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Pathological Urges

January 10, 2009

As a follow-up to my previous post about planetarium seating, I want to talk about some interesting occurrences that I’ve observed over my days in the biz.

They say, “It never rains, but it pours,” whoever they are. But strangely, they’re right, about some things at least.

For example: as I’m ushering people into the theater, I try to tell them that the best seats are in the back, but often I get caught up in taking tickets or keeping count of visitors or looking for people trying to sneak in food, etc., and people don’t always get the message.

Call it mob mentality (actually, there’s probably some other psychological phenomenon that explains it better, but I don’t know what it would be called), but every once in a while, every single person will be sitting in the first few rows, and will leave the back half of the theater totally empty.

In a movie theater, from what I’ve seen, most people filing in will turn toward the back of the house (typically the stadium seats nowadays). I personally think those people are crazy- -I much prefer to sit in the front, maybe the 4th or 5th row, because I like the movie screen to fill my entire field of vision, from one corner of one eye to the other of the other. But it seems to me that most people, if given the choice, will sit toward the back.

So I have no idea why, but every once in a while, people will migrate to the front of the planetarium.

Typically, kids are the ones that try to talk their parents into sitting in the front. If I can catch them before the show starts, I’ll tell them that the show is best seen from the back of the house, and if there’s open seats, they should think about moving back.  Most of the time the parent looks at the kids and says, “See, I told you,” as the kids look disappointed.

Speaking of kids, there are a handful of other pathological urges that seem to be exclusive to kids. Like stanchions.

For some reason, kids are fascinated by stanchions. Especially boys. They stand on them, they lean them back and forth, they pull and snap the tape (canvas tape- -no more of the ol skool velvet ropes for my theater). If I have a young school group that has to stand out in the queue for longer than a few minutes, I always, invariably have to go out after the show and reset the stanchions, because they’ll be twisted and nudged and totally out of place.

I’m pretty picky about my stanchions.

(ESPECIALLY WHEN PEOPLE TRY TO STEAL THEM, but that’s another post for another day.)

One more thing kids almost always do: they’re obsessed with trying to find me.

Before the show, when I do my intro spiel (which I do from the control room, which in my theater is in the back of the house) , kids will stand up and look around the theater, trying to figure out where I am. It’s as if they expect me to walk out in front of the theater to do my introduction (which I admit, is a pretty common-sense thing to expect, but it’s still funny).

Once the kids in the back of the theater figure out that I’m behind them, they’ll stand and point out to their friends and whisper, “There he is!”

What happens next is a whisper-fueled ripple of kids’ heads, prairie-dogging out of their seats to look back at the control room, which travels across the entire theater from the back to the front.

Now I don’t want to sound like an old fuddy-duddy about this and whine about those darn kids not staying in their seats, but the problem is, when these kids are all looking around and whispering and pointing at me, they’re not listening to my instructions.

It was so much of a problem for school groups, that I’ve taken to doing my intro spiel in front of them, then telling them to follow me with their eyes as I go to the back of the theater, through my secret door, and into the control room.

Then I say, “Now, that’s all you need to look at me! You don’t need to look back here any more! The rest of the show is going to be above you on the dome, so sit back down on your bottoms and don’t look back here any more!”

Okay, maybe I am an old fuddy-duddy.

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