This letter, which appeared in the 9/15/16 edition of Catholic New York, should be printed out and posted on the doors or bulletin boards of every Catholic church. The epidemic of lazy, inconsiderate "Aisle People" is painful to see. If you have an overactive bladder, or are on active duty in the emergency services, or are the parents of rambunctious young children, then you have every right to plant yourselves near the aisle so as not to have to climb over others when you inevitably have to step out of Mass. If you're just a paranoid neurotic who has a psychological barrier against having people sitting on both sides of you, then please get over it and slide towards the middle of the pew.
Because of my peripatetic lifestyle, I’ve attended Mass at many parishes. For the past 20 years, I’ve probably worshipped at 30 different Catholic churches across America each year for a total of about 600. One thing that each of these houses of worship have in common is the Aisle People (AP.)
The AP covet the seats at the end of the pew regardless of the emptiness within. I always arrive at Mass early and sit toward the rear, so I present my empirical data on the AP from a disinterested distance. The AP make up approximately 30 percent of attendees, and I am not sure they realize the angst they cause in other parishioners.
Everyone who attends Mass weekly has no doubt noticed that late arrivals will “probe the line” looking for a charitable aisle person to allow them to enter the pew. It disgusts me to see how many AP stare straight ahead, ignoring the petitioner’s tacit plea to access the vacancies within. After being ignored, the late-comers must then clear their throat, which will compel the AP to take heed. This distracts other congregants.
Only once in all my years have I heard a priest remonstrate from the pulpit regarding this opportunistic practice of “aisle seat covetousness” (at Mass in Arkansas). He was instructing while I am lamenting.
Hopefully, the AP act as they do unconscious of the aggravation they cause other attendees because if they are aware of the inconvenience and distraction they cause and still park their corpus segnes at the end of the pew week after week, well, I find that almost unforgivable.
There are a few occasions when AP are justified in maintaining their spot: if the AP is manning the collection basket or, like my sister, is with a disabled child or is part of the altar crew or has urgent bladder problems.
The irony of this situation is glaring: every Sunday the priest urges us to be charitable, loving, considerate, humble and Christ-like. When the AP hear the priest speak thusly, does it not register that their action (or inaction) exemplifies the antitheses of these elements of our faith?