. I also have people shove by me in line, hitting me with their carts, bouncing me into the trash mags and gum, so that when I recover I am separated from my spouse (who was quietly paying) by several people, causing great panic on my part, since after more than ten years together, I can't function as an individual spontaneously. Although I seem to be of regular length and width, I think I might be invisible, in that none of these people has ever even said 'excuse me' or 'sorry.' I have considered conducting experiments to test that I am indeed solid matter, possibly involving punching.

Oh, and a variation on what MOTW mentioned, if you are far more than the average height, don't go to the theatre. Or is you have to, don't sit in front of someone. No one is paying to see your gigantic head. I don't go to theatres anymore because of my asthma, but when I could, I wanted a guillotine.

Thank you.

I think saving a couple of seats for people who are definitely on their way, if not actually on the premises yet, is fine. More than a couple of seats is rude, no matter where you are.

The thing about this issue and the butting in line issue is that rude people are, by definition, RUDE, and could not possibly care less that you were A) there first, B) had the right-of-way, C) stopped first at the intersection, or whatever the case may be. So I'm not sure what we stand to gain here by defining what's rude and what isn't. The rest of us will continue to be subjected to the rudeness, 'cause the 'rudies' don't give a rat's patoot.

Why, just this morning I ran out to get some air in a nearly flat tire. I pull in gingerly as I'm being hustled in by a tailgating lawn truck. I put my 50 cents into the machine, lean down, and hear a voice: "Are you almost done?!?" The lawn truck lady driver is yelling at me. Can she mean this? I pulled in two seconds ago. "Just starting," I call back, and she says, "Because WE want to get air TOO!" I have no idea what the appropriate response is to this, since I am the kind of person who will be very polite to the offender's face but then kick myself for not saying something like "That's WONDERFUL, but I'm afraid for now your hideous fate is to WAIT YOUR BLEEPING TURN like the rest of us, you jerkwad!" So I didn't say anything, but then when I finished (about three minutes later), the giant lawn truck is blocking me in as they have decided to pull in perpendicular to the space allotted for the air machines. Meanwhile, the person vacuuming his conversion van while playing insanely loud rap has left and the lawn people are using that machine for air instead.

So, I really just posted that to vent. But I think it's clear that rude people will continue to be rude until we can arm those of us who are not with laser disintegration blaster rays.

Your position makes sense, Dave (I'm assuming we're all on a first-name-basis here, except for those people who don't use their actual nameswhen online--I have no idea why people would do something like that, but whatever), but I also think there has to be a time limit. I remember people saving computers in the labs at college, and I saw a seat in front of an unused computer piled up with a coat and bookbag, and this person held the computer for over an hour despite the fact over two dozen people were in line. Many of them had work due, with finals coming up; the person saving the seat was using Instant Messenger. Eventually the person the computer was saved for walked past the entire line and sat down at the computer. The people in line were NOT happy. When you're President, can we safely assume people who pull stunts like that will be sentnced to death without hope for appeal? Because I would vote for people who would do that.

I rarely run into this problem anymore. There is no line or crowd to watch my DVDs. No one ever cuts in line to pay the pizza delivery guy, and I don't have worry about someone saving my spot on the couch before the big game (though the wife will occasionally place assorted clothing items there). Yes, you are correct, I no longer have a life.

Okay. First of all, yes, the savees do actually need to be on the premises. If you are saving seats for people who are on their way in from, say, Wisconsin, you need to move your darned coats and let me sit down.

Conversely, if I have reserved a table for the one night a year I get to go out with adults, and some snotty little silicone babe won't seat us because one person is in the restroom, everyone in the vicinity deserves to roast in the fiery pits of hell.

Movie theaters:
Unless you're a 14-year-old girl, you shouldn't be going to the movies with a large crowd. What's the point of having three rows of seats "together" when I'm just going to pelt you with Goobers for chit-chatting during the film?

It is perfectly acceptable to tag-team seats for two to maybe four people, especially if you are a family with small children you want couched between adults unlikely to molest them. For example, Mom & Daughter save seats while Dad & Son get a second mortgage and hit the snack bar, then they switch.

