Insert line here from that song about short people
August 20, 2012 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Fellow short people, how do you deal with movies, concerts, and theater? I'm 5'1" and frustrated.

Last night I went to a free outdoor comedy show, and arrived very early to stake out seats. Just before the show began, a group of three people sat right in front of me--and even when I told them they were completely blocking my view, they refused to move. (There was ample room for them to scoot left or right a few feet, which would have solved the problem from my perspective.) So I ended up moving, even though I'd arrived first, and fortunately was able to see from my new spot.

A few weeks ago in an older movie theater (without stadium seating), I watched the movie leaning halfway over into my husband's seat so I could see past the guy in front of me. Even then his head blocked a good part the screen. It was a sold-out show, so we couldn't move.

And so on. Being able to see is a concern at pretty much any kind of performance, and I'm tired of worrying about it every time I leave the house. So, fellow short people, how do you manage? Tell me your strategies! Am I consigned to a life of movies, comedy, and concerts from the front row just so no one gets in front of me?
posted by serialcomma to Society & Culture (38 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I have my husband wear steel toe boots and I stand on his feet. (I'm 5'-0")
posted by sawdustbear at 10:59 AM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh man, I feel your pain: I'm 5'-1" too, and I'll be watching the answers in this thread.

Sit down venues: I carry a cushy fleece jacket with me, fold it, and sit on it. Standing venues: I get there early. That's all I got.
posted by Specklet at 11:01 AM on August 20, 2012

I sit on my legs, or my winter coat, or both.
posted by jeather at 11:13 AM on August 20, 2012

For sit-down venues I carry one of those little folding canvas chairs you can find at CVS or Target. Not only can I see better, I find they're a lot more comfortable than hard ground.

As for movie theaters and standing venues, 5'2" me will be watching this thread with interest as well.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:16 AM on August 20, 2012

Well, unfortunately, it just sounds like the people who sat down in front of you were jerks, but then what else are they supposed to do if the seats were open? Just curious, but why didn't you take the seats in the row in front of you to prevent anyone from doing just that? Is it possible that you approached them about it in a pissed off tone that made them not want to work it out with you? Not dogpiling, just maybe another perspective...

I have had this happen to me. I'm 5'1". If it's a free for all (aka general admission) and
tall(er) people are blocking my view, I just sort of work my way in front of them as people shift around. And, as they look down to me, I'll smile at them and just merge in front of them, and they seem to know exactly what my aim is. I'd say that this is how this situation goes down nearly every time.

But yeah, if it's a free and general admission type event, I'd say you're stuck with sucking it up and just weaving and bobbing until you get in between or have a view in between the heads/bodies that are in your way. And going to an old movie theatre, well, it's simply the chance you take going into it. You know the screen is a mile away and all the seats are, well, pretty bad for nearly everyone!
posted by foxhat10 at 11:18 AM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seats right along the aisle often provide a better line of sight to the stage / screen.

I'm tall enough, but on behalf of my shorter wife I sometimes put my feet up on the unoccupied seats in front of us or otherwise physically encroach on them before the show starts to make them less attractive to others who are scanning for available seats.

Sometimes we just have to move.
posted by jon1270 at 11:21 AM on August 20, 2012

My partner is short. If we're going to a venue that's standing-room, we usually stand near the back, where it's generally easier to find a sightline through (most) of the people in front of us (standing right at the stage is usually a little too claustrophia-inducing for at least one of us, though we've done it).

For flat seating, I got nuthin'. I'm not terribly short, but I still spend time leaning around people in front of me.
posted by rtha at 11:23 AM on August 20, 2012

I'm a couple of inches taller than you are, but that just means it happens a little less often. I don't think there's a great solution. (Please don't sit on your knees, by the way. In my experience, that is not a proportional response. That tends to make you so extra-tall that now you're almost surely blocking the person behind you to the point of hopelessness, and that just transfers the problem from you to the person behind you.)

