The Curious Case of Haunted Auditoriums

Lecture

My second year organic chemistry lecture section is roughly 800 students strong. Classes are held in an auditorium that is designed to accommodate only 690 students. As a result, you could understand my astonishment when I began to notice, with increasing frequency, empty spaces filling up the lecture hall.

Today, I steered myself precariously over backpacks and through the meager leg room. I then proceeded to sit myself down when I was suddenly cautioned by a neighbor that the seat was occupied by their friend. I was surprised because I saw nobody there. “Is your friend invisible?” I asked. “No. I am saving it for him. He is on his way.” Okay. I could understand that. Never mind this one seat. Perhaps I could find another.

I moved on to another seat further down the row and tried again. “You cannot sit there,” urged the blasé gal seated next to it. “Why not?” “My friend is going to be here in a minute.” I took a quick glance around the rambunctious room. There were few other unoccupied seats left and they probably had the same tale associated with them. I decided to stand my ground. “Well, your friend may very well be here in a minute, but I am here now and I am taking this seat. Unless your friend cares to object?” I waited a moment before taking the seat. “Nope. I do not hear any challenge from them. And silence implies consent.”

I could have gone on an angry rant in front of a few hundred strangers, but my better judgment advised me against it. However, considering there is not much else to write about at the moment, I decided to pursue the topic in this post.

Do not get me wrong, I understand the logic behind saving a seat for someone you know. Today, you save a seat for them and some other time they may do the same for you. In the process, you develop a collaborative relationship with that other individual. I am all for that. But if everyone took up an additional seat, then the lecture would need to be held in TD stadium, which would not be practical. Either that or half of the students registered in the course need to magically disappear.

And while saving a seat for a friend is courteous to them, it is discourteous to the other 800 people who are looking for somewhere to sit. In fact, it is unmannerly of your friend to expect you to save a seat for them. They should not put you in a position where you must enter in conflict with a stranger in order to provide a benefit to them. If they were responsible individuals, they would come to class on time.

So the next time you are thinking of saving a seat for your friend in a busy class:

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