First come first served indeed!

Some opera-lovers went out of their way to nab the best seats in the house for the Metropolitan Opera’s free screenings this week in the middle of Lincoln Center. Gwen Solomon shot the photos above and below around 5 p.m. on Sunday. Otello, the first of the screenings, isn’t set to start until 8 p.m. on Monday night. The screening of Il Trovatore wasn’t set to start until 8 p.m. that night.


The t-shirts and bags placed on chairs do make for a pretty tableau, even as they transmit an aggressive sentiment: hands off my Don Giovanni!

We are awaiting word from Lincoln Center about how they feel about this. We have heard rumors that the authorities do not take kindly to seat-grabbers.

Image from Otello at the Metropolitan Opera.

Editor’s note: please silently clap for our use of the word tenor in the headline.

ABSURDITY, ART, NEWS | 63 comments | permalink
    1. PedestrianJustice says:

      Alto-gether, a fine headline indeed, WSR

    2. UWSScaffold says:

      Let’s hope they Turandot-ver a new leaf and will stop doing this?

    3. Sean says:

      This should not be allowed ever anywhere at any time.

    4. Joel says:

      Like the people that leave their towels on beach chairs. If you care so much about the seat playing your ass in it and stay there.

    5. Les says:

      This is just wrong. Management should remove the shirts, etc. and put them in a neat pile at the end of the row so their owners can find them when they return from dinner.

      • B.B. says:

        Management should remove the offending rubbish and chuck it where all such things go; in the bin.

    6. B.B. says:

      The impudence! The audacity! The unmitigated gall!

      If one was planning on attending that MET free concert tonight and arrived to find a seat “reserved” in such a fashion would simply “undress” or otherwise remove the place holder; take my seat and dare anyone to believes they are man or woman enough to remove me afterwards.

      Last time one checked LC did not condone this sort of behavior and yes, when persons returned and found their squatter’s rights had been violated were told tough cheese. A book, newspaper, hat, brick, or whatever is not a person.

      If someone had been sitting in the space and left for a brief moment to say use the facilities, that is another matter. But to believe placing personal belongings on a chair early in the day entitles one to somehow reserve said space for hours is really too much.

      • Sophia says:

        I agree! And if the owners of the placeholders weren’t back by an hour before showtime, I would absolutely remove the shopping bags, etc., and take that seat.

    7. Sue L. says:

      Not even the “sound of one hand clapping” for your use of “tenor” above, alas, Objects and situations don’t have “tenors”–neither do they have pros or con(note)s, musical or otherwise.

    8. John says:

      Remove the shirts and give them to a shelter

      • B.B. says:

        Imagine the look on someone’s face!

        Walking down/up Columbus towards LC they spy some homeless person wearing a shirt that looks just like the one they left……

        A few minutes later you see the same person chasing down said homeless to get his shirt back! *LOL*

      • lynn says:

        Are there also people standing on line waiting to get in? If so, then I agree that the objects on the chairs should be removed and the people online have the privilege of sitting in the first rows. I’ve seen this happen at a lot of events and I only think it’s acceptable when a producer reserves seats with an audience members name on them.

    9. m.pipik says:

      They were there by 5pm on Saturday. I have never seen such an aggressive attempt to save seats and I’ve been going to LC out-of-doors events for decades.

      I’m really surprised the Met didn’t remove the t-shirts and bags. Perhaps it was just because of the weekend and everyone at the Met who could make a decision was away.

      Shame on those people who tried to reserve seats.

    10. Eleanor says:

      The summer festival opened Friday night with the movie Amadeus. Screenings of operas started Saturday night, so you are wrong that Monday night’s Otello is the first. That said, however, saving seats for a friend or two is ok by me if you are actually there, not if you put something on a seat and leave.

      • Sean says:

        I bet these are the same people who are against Citibike and anything new on the UWS. The sense of entitlement is unbelievable.