Ideally, I try to get there early, I move pretty frequently (it's not uncommon for me to move because of noisy talkers anyway), and I accept it as a consequence of being kind of short. I can't see at music shows at all, in most cases, which is one of the reasons I rarely go.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:23 AM on August 20, 2012

For general admission lawn-type seating, often sitting farther back is better for line-of-sight than sitting closer.
posted by muddgirl at 11:24 AM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm 5'2". Sitting on my legs/knees ups me maybe two inches -- not enough to tower over anyone, just enough to give me a bit more height. This is not the same as kneeling, which would be rude.
posted by jeather at 11:27 AM on August 20, 2012

In the US, I just ask if I can stand in front of somebody like I'm already going there.* As if to say, "that's my spot, for the impossibly short people." I treat the situation more like they're momentarily preventing me from being where I belong, rather than treating them like the gatekeeper to my enjoyment (and view) of the entertainment. In other words, you don't really need their permission.

Asking them to move for you (while you stay fixed in position) is a big imposition. But asking them (casually, quickly and super nicely) to temporarily get out of your way so you can get past? No big deal 99% of the time.

I try to pick people to stand in front of who A) have room in front of them, B) are super tall, C) are with fellow short people, D) seem relaxed and there to have a good time, E) who I will have to imposition the least. I treat it like my shortness is the problem, not that their height is. Oftentimes, when I do this sort of tip-toed, looking, jockeying thing that usually gets noticed by somebody who simply offers me to stand in front of them, or cut through. It also helps if you seem really excited about the entertainment, but gosh darnit, you just can't see it, wah!

Also, there's usually a dead spot or two in a's where nobody wants to be, probably because there's some annoying group there, a weirdo lurking, a crazy dancing freak, a column or some other social or physical obstacle. If you can navigate or tolerate that, it's usually a pretty good place to be in the end.

Let it be noted that I cannot figure out how to see the show in the UK. Apparently the crowd is one giant queue and I have no rights to stand in front of anybody, no matter how short or invisible or polite I am. Still trying to figure that one out.

*This is the friendly, "Hey can I have one of those cookies too?" strategy...only works if you're actually taking the cookie as you're asking for it. It's risky with people you don't know, but getting past someone is low stakes (unlike stealing cookies).

posted by iamkimiam at 11:28 AM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ah, I think we are thinking of different things. You are talking about sort of on your hip with your legs folded to the side, yes? Yes, that's different from kneeling, I gotcha. I have seen kneeling, which is basically the in-your-seat equivalent of sitting on someone's shoulders -- it's the bees' knees for you and the nuclear option for everyone behind you.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:30 AM on August 20, 2012

At the movie, could you have swapped seats with your husband?
posted by amtho at 11:31 AM on August 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Another short-stuff here. I certainly have asked to swap seats with my husband, as amtho suggests. In a movie theater and other open-seating venues, I often look for a pair of lovebirds sitting on an aisle or an odd-numbered group of people. Then I sit down directly behind the seat next to them, reasoning that the seat in front of me will be one of the last to be taken. I've also been known, in situations where everyone is standing, to ask if I can stand in front of very tall people in front of me, when it's obvious they'll be able to see over me. This works especially well with teenagers and young adult males because they're often very proud of their height.
posted by DrGail at 11:40 AM on August 20, 2012

I honestly only go to movie theaters with stadium seating. (Unless it's late in the run, in which case I'll brave a small second-run theater near me that has regular seating. For an afternoon show. Before school lets out. When nobody's there.)

For live theater/dance/etc., I'll call the box office directly, before booking seats, and ask about sight lines w/r/t short people. Even if the actual seats have to be booked through Ticketmaster or something. They're usually pretty helpful.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:43 AM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I too only go to movies with stadium seating and always sit on the aisle. I also console myself with the fact that I'm much more comfortable on budget airlines and trains than tall people, so it all evens out eventually.
posted by hazyjane at 12:04 PM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm 5'2". With regards to live music/standing, I just ask the tall person ahead of me if I can stand in front of them since I can't see over them, but they'll be able to see over me. I do it cheerfully, and in a non-confrontational way. Where possible, I will strike up a conversation about the act I'm about to see with them first, so that they see me as friendly to begin with. Movies I will often pick a place where there is an opening between groups in the row ahead or generally sit as close to the front as I can stand, so that it's unlikely that anyone will sit there.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 12:07 PM on August 20, 2012

As another 5'1" (and a quarter, don't forget that quarter inch!) person, I think you have some reasonable strategies here already. Switching seats with my husband is always helpful, or trying to sit on an aisle so I can have a sightline.