In Chicago, we have billionplexes where the actual theater only seats, roughly, three people. Seat-saving in this case is prohibited.

How big is the table? How many does it seat? Again, there are apparently special rules for young teenage girls, who need at least three tables per person to ensure reaching their maximum public screech potential.

For anyone else, family rules again apply. Nobody in their right mind who has an even faintly responsible adult in their vicinity would go through the hell of waiting in line at a food court with several antsy kids in tow. So one adult takes at least one kid and gets the napkins and table, while the other gets the food. Both adults don't require chairs, since they never get to sit down at the same time, so families can thus donate at least one extra chair to others waiting to sit.

Another thing about food court food... who are we kidding that we are in such a rush to sit so we can eat while the food is hot? Do we really think the food is so extraordinary that it cannot be consumed cold? Or is the thinking that the food is so disgusting that consuming it cold would be fatal?

Except those Auntie Annie pretzels or whetever the hell they are. Carb Crack, I call it.


I agree with you; if they're on the premises, it's okay to save a seat or two. If they're "on their way" to the theatre, then it's just rude.

Same with the food court. If you're waiting for someone to meet you for lunch, then yes it's rude to save the table, but if someone you're eating with is already in line for food, it's okay to save it. Also, use some kindness. If the place is packed out, don't save three tables when you only need one. In both cases, save only what you need.



The exception to Dave's premise is obviously if you're saving the seat for your wife. This can be accomplished with little fuss as follows:

1. Hang your jacket on the empty chair next to you.
2. Order two drinks, placing one in front of the now jacketed empty chair.
3. Light a cigarette, placing it in an ashtray next to the glass in front of the empty chair

Voila, You can now hold this seat indefinitely. People will assume that your guest is having an extremely unpleasant time in the bathroom.

In my estimation, both of these "holding patterns" are basically acceptable when practiced judiciously and with courtesy. Here's my reasoning:

1. "On the premises." Say you and your significant other are meeting another couple at the movies. If you're traveling from opposite ends of town to get there, I think it's okay for whoever arrives first to find seats, even though it would be more Judith-Martinesque to meet in the lobby. So I'm basically okay with low-key seat saving. (Although if the trailers start and the the other couples' butts aren't in those seats yet, I say all bets are off.)

2. "Food Court." I'm okay with judicious table camping, because a person wants to be certain they have a place to sit before they find themselves wandering aimlessly around the food court balancing a tray of diet soft drinks and soggy bread bowls full of rapidly congealing, low-carb lentil stew. (One doesn't actually eat the bread bowl, of course, due to the carb content. The spent bowls are collected and sent to Taiwan, where they are made into little league catchers mits.)

What bugs me more than table camping is a small number of people monopolizing a large table in a full food court. If there are empty seats around you (and no, shopping bags don't get to occupy seats), you should employ the courtesy of letting others use them, even if it requires some compromise of your "personal space."

Editor's note: I live in a small college town in the midwest, and we don't have many problems with overcrowding. If I was a resident of Miami or another such hub of poor-mannered humanity crawling all over one another, I probably wouldn't have such a laid back approach.

Now it's lunchtime, so I'm off to have a bacon cheeseburger in a bread bowl.

When you write the column, don't forget your experience in the ski shop with John Kerry in (Idaho?). I think the rudest part of the tennis experience was the jerk talking about you like you weren't there.

You're a Florida guy. How about the people who save whole landscapes at the Disney parades, for example? I'm shocked at the real estate that people set aside for their family so that said family can get one more ride on Flying Dumbo.


Call ahead to order pizza.
Make a reservation for a table.

Problem solved.

Is anyone else as shocked as I am that Dave actually researches the articles he writes,
let alone that, at least, part of said research is US? He's gonna read this....stuff? Man, the humor industry is much more demanding that I'd imagined. I don't think Miss Manners gets this much background, Dave. Methinks thou obsesses
too muchly.

Is anyone else as shocked as I am that Dave actually researches the articles he writes,
let alone that, at least, part of said research is US? He's gonna read this....stuff? Man, the humor industry is much more demanding than I'd imagined. I don't think Miss Manners gets this much background, Dave. Methinks thou obsesses
too muchly.

