Every now and then I have to explain the rules about saving seats. There are thousands upon thousands who still don’t understand the one absolute rule that applies in theatres and food courts, which is that you have to mark something to save something. It doesn’t matter how or what you mark it with as long as you mark it. A napkin, a jacket, a scarf, a newspaper…anything.

Once that’s done, the seat is absolutely effing saved and no one questions it…least of all myself. But you can’t just point to a couple of seats (or three or four or six) and say, “Oh, those are saved.” Doesn’t work that way. Ask any animal in any jungle. If you want to mark your territory, you have to urinate upon it. Every animal in the world gets this. No argument, it’s law.

The incident happened two nights ago in the Century City food court adjacent to the AMC movie plex. I had some Chinese on the tray and was looking for a seat at a table. It was very crowded — no separate, unoccupied tables. So I chose one next to a table that a woman and her young son were sitting down at. As I was about to sit down the woman looked at me and said, “Uhhm, that table’s saved…two others are coming.” No markings on either seat but I let it go.

So I went over to another table that was kissing a table that a young couple were sitting at. “Sorry,” the guy said, shrugging and smiling sweetly, placing his hand on one of the white plastic seats. “We’re holding this for friends.”

So I went over to another unmarked table that was next to one that a 40ish woman was sitting at with a son or daughter…I forget which. “Uhhm, this is for the rest of our family,” she said. “Actually, no…I don’t think it is,” I said, sitting down with my tray. “As far as I can tell every empty table in this food court is being held for someone else, and as this one isn’t marked, I’m sitting in it. No offense.”

“But my husband is sitting there,” she said.

“No, actually…I am,” I said. “You have to mark the seat, you see. If you don’t mark it, it’s fair game. Sorry.”

“Why don’t you sit somewhere else?,” she said.

“I’d be delighted to,” I answered, “but every last seat in this food court is being saved for someone.”

The husband came over with his tray. His face was pained, anguished. “You’re going to break up a family?,” he said. I repeated the basic rule: “Look, man…you can’t legitimately save a seat unless you mark it. It’s very simple. Mark it and you’re fine. This seat wasn’t marked so that’s that. I have the same rights as you.”

“I can’t believe you, you’re such an asshole!,” the woman said. “This is why you’re sitting alone!”

I agreed with her. “Yes, you’re right. I’m absolutely an asshole and that’s why I’m alone. No argument with that. But you didn’t mark the seat and that’s a fact.”

“God…asshole!,” the woman repeated. Her child was not enjoying this.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said again. “I am that. Definitely, no argument. Just try marking the seat next time.”

So they went somewhere else and sat down and ate their food, and I ate mine and then I left. Will they think about marking their seats next time? Of course not. Assholes don’t change their spots.