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Archived Observation

Janet and I were in New York City during Christmas. I sort of planned that the trip should include Christmas day in New York because as a non-christian, Christmas can be one of the most boring days to spend in San Francisco.

In San Francisco, almost everything shuts down for Christmas. Sure, some bars are still serving up drinks and a couple of ethnic restaurants are still open for business, but everything else closes down. You would think in a city that touts such diverse cultures, that we wouldn't pander to the christian majority once again.

So, this year we arranged our vacation so we could be in a city with some real diversity. When we got to New York, we made a point to figure out what neighborhoods would have shops open on Christmas day. What we found out was that almost every part of the city still had stuff going on. Sure, the big department stores were closed, but the small shops and restaurants were still in operation. In deference to my Jewish heritage, we decided to spend Christmas in one of the Jewish neighborhoods… the Upper West Side.

So, we grabbed the subway (which, unlike in San Francisco still runs on schedule on the holidays) and made our way  uptown for lunch. Since we were doing the Jews-on-Christmas afternoon, we also grabbed tickets for the 1:30 showing of Star Trek: Insurrection at the Loew's 84th Street Cinema.

Lunch was a couple of fresh bagels from H and H Bagels on 80th and Broadway. We then walked by Zabars, which was not only open, but completely packed with hundreds of people who just saw Christmas Day as a friday off from work. We kept walking up Broadway, noticing how almost everything was open… even the Jewish Soul Food restaurant (read: Chinese) was open and doing a brisk business.

One of the things that they do in New York at the movies (and most of the North East) is that they start the previews about 10 minutes before the movie is supposed to start. It gives the people who got there early so they could get a good seat something to do while they waited. Then the movie started and something amazing happened: everybody shut up.

You see, if you have never experienced a movie in San Francisco, let me describe it to you. First, the crowd hisses at all of the previews. Well, most of the crowd does… some people either use those damned laser pointers or just scream insults at the trailer. Then the movie starts, but everybody still talks. If you shush at someone, it only serves to make them talk louder.

Actually, it doesn't stop at movies. I have been to musicals and plays in San Francisco where people just talk and talk and talk through the whole thing. When we went to see the San Francisco Symphony a few years ago, people showed up in shorts and t-shirts, eating and talking through the whole thing. You don't even want to know what people do at concerts.

Some people blame this on the fact that people spend so much time listening to CDs at home and watching movies on TV, that they are not used to being quiet when at a theater. Bullshit. Most people are just selfish, undisciplined louts whose parents never taught them how to behave.

Back to New York. When the lights went down, so did the talking. At one point, a little kid behind me was asking his father what was going on in the movie. I quietly ssssshed the kid, and the father actually apologized. Then he whispered to his son: When you're at the movies, you have to be quiet.

It's a simple concept that my mother taught me when I went to see my first movie: if you have to buy a ticket to get in, respect the fact that other people had to pay to get in as well. That means, you don't ruin the experience for anyone. When you're at a movie, you shut up. When you go to the theater or to the symphony, you dress well, enter quietly, and save your comments until the applause or until you leave the building.

We left the movie realising that if we lived in New York, we'd start going to the movies regularly again. However, until that happens, we'll save our movie watching to the three channels of HBO that we have at home. At least then, the only time I'll have to go sssssh is if the cats start acting up.

Posted in Observations.

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