To begin with, I am not someone of a highly unusual size. I’m tall for a woman (5’8) and I definitely weigh too much, but I carry it reasonably well and, if I could cut off my belly fat, I’d be fine. Because of my height, there is one unusual thing about me: my legs are fairly long. I mean I’m not a giraffe, but I admit to having more than half my height in my inseam and foot combined, which means, of course, something like a yard. Still, even that is not altogether unusual, and I know many, many women (and certainly many men) with much longer legs.
Now, usually this is not an issue for me anywhere but on airplanes, where I always pay for seat upgrades. (Not that I should have to: why are they cramming us in like Lifesavers in a roll?) It might become a problem if I sat in the second balcony at shows, but I don’t: I need to see better in order to write reviews. So I’m generally at least all right if not happy with the leg room. (I could riff here about theatres that pack chairs into rows like Pringles in a can, but I won’t. I’m trying not to digress.) (For the record, I own stock in neither Lifesavers nor Pringles.) Recently, however, I experienced something I have never experienced before in any theatre, or for that matter any public accommodation of any kind, and it demanded to be written about.
I was seeing M. Butterfly at the Cort Theatre on Broadway. (You may read the review of the show here.) I had bought orchestra seats, but far to the side, house right. There was a warning that short moments of the play might be obstructed, but there was a decent discount, so I didn’t mind. And we were in Row J, with brilliant sightlines otherwise to the stage. Or anyway we would have been…
The usher showed us to our seats and left, and (as is our custom) I took the inside seat. It was an unusual configuration: the final seat was actually sticking out past the row into the aisle, making passage a bit difficult as the theatre narrows at that point. So the “second” seat is really the first within the row. I moved in front of my chair, and…I literally could not sit down. I noticed when maneuvering myself in front of the seat that the space there seemed abnormally tight, and when I tried to sit, my legs simply did not fit at all. There was not even the small amount of space between the seat and the back of the next row that would allow my knee to fit there.
At first I thought I must be mistaken. Surely I was doing something wrong. But I wasn’t. And then I examined the whole row: all rows arc a bit, but this one had an added arc toward our end, bent toward the front so they could squeeze that extra seat into the aisle. Doing so made for extremely awkward passage—my husband, who was experiencing pain from diabetic neuropathy, had to stand the whole time the show was not on so people could get by—and it made it so that my seat was basically big enough only for a child to sit in (not to mention making maneuvering past it to interior seats more difficult).
The Cort is a Schubert Theatre. It isn’t as if they are desperate for the money that extra seat provides to them. But even if they were, there is simply no excuse not to advertise a caution about the extremely small size of that seat. I am quite certain that everyone who has ever sat in it has had this complaint, if they were normal-sized people. But not everyone has a theatre blog. So I’m basically calling the Schubert Corporation out, on behalf of myself and everyone else who has ever had to endure sitting in Row J, Seat 22 or any other too-cramped seat anywhere in any public space at all. (And that means you, airlines.)
Shame on you, Schubert Corporation. If you have to keep that seat as is, sell it to children only. And I mean under 12. And get rid of the seat in the aisle. (How is that not a fire hazard anyway with everyone squeezing by it?)
And just for good measure, shame on you, airlines, too. For a million reasons (I mean, seriously, you can’t even afford to give us a whole soft drink anymore?) but, for now, for the cramped seats.
We should not need to put up with this. And since I do have this public forum, I’m not.