I would also add, when I ask to move in front of someone a lot taller than me (and, come on, who isn't?), I usually make a joke like - "Hey, let me know if I'm too tall for you and I'll try to scrunch down." That way, I break the ice, and they realize that there's nothing to worry about from me standing/sitting in front of them. Usually people are pretty easygoing about letting me move in front, especially if I'm particularly nice first.
posted by blurker at 12:08 PM on August 20, 2012

As a tall person, I sometimes feel uncomfortable about blocking the views of people around me. It's not so simple as "Just don't stand near short people" at clubs, because the place is full of people shorter than me and I have to stand somewhere. But I always have this nagging feeling at shows wondering who behind me thinks I'm being an asshole, when all I've done is be present. If someone who was much shorter than me approached me sensitively and simply asked "You know, I never get to see the band when I come to shows, would you mind terribly if I stood in front of you/traded places with you?" I wouldn't mind or be offended at all. You might even offer to buy them a beer (with the knowledge that only a serious jerk would take you up on an offer like that, and hey, if that happens, then you just smoothed things over with a jerk you'll be next to for the next 2 hours).
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:14 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

General Admission concerts are a tough one. I’m a tall guy (6’) and I try not to stand in front of anyone that’s considerably shorter than me but I also feel like...everyone paid the same amount for a ticket. Why should I be forced to stand in the back or off to the sides?

Politeness is everything. I’ve let people in front of me that smiled, apologized, and asked to squeeze in front of me and I’ve ignored people that make snide, loud comments about how tall assholes always stand in front of them (even though they got there after I did).
posted by Diskeater at 12:26 PM on August 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

everyone paid the same amount for a ticket. Why should I be forced to stand in the back or off to the sides?

I'm totally sympathetic to this. But I'm also sympathetic to "I paid for a ticket; how come I can't see?"

It sounds like your approach -- trying to be understanding to people who ask nicely and ignoring people who act like you're doing something wrong -- is just right. Being tall isn't impolite, after all. It's an imperfect situation for everyone, I think. Absent everyone lining up by height, there's going to be a bit of this happening.

I do feel a little bit like going in order of arrival helps -- in other words, if I stand behind a tall person, that's not the tall person's fault, but if you're the kind of tall person who likes to come late and then squeeze through the crowd and stand right in front of me (which sadly I have seen a LOT), a pox on you. A tall, giant-headed pox. (Not YOU, obviously, since you are not this person. Just a generic "you.")
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:37 PM on August 20, 2012 [7 favorites]

I am 6' and a good friend of mine is 6'7". We go to a lot of concerts together. When it is assigned seats, there really is not much we can do. We generally will not stand unless EVERYONE else is standing. When it is GA, we like to get there early, pick a spot and stay there giving anyone a chance who sees how tall my friend is to pick a different spot. Same for movie theaters. We try to get there as early as possible to give the other viewers a "heads up" (pun intended).

But, in many situations when asked nicely, if there is a reasonable alternative, we will move. We never take it personally if the person asking is polite. The how's the weather up there folks get short shrift. I suggest asking nicely if you can switch places.

My ex is 5'2" and she would either sit on her legs folded under her, sit on the back of the chair with it in its unoccupied position, or ask nicely.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:49 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I deal with this with my kids, who are 48" tall and want to be able to see at shows and concerts. Venues with formal seating often have boosters available, which works for kids, but bringing your own "seating pad" for "comfort" is a good solution for adults. Where there is no formal seating, kids obviously have the advantage because they can stand or sit on laps, so I have no advice for you there.
posted by davejay at 12:53 PM on August 20, 2012