Twice. Even more shocking!

First come, first serve is the only way to go. That table is mine for how ever long I want it. Who ever put disclaimers on the tables that they are for eating only? If I want to sit at a table for 6 and stare at the ceiling for 2 hours, that's my choice. Arrive earlier then, you whiners.

Speaking of seats and airplanes, a co-worker of mine told a story of a recent flight--said he had just sat down in his (a middle) seat, say 13B, when he heard a person saying to the flight attendent: "We're in 13A and 13C. Could we both have seat-belt extenders?" Turns out he had a couple, two very corpulent people who were going to be sitting on each side of him. He asked them if they would like to sit together, but they politely declined. Apparently they had planned it that way and were probably glad to find that my co-worker was on the slim side. So he had a very snug 2-hour flight.

OK, a request, does anyone out there have the link to that wonderful blue & red ball game where you try to separate them into their two compartments? I have the link at home but am right now going thru withdraws here at work. I need to play it!!! AAAAaaaaah!

Thank you.

The thing is, have you noticed how much longer the posts are now that everyone knows this? Its like open-mic night at Dave's Comedy Forum!

People who save spots or cut in line have a special spot saved in Hell for them. They can feel free to cut in front of me in the Hell line, by the way.

It used to seem like I couldn't leave the house without having to deal with rudeness from everyone who crossed my path. It really used to get me down.

Then I moved away from Florida. Problem solved.

Oh Bless You,Tomorrow's Man! You are the best! *smooch* (watch out for the cat breath)

My day is saved.


You're right, there is nothing more important (such as work) most of us have to rather than answer your manners questions. Here goes:

1. I agree that saving movie seats for someone buying popcorn or going to the bathroom is OK.

2. I don't like saving seats for someone getting food at a food court or the like (unless young children or disabled people or feeble seniors are involved). Many times I wait on line at a pizza place (yes, pizza keeps popping up), only to find that when I get my food the previously empty table is occupied by someone who just walked in and is saving it for someone 10 people back on line. If she (usually) let me sit down I'd be done by the time she got her food. But I realize this is not an opinion that holds much water today, and even my wife doesn't agree when I complain about it (to her, not out loud). I think it's rude to take a place of someone who is actually ready to eat when you aren't.

Now let me go back and read everyone else's opinions.

No JT,
The type of food is not the point, Mom's never get hot food! Edible home cooked food is consumed cold; drive through, nearly impossible to tell the food from the grease food, is finally eaten an hour later - cold, and restaurant food that the waitress puts in front of everyone at the same time gets cold while you cut up everyone else's food, gets cold, too. I think that maybe the waitress should be in charge of food cutting till mom is done eating!I would tip well for this service.

Exactly. Maybe Dave makes judi read these and give him a synopsis (as painful as that can be).

You know... who really cares? Is there another fun link up yet?

Random comment:

To me, part of the problem with saving seats, etc., is generally related to how likely you think OTHERS are to show up early and save seats for THEIR friends.

Example--lawn seating at a concert. You'll have someone show up and put down a huge blanket, thus marking out territory far larger than they're entitled to, saying "friends are coming". When enough people do this, the available seating is gone in moments.

Now, having seen this in action, I will generally make sure my group sends someone in early to do a pre-emptive land grab--if we don't, we won't get a space at all. Now, of course, I'm part of the problem, but you do what you have to.

This is also why all the milk and bread (and bleach, but who cares about bleach?) is sold out when there's a hurricane in the forecast--I may not really NEED bread, but I know if I DON'T go buy it NOW, it will all be gone, and then there won't be any when I DO run out. So now I'm one of the idiots buying the stores out of bread for no discernable reason. (note that I'm hoping the low-carb trend forces the true idiots to switch to soy or something, leaving the actual bread for me, so I don't actually have to get off the couch...)

I think seat saving is acceptable because a sentinel has been dispatched, there is a set number of seats, and there is clear claim. It's an equal playing field because anyone can get there early and save. The gray area is if there is an inordinate number of seats saved (in proportion to available seats), as well as if the saver doesn't stick around to guard their turf (like by leaving jackets).

