I had a seat-saving confrontation with two twentysomethings at a Superbad screening at the Grove yesterday. Jett and I entered theatre #1 only a minute before the lights went down, and there were only a few scattered seats so we split up. Just as the trailers began I noticed three unmarked seats — no articles of clothing, no handbags, no newspapers sitting on them — near the back. A woman sitting to the right of these seats said they were “saved,” so I backed off. But I thought to myself, “Saved how? Because she verbally says so?”

My position is a basic Animal Planet view that you can’t “save” seats without marking them, just like dogs and wolves and coyotes mark territory by urinating on the ground and Alaskan gold miners used to stake claims with little piles of rocks. All you have to do is put something on the seat — a jacket, a magazine or an L.A. Weekly page, even a folded paper napkin. But you can’t just point to three or four seats (or six or ten seats…there has to be a limit) and say, “These are saved.” Certainly not when the lights are going down. You can try this with one or two seats, maybe, but not with three.

So I said to the girl, “Sorry but the film’s starting and there’s nothing on these seats. I’ll respect saving two but not three seats, so I’m taking the third.” And then her friend — a youngish Asian guy — sauntered along four or five minutes later, just as the film was starting, and said the seat I was sitting in was “saved.” And I said, “Verbal saves without territorial markings don’t cut it.” He went “huh?” and I repeated my opinion. He said, “So you’re not leaving?” and I said “correct.” So he stormed off, presumably to get the manager or an usher, but Part Two never happened.

On the other hand, I saved two seats once in a Santa Monica theatre with my sport jacket spread across both of them and a newspaper folded across one, and when I returned with my popcorn a guy and a girl had taken them. “Hey…I saved these seats!” I said to the guy. He gave me one of those chickenshit “who me?” shrugs. “I put my jacket on these seats!,” I told him. “Where’s my jacket?” It was on the sticky-ass floor under one of the seats. The guy wouldn’t move, but I knew he’d tossed the jacket and taken the seats in defiance of natural jungle law. I let it go but he was wrong just as I was right yesterday. Markings are everything.