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A few Saturdays ago, my husband and I went to a free local concert. Because I am extremely and unreasonably anxious about being late, we got there 30 minutes early. Turns out there were lots of people more anxious than me that night. We had to sit in the far back next to a cardboard trash receptacle. I wanted to jump on the stage and ask everyone up front, "For the love of Pete, how early did you people get here?!"

I am famous for being tardy-phobic, the most notable incident being BWI of '04: We arrived four hours before our flight to Ireland. To make matters worse, the flight was delayed. Get in touch with me if you'd like to know how a family of five can kill eight hours in an airport.

Be that as it may, I am out of my league when it comes to general admission venues. From school concerts to Easter services, there are legions of people willing to sacrifice time and any semblance of having a life for the best seats in the house. And I'm guessing that every one of those people was at the Town Center two Saturdays ago.

After the initial shock and self-doubt wore off ("I'm pretty sure it starts at 7:30"), we wrestled our folding chairs open and looked forward to the show. After all, I tried to convince myself, it's music -- I don't have to see it.

Then a couple squeezed themselves two rows ahead and unfolded chairs the likes I've never seen. These chairs had backs higher than the cardboard trash receptacle. Higher than the stage. Higher than the line of vision of normal people sitting in normal chairs behind them. They should come with a warning: "For back row use only."

Me: "Look at that."

Husband: "Look at what?"

Me: "Those obnoxious chairs."

Husband: "Only you would call a chair obnoxious ... what are you doing?"

Me, holding up my cell phone: "I'm taking a picture of them."

Maybe the high-back chairs were designed for on-the-go giraffes, or couples planning to take turns holding each other on their shoulders. Even Shaq O'Neal said, "What's with the high-back chairs?" The topper was when high-back wife leaned back. WAY back. It went from a lawn chair to a stretcher. The poor saps directly behind them had to deal with the wife's head on their lap and the husband's wall of green polyester blocking the view.

Overall, I'm a fairly tolerant person. I don't get road rage. I don't lose it showing someone how to use self-checkout. My Achilles' heel, however, is thoughtlessness. When I encounter people who have complete disregard for anyone but themselves, my feelings about them are extreme, decisive, childish and irreversible.

Me: "I hate that couple."

Husband: "Oh boy, here we go. I wonder if that lemonade stand sells beer."

My dear friend Linda describes this experience with a meaningful, poetic saying: "I hate people." It's times like these when it's apparent I never outgrew the check-one style of gauging my feelings: Love/Hate. My quick judgments are based solely on behavior. Woman yelling at a hapless cashier because of a missing price tag: hate. Anyone on television crying about their adored mother: love. Person leaving mess on table at McDonalds: hate rising.

Despite the obnoxious chairs, I enjoyed the show. The negative feeling was offset by the pure joy of watching three small, energetic children twirl, jump and sing throughout the entire concert ... right in front of obnoxious chairs.

[August 5, 2009]

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