My husband and I went to the movies last weekend with some very good friends, who brought along their 22 year old daughter. These friends have been part of our lives since our children were in pre-school, and since their daughter lives out of town I hadn’t seen her in quite some time. Naturally I was very excited when she and her mother walked in to the theater, and we all sat down and got busy chatting.

At that moment it was 10 minutes before the movie was supposed to start, and on the screen was the dancing Coca-Cola bear, along with assorted other commercials.

A few minutes after we sat down the woman in front of us turned and said, quite loudly and pointedly to us, “Will you please shut up? I’m trying to watch the show.”


Let me explain something here. I am one of the first people to shush someone at the movies when they are talking…once the film has started. That would include anything on the screen once the lights have dimmed. Even the rollercoaster box of candy. Anything at all. But at that moment the lights were still on, and people all around us were talking. At full voice. Because, you know, that’s what people do before the show starts.

Anyway, because  my friend’s daughter was there, I (and my friend, I’m sure) decided not to say what I really wanted to say. Because what I really wanted to say was “how dare you talk to me like that, you rude ignorant woman.” It was so inappropriate, so unnecessary, so…nasty.

Every so often, something happens that makes me feel as if my world has been disturbed, sort of like a snow globe being shaken – suddenly there’s this different atmosphere, an uncomfortable electricity that disrupts my sense of well-being, and that’s what happened at the movies that night. I’m always shocked when things like that happen – people being particularly rude, or shouting matches in a public place – it’s as if it gets inside my body, like a foreign object. A disagreement with a stranger is a very dangerous encounter. It makes me a little dizzy. I want to run towards the problem, even as I want to flee. It’s a very strange experience, and I’m always surprised when it happens.

But this time, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, and I think I know why. Because despite my impulse to lash out at this very cranky and nasty woman, I didn’t. I just sort of let it go…almost. There was some residual irritation, and when my husband came in with our drinks and popcorn, I kind of sort of wanted him to accidentally spill it all on her head. The rest of the evening was so nice, it just about cancelled out that icky, uncomfortable moment when I heard her say “shut up.”

I mean, who does that? During the commercials? Who does that?