"Please look at the computer screen in front of you. The green boxes are available seats, so go ahead and select where you'd like to sit," the movie ticket receptionist explained.
"Select a seat?" I said in horror. "You mean I have to select a seat just to watch a movie?"
She responded patiently and kindly: "Yes, ma'am, that's because of the deluxe lounge chairs now in the theater."
I pored over the screen and saw only a handful of open green spots. Most of those were way down front, and I sure didn't want that. So I picked a seat in the middle, and the clerk said, "Very good. You'll like that seat."
Then she told me the senior citizen price, but I produced a movie-admission ticket I got as a premium for giving blood last Thanksgiving weekend. The blood availability was in short supply then, and there were many radio and TV pleas for donors. It had been a while since I gave blood, but the blood center was grateful that I came in and handed me a movie ticket as a thank-you gift. I said I didn't need any gift, but the greeter had already written my name next to the ticket number on his tally sheet.
So the movie receptionist took my ticket coupon and said, "You'd be money ahead if you just paid the senior citizen matinee price and save your coupon for another time when the regular price is $14."
I responded, "Oh, thank you, but I don't come to the movies very often, so I'll just use the coupon now."
Then I had a ticket that listed the name of the show, the theater number, and my seat number. "This is similar to a plane ticket," I thought.
Finding my numbered seat was easy, and as I visually sized up the theater, I was glad I selected that seat location. The lounge chair had two buttons: one to recline and the other to return to the sitting position.
It wasn't long before the person with the ticket for the seat next to me arrived. She looked to be a grandmother who came to the show with her daughter and several grandchildren.
We greeted each other and talked about our mutual surprise in having assigned seats.
"Goodness, the last time I went to a movie theater, you just found whatever seat you wanted," she shared. "Now, how do I get my chair to recline like yours?"
I explained about the buttons on the side of the chair, which she found easily. Her daughter handed her snacks in sandwich bags, which she immediately hid under her jacket.
"You can't be too careful, you know," she said to me. "With all the new theater procedures, I don't want to be caught bringing in our own munchies because management probably wouldn't like that."
"Yes," I thought, "management probably wouldn't like the homemade popcorn you brought in. But the radish chunks and the hard-boiled egg slices? Well, I wonder if anyone would even know that those are delicacies."
[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University in Cincinnati.]
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