        • Us says:

          Sean -I was thinking just the opposite, that folks who would do this were likely to be new to NYC.

          As for the Citibike mention, perhaps worth noting that Citibike valet service is being introduced downtown…

        • lisa says:

          If we are speculating, I would guess the people are new to the neighborhood 🙂
          particularly given what I observed in CT, at my nephew’s graduation.

          And apparently they are Whole Food and Trader Joe’s shoppers?
          But not Fairway shoppers…

          • dannyboy says:

            “Whole Food and Trader Joe’s shoppers” gives them away as “new to the neighborhood ?”

        • John says:

          Come to find out all the seat savers arrived on city bikes which they rode on the sidewalk

    11. Ruth Kahn says:

      This piggishness has been going on for years in Livonia MI on Saturdays (Met Operas, Hi Def Matinees). I was so off-put by this behavior, I simply stopped attending. I wrote to the Met about it but they tell me they have no say about how the local theaters handle seating. I know at least one place in CA sells specific seats (not just tickets) a much more civilized method.

    12. lisa says:

      Same thing happened this year at my nephew’s high school graduation in CT – a bunch of people “reserved” seats the day before with blankets and towels.
      Apparently, this was a new “phenomena”
      People were not happy to see.

      • HelenD says:

        I was sent by my boss to a similar event to hold spots for his family. Only I stayed there for an hour looking like a fool stacking cameras and coats and books on seats while everyone got very hostile toward me for hogging so many. Just minutes before the event started his daughter and one her friends showed up and said the rest of the family wasn’t coming, lol.

        • B.B. says:

          Sounds like something out of the film “Working Girl”. *LOL*

          Cannot believe anyone would ask an employee to do such a thing. I would have been told off for insubordination because it just wasn’t going to happen.

          • HelenD says:

            Tess’s job in Working Girl was tame compared to the things I was asked to do. It was more like The Devil Wears Prada. People think that movie was an exaggeration but a lot of my friends were/are personal assistants and we just scream with laughter every time we watch that movie. I think I need to write a book. 😉

          • dannyboy says:

            “Sounds like something out of the film” A Day Without Mexicans.

    13. B.B. says:

      I’ll say it again; don’t care if someone plonks down a pillow embroidered with “Noli me tangere, Caesaris sum”, no one has the right to reserve seating to an otherwise first come/first served event. Should I encounter such a thing (Latin inscription or no), it will be removed and will take *MY* seat.

      If more persons stood up to this sort of thing less of it would happen. Allowing certain persons to think there are special rules just for them only reinforces this sort of behavior.

    14. dannyboy says:

      Couldn’t they rent a person to sit for them?

      • B.B. says:

        Before the Central Park Conservancy decided they own the place and pretty much banned large events from the Great Lawn and Sheep’s Meadow, years ago yes, persons or companies would hire people to “squat” all day to hold spaces.

        This was for events like film showings (Sheep’s Meadow), or concerts/opera (Great Lawn). Place holders would show up barely after the park opened at dawn and spread out their blankets or whatever, then proceed to spend a day in the park.

        • dannyboy says:

          do you happen to know what they called these stake-a-claim-holders?

          i know that the people doing the same job during the California Gold Rush were shot on the spot.

          • B.B. says:

            Have no idea what they were “called”. Just know more than a few secretaries, administrative assistants and interns were more than happy to spend a day in CP *and* got paid. Oh and they also got Brownie points for being a “team player”.

            IIRC first choice would have been those who lived in the City, in particular UWS, UES or even Midtown. One girl who went told me it beat the heck out of typing, answering telephones and whatever else all day.

    15. Observer says:

      On Monday night, people sitting next to empty seats would not let me pass them to sit in one of the seats. Both times they pretended not to hear me. Then, each said some version of “NO!” The film had already begun. I sat on the “floor.” I also saw them separately refusing other requesters.

    16. Derek says:

      Ridiculous, but typical of the UWS. I’d have taken the bag/shirt/program and thrown it on the ground. “What shirt? There was no shirt on this seat when I got here? I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.” LOL!

