Last week, I was fortunate enough to be a member of the “Hugh Jackman in Concert” show at the Princess of Wales theatre in Toronto. (AMAZING by the way) My seat was in the middle section of the orchestra; a couple of seats in from the aisle. I was stuck in some traffic on the way in so I was entering the theatre later than hoped but still in plenty of time to get to my seat and settle in. Many people were already there and seated. When I came to my row, I had to inconvenience some fellow “Hugh” fans by slipping past them to get to my seat. I once read somewhere that it was considered proper etiquette to face those who you were passing so you could excuse yourself face-to-face. I’ve followed that rule for many years but have NEVER seen anyone else do the same. Not-to-mention, it has always made me feel awkward. But, believing that I was practicing the “proper etiquette”, my choice was to face those I slithered past despite feeling uncomfortable.
I’ve often wondered about that rule, however. Why don’t others do as I do and look fellow audience members in the eye when they clamber to their position? Could it be that I misunderstood what I read many years ago and it isn’t proper to face them? I decided to post a question on one of the social networks that I belong to and I was overwhelmed at the response I received. A few agreed with me, that facing people when stepping over them was proper. It was easier to see where you were stepping and apologies could be more readily heard. My favourite comment in support of my view was “who really wants a posterior in one’s face”.
Many felt the more acceptable practice was to apologize making eye contact and then to turn and face forward. It was noted that it might be an invasion of personal space because of the proximity when passing over someone. There were also mentions of the practicality of facing forward; one could hold on the seat in front and it was easier to feel for footing. One brought up a great point – it wouldn’t be considered good manners to fall in someone’s lap or grab their knees if facing them.
The consensus, however, was to consider the culture and the environment one was in and use discretion. Considering the audience on this particular night, was anticipating the stage arrival of 2008’s Sexiest Man Alive, I figured no one really cared how I got to my seat. In keeping with the class of this most talented performer, however, I politely smiled at his audience members, excused myself, faced forward and made my way to my position. It was one of the most incredible nights of entertainment I have ever experienced.