I just don't go to shows unless there is stadium seating, or some other option for the small. I'm tired of going to shows and either never getting to see anything, or having to get right next to the stage. I'm no longer interested in rewarding venues that make their short customers' lives difficult. If I wake up a famous musician tomorrow, I'll throw diva fits about venues that suck unless you're tall and/or aggressive.
posted by Coatlicue at 1:17 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

For sitting situations you might consider bringing an inflatable cushion or even one of the round rings used in pools. Less cumbersome to carry and have available if needed. Given the relatively small size they are not difficult to inflate.
posted by uncaken at 1:29 PM on August 20, 2012

While I agree that tall people who also paid for their tickets should be able to enjoy shows, it would be totally appreciated if they could make a coordinated social effort to stand in maybe the back half of the venue in a general admission situation. I see it kind of like giving up your seat on the bus to an elderly person - it's not obligatory but it is polite.

I tend to stay toward the side of the crowd at shows; gives me the chance for an occasional sightline. Seconding standing near a structure/pillar too.
posted by gohabsgo at 1:29 PM on August 20, 2012

I'm 4'11" so I feel your pain. I only go to movies with stadium seating. In places where someone tall sits or stands in front of me and blocks my view, I have my boyfriend ask them if they can move (he's 6'1" and is more assertive than I am).

If they don't move, I either move myself or I just deal with it. Seeing isn't always the most important, especially at like, a music show or something. There are a lot of advantages to being tiny, so I just take my lumps when I need to - all the while reminding myself that I am a lot less rude than the people who got in front of me and then refused to be polite when asked to move.
posted by k8lin at 2:31 PM on August 20, 2012

I'm 5'4" so not all that short, I guess, but short enough in a crowd of 6' people. I don't go to sold out movies, if I can avoid it (for this and other reasons). I like to sit in the third or fourth row anyway, and lots of people tend not to sit that close if they have other options.

I don't go to standing-room-only events, and for anything involving open grounds for standing or sitting I require actual seating (bring your own or otherwise).
posted by asciident at 2:37 PM on August 20, 2012

I have a pair of 6" platforms I sometimes were to concerts and I'm 5'5." The view from up there is pretty awesome.
posted by Bunglegirl at 3:23 PM on August 20, 2012

If I stretch to my absolute limit, I MIGHT make it to 5' 1 and a half inches, so I feel your pain!

As for movie theaters: between the height thing and, honestly, my own dislike of being squished in with strangers, I never go to films their opening weeks; for both reasons, I'd rather wait until the middle of a weekday a week or two later, when there's plenty of room as well as less chance of people blocking my sightline. It's not my fault I'm short, but it's also not someone else's fault they're tall, so I just avoid the problem to begin with.

When it comes to choosing WHERE to sit, all else being equal: the usual movie theater's sound system is adjusted so that the 'sweet spot' will be about 60% back from the screen and about halfway left-to-right. (I've been a movie projectionist since 1984, and I've adjusted a LOT of autotoriums!) However, as a short person, I find it comfy to sit just a little back from that spot, say around 65% back from the screen.

When it comes to theaters with stadium seating, try to sit back far enough that your head will be level with a spot about 1/3 of the way down from the top of the screen --- if you sit farther forward, the top of the high-backed seats will push your head forward and down, and 2-3 hours of trying to watch a movie like THAT will kill your neck.
posted by easily confused at 3:42 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not short myself, so I can't vouch for this, but it looks like a cool idea. I love that it just looks like a regular handbag. Although, it seems kinda spendy. Ooh, you can also get a folding footrest that slips inside the bag.
posted by marsha56 at 4:43 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

6'5" here and like diskeater upthread, if it's a general admissions show I go early, both to get a good spot (I love to be close to the band to get that entergy) and also to let everyone know, like, hey, I'm tall, and this is where I'm standing, and have been standing, for an hour prior to you. And if I'm late no way would I do that, but just that I don't usually go if I can't get there early. And I'd do that if I was tall or short.

Just plz don't be the ones who get there late and expect to shove in front of people. Because next thing I know I'm way back and then further back still, except that I don't let that happen -- sorry. Do what I do, get there early on a GA show, or don't go. And if some tall gork like me does come late and stands in front of you, plz kick them, hard, by mistake.

