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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Save a Seat, Not a Swath

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it rude to save seats at shows or performances?

When attending our children’s school performances, we sometimes have family members who arrive at different times. If we arrive first, we often save a seat for an aunt or grandmother who arrives after we do.

This is common practice at most events I’ve been to that don’t have assigned seating, and everyone seems very cordial about it. Is the etiquette on this matter different when attending a movie?

GENTLE READER: Open seating, whatever the event, works on the premise of “first come, first served.” But as etiquette is too gracious to be taken literally, it overlooks the distinction between actual and imminent presence.

Miss Manners has no objection to anyone placing a coat on the adjacent seat while a spouse goes in search of popcorn; she (not to mention other ticket buyers) is less tolerant of large swaths of territory being staked out for acquaintances who are still at home, looking for the car keys.