It's a battleground, and you gotta arrive early and stay strong. The lazy people who get there late are SOL, as far as I'm concerned. (This mentality applies especially at places like Disney, where people have actually been *trampled* when gates were opened in the morning.)

To compare it to the line-butting scenario, which is NOT acceptable, say Person A is in line to buy 2 concert tickets. Person B gets in line to buy 2 concert tickets and is waved to the front by Person A. Not only are you bumped then to crappier seats, you have the additional wait time as the cashier processes two transactions. That's just rude! Although I think it would be okay if Person B had arranged ahead of time for Person A to buy his tickets for him. Hm.

Isn't this sorta like someone cutting in on the highway, or going 35 in a 65mph zone? So...what's next? "Line" rage? "Table" rage?

Dave you have obviously hit a big, pulsating, nerve for many of us. This issue obviously needs to be addressed by a government task force. At the very least this problem needs it's own super hero along the lines of the "Avenging Flight Attendant of Doom". How about "Seat Saver Etiquette Man/Woman" wearing a huge popcorn tub with eye holes on their head? This hero would have a utility belt containing a large rule book of etiquette for saving seats, a bull horn, and for those really insistent Granny types at school events, a cattle prod. The side-kick, Counter Boy/Girl, would be constantly relaying statistics on capacity of the building/food court and the size of the crowd or "crowdedness" (you may need to ask Mr. Language Person if this is a real word)

Cat Woman --

Awww, p'shaw, t'weren't nuthin'! (Since I've moved to Madison, WI. from Boston, MA., I've learnt me some manners!)

Ahem. Back to coffee.

MOTW: Good points (ditto to NatetheGreat). How about the little old ladies (always ladies, almost always old and pretty usually little) who plop down on the aisle seat at the movies and then make whining noises when you (6'1") sit down in front of them? If you don't want someone blocking you lady, move in to the wall seat! And then you won't have to complain about people climbing over you in a crowded theater, especially as you won't stand up to let them go by! And one more movie etiquette point: if you want to put your coat on a seat put it next to you, not over the back of the seat in front of you. Thank you.

On the supermarket etiquette, we all forget things and have to run back for them. I think shopping with your cart on line is a little pushy, especially if you expect me to keep pushing your cart forward for you. Once, sure; twice at a pinch, but I think more than that is piggy. And if the guy comes up and says he was behind you, he's pretty much on his own, though if he just left to get one item I don't mind acknowledging him.


I've noticed that restaurants in my area have adopted strict policies about saving tables and/or seating incomplete parties. If not everyone is there, you can't be seated.

At my kid's preschool, they also have strict no-saving policies for plays and pageants. I don't care if grandma is getting her extra oxygen tank out of the car. She ain't here. No saving.

As a rule-follower, I delight in watching people complain about these policies. We all know who these people are.

They appear normal. Nicely dressed with no visible signs of insanity. But they are in fact egotistical lunatics who believe that the world revolves around them -- and only them.

There is nothing more satisfying than watching one of these people pitch a fit when confronted about their attempted seat saving.

I think schools and businesses could reap huge benefit by adopting similar policies -- and enforcing them like crazy. I'm willing to be all of us *normal* people would love them for it!

The key is to apply the rule consistently and quickly. I've actually watched the director of the school -- the DIRECTOR mind you -- police the hall. It's hilarious.

Cherie Priest: Heretic Spire is a great name for a hard rock band.

Cherie Priest: Heretic Spire is a great name for a hard rock band. Cherie Priest isn't too bad either.

Almost none of the seat-saving issues bother me, but I suppose it depends on the size of the block of saved seats. One person saving 30 seats is a bit much. A party of three saving seats in the theater for two people who are running late is no problem.

Saving seats doesn't bother me, but I'll tell you something that DOES bother me - saving parking spaces. Nothing is more annoying than driving around for what seems like an eternity, finally seeing what looks like an empty parking space, heading towards it, and finding somebody's spouse standing there in the center of it, reserving it until they can get the car around to it.

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