Reserving Seats

Believe it or not, the angry mother at Great Clips wasn’t the only awkward situation I observed last Saturday. For the other episode I take you to a place I have brought up before in this blog…my church.

St. Andrew Catholic Church in Myrtle Beach attracts large crowds. Because St. Andrew is one of the few Catholic parishes in the Grand Strand area and because Myrtle Beach is a magnet for tourists and snowbirds, our weekend masses fill up. Even with five services offered throughout the Saturday and Sunday, the church seems to get packed for each different mass.

As our pastor Fr. James LeBlanc says, “February is a busy time for us.” You see, this is the peak month where folks who call other northern states and northern countries (Canada) home migrate down south to spend the colder months in our little slice of paradise. The second month of the year is when you see this population truly balloon.

The mass that I prefer to attend lately is the 4:30 p.m. Saturday vigil mass. I have learned that during this time of the year if you don’t arrive at least 15 minutes early you will be hard pressed to find a spot. This past Saturday I walked in the church at around 4:11 p.m. and it seemed as if every seat was already taken! I kept walking down the outer aisle hoping a place would pop up. It was not until I reached the second row to the front that I saw some actual wood of the pew. In fact, there was enough space for at least two people. Not only would I have a seat but I might also have some wiggle room!

“Good evening ma’am, could I please squeeze in here,” I said in my sweetest voice to the woman at the end of the pew.

“I am sorry,” she said in an equally sweet voice. “These spots are saved.”

My heart sunk and I began the humiliating walk of turning around and strolling back up the aisle. I could feel the eyes of the hundreds of people who watched me walk all the way down the aisle (St. Andrew is a large church) only to see me reverse course and walk the other way. Thankfully, after I passed about ten rows, a couple of precious old ladies made room for me to sit at the very end of their pew.

As I got settled in, I watched people do the exact same thing I did. They walked all the way down to the pew only to be told that the seat was reserved. I witnessed this about three times. The final time the usher took a family of three down to the location, thinking just like all of us that the space was open. With the usher guiding the wide-eyed and helpless trio to the seemingly open spot, the woman who was reserving the pew surrendered. She stood up and made the long walk to the back of the church where I assume she waited for her guests while joining the legions of people enjoying the standing room only accomodations.

This story isn’t a knock on St. Andrew. Rather, it is a tribute. I am proud to say that I am part of a parish that hosts full houses frequently and employs the hardest working user team in the diocese. I am also not putting down the lady who was saving seats. You know why? Because we have all been there…

I will never forget my sister’s high school graduation. It took place in an arena where it was a first-come, first-served seating situation. I went with my dad and uncle right when the doors opened to save seats. We immediately claimed a row right in the center of the venue. My dad took out a long piece of thick paper ribbon that stretched across the entire row except for one seat at one end and two seats at the other. Across the ribbon he wrote RESER-ved.

My dad and uncle sat on the end with two seats and I sat on the end with one seat. I was on the end that was closer to the stage and thus had an aisle that was exposed to many more people using the stairs. While my two family members on the other side had a great time chatting it up for two hours, I was basically abused by angry attendees who thought it was the cheapest move in the book to block off a whole row. I mean, could I really blame them?

Saving seats sucks so much. You feel multiple negative emotions ranging from fear to embarrassment to anger. People usually save seats to help friends and loved ones so in theory it is a noble act. However, good intentions many times morph into a tough afternoon for the person doing the deed and frustration for the many folks who see open seats in a crowded place but are denied. In the end, is it worth it?

Unless you have pregnant, elderly, or handicapped individuals in your party, resist the urge to save seats. If we have the need for premium seating, I think we should make the effort to round everyone up and go to the venue together. It would make a smoother experience for all. Don’t Blink.

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