    17. stevieboy says:

      Well, now I’m a little embarrassed to say (not really!) that two of those shirts belonged to me and a friend.

      It seems like you UWS folks really will complain about anything and everything. And for all you tough guys….well, that just makes me smile.:) Bless all of your hearts….suckers!!!!

      By the way, the show was amazing!! See ya’ll at the next one. Can’t wait…and this time there will be three of us!!!!

    18. Big Earl says:

      If I was there, rather than taking pics, I would grab each bag and shirt and toss them. These jerks are probably the same people that think it is acceptable to stand in the street to save a parking space until their friend arrives.

      • B.B. says:

        Now *that* is a whole other kettle of fish. *LOL* Only slightly more irritating than doorman buildings putting out those “please do not block our entrance” signs literally in the street so you cannot park.

    19. stevieboy says:

      Y’all are looking at this all wrong. That’s just good old American ingenuity. This isn’t socialist Russia. Someone has to step up and take what the others are too weak to.

      It’s not my fault that I am such an alpha.:)

      U.S.A!!! U.S.A!!!

    20. naro says:

      Così fan tutte

    21. rocco says:

      If I ever come across seat grabbers I will leave as much bodyly fluids as I can muster. Or I will remove all the bags and none personal items and throw them in the garbage. Then sit in a seat. I dare someone to tell me to move.

    22. Andrew says:

      Many years ago, I lived in Los Angeles and went to see Shakespeare in Love which had just come out. I think they didn’t realize that it would be as big of a movie as it was but when we arrived, the line stretched far from the theater, down stairs and around a corner. People were literally waiting through an entire showing to get tickets for the next showing.

      Anyway, my boyfriend and I waited and got in and sat down, no problem. We decided to forgo popcorn in case someone tried to leap on the one empty seat. But there was a fight going on a few rows in front of us. It seems that one young lady was saving ten seats and two middle aged ladies were about to take two of them. There were no clothes or anything on all the seats… and when the 2 middle aged ladies complained to the usher, he asked the one young lady where her friends were. She was clearly paniking and said that they were in line (keep in mind that this was around 1998 or 1999 or so and cell phones weren’t that prevalent yet so she wasn’t sure whether or not her friends really had gotten in or not as evidenced by her panic). The usher, more or less a teenager, ruled in favor of the one young lady holding the ten seats. The two middle aged ladies were quite upset and had to find seats elsewhere in the theater.

      I turned to the boyfriend and said “If that happened in New York, those two ladies would have just sat down and wouldn’t have budged unless they’d carried them out”.

      The boyfriend sided with the one young lady hogging all the seats. It’s about this time in our relationship that I was starting to miss living in New York (I think I’d been there for about a year or so) and simultaneously realizing that he and I were probably not going to last very much longer as a couple with such differing views on fairness.

      I guess you can say all you want about first come, first served, but putting a t shirt on a chair and leaving it unattended to go have dinner is just wrong and selfish. I definitely would have removed a shirt and sat down. However, whomever was managing the public part of this event should have removed all the shirts/bags, etc and politely informed people that they must stay with their property if they want to hold on to their seat. It’s Lincoln Center, not a f**cking county fair, for crying out loud.

      • Andrew says:

        My apologies, I wrote LC, but I know it’s Metropolitan Opera. Even more so then.. the Met doesn’t have an event manager taking care of these types of snafus or is it just the wild wild west over there? Sheesh!

      • dannyboy says:

        “It’s Lincoln Center, not a f**cking county fair, for crying out loud.”

        pure poetry
        welcome home

    23. Always an UWS gal says:

      Next time we see all those “reserved” seats, we should just just take a few minutes and drop all those articles and bags in the bushes and go on our merry way. Folks coming later to LC can sit in the chairs and honestly say they weren’t reserved. :-). After a few experiences like this, folks won’t be “reserving” any more.