As far as movies, I do the same as many in this thread have noted, don't go to new releases, rarely go to flix on Friday or Saturday night, both to avoid the awkwardness of ruining the show for someone else who can't see through my head and also to avoid the teeming masses of people who want to talk through the movies. Which I mostly avoid anyways by being lucky enough to live in Austin, and going to Alamo Drafthouse theaters, where they all but flog you publicly if you act the fool. Plus the seating is great, and people aren't as likely to have a rough time seeing over me there, should I somehow end up in a movie that's full.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:00 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

My MO is to be ruthless, but to quit when I'm ahead. For example if I see something at Prospect Park Bandshell, I'll head straight for the hill because, while it's not the closest spot, I will be able to see.

I also have no problem telling tall people what's up and asking them to move in X or Y way that should make everyone happy.

Sometimes people are just dicks and there's nothing you can do. In those situations I try to remember that I'm there for what is mostly an auditory experience*, and be zen about it.

At movie theaters I will ask people if we can switch/they can move over a seat/whatever. I'm shameless.

*Unless it's a movie or theatre or something, of course. Burn!
posted by Sara C. at 9:36 PM on August 20, 2012

i am also a shortie and at concerts try to stand as close to the front as possible. if someone very tall gets in front of me i politely ask if i can stand in front of them as they can easily see over me but there's no way i can see over them- i find if you're polite and friendly and not imposing 9 times out of 10 the person will let you, and in the 10th time someone hasn't let me, another tall person standing nearby will overhear and then allow me to stand in front of them.
posted by raw sugar at 2:36 AM on August 21, 2012

I'm 5'9" and like some of the other (much taller) people who answered, I would generally have no problem moving if someone asked. In general I'm pretty good about trying not to get in anyone's way and if I do find myself at the front of some venue or with an especially good site line, I will find the shortest person next to me and ask if they want my spot. However, although I am tall, I also don't have the greatest vision (even with corrective lenses), so I choose my movie seats with care and I get there early to do so (and avoid opening nights, etc). So depending upon what else was available if I were asked to move, I might decline. I think I'm a pretty nice person, but I'm not a martyr.

As a side note, I have who is extremely particular about her movie seats (she is average height and has no vision problems; it's just an extreme preference type of thing). Anyway, she tends to go to matinees and get there exceedingly early, but one time I was with her and the none of the seats that she prefers were available, and we were able to exchange our tickets for another showing. I realize this wouldn't always be convenient, but it's an option that I thought that I'd throw out there.
posted by kaybdc at 9:05 AM on August 21, 2012

Not original advice, given the rest of the thread, but I go to lots (and lots) of events with someone who is 5 feet tall. I'm 6' 1". Our strategies:
* Prefer stadium seated movie theaters, or theaters with high screens. If this isn't possible, the two of us swap seats. If this isn't possible, sit where the aisle is between us and the screen, so there is no one directly in front.
* For concerts, we ALWAYS purchase seats if they're available. Most of the medium to large venues in Northern California have either a balcony, raised sides or seats. It's better to sit in the balcony than not see anything. There are a few places (like Great American Music Hall in San Francisco) where you can reserve a meal to sit on the balcony, so we do.
* For concerts that are standing room, we stand toward the back, as sight lines are better.

If it's a flat venue with a low stage, we'll generally just not go unless it's someone we *really* want to see.
posted by cnc at 11:20 AM on August 21, 2012

4' 11" (and three-quarters!) here. It sounds counter-intuitive, but for GA shows, I find that if I stand farther back I can actually see much better and I have more opportunities to move around a bit if someone does block my line of sight.

I've also had luck standing about halfway back, but off to the side quite a bit. It's a different line of sight (and yes, sometimes you can't see the second guitarist or whatever) but by being off to the side you can usually see AROUND the tall people versus trying to see through them.

It's super frustrating, I know. I've had one person - ever - turn around, notice my height, and apologize for planting themselves in front of me at a show when I was there first. Then he moved so I could see! He was my favorite person ever that day.
posted by meggan at 7:40 PM on August 21, 2012

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