Anita Robinson: The slurping, crunching and texting are some of the multiplex reasons to avoid the cinema
A phenomenon of our times is that whatever the hour of day, every second person on the street seems to be shovelling food into their mouths or glugging coffee from a paper cup.
Have these people no cooking facilities in their well-appointed homes that they must nourish themselves 'on the hoof', so to speak? Or are they so time-poor they must spend money on stuff they could prepare themselves for a third of the price?
Like cattle, we're constantly grazing – and encouraged to do so by the fashionable proliferation of coffee shops and 'street food' vendors. No wonder we have an obesity crisis.
I was always taught that it was vulgar to eat in the street. Now people eat everywhere, however inappropriate their surroundings. Theatres display large notices requesting 'no food or drink in the auditorium', only to have patrons, well-dressed enough to know better, brazenly ignoring them.
It's got so bad that two major London venues staging operas and musicals have introduced a blanket ban, including water bottles. I'll drink to that.
What is this fixation with carting bottles of water around as if one is in the Gobi desert? In a climate as damp as ours, nobody's going to die of dehydration in three hours in a theatre. There's an interval for the parched.
Nor is anyone likely to expire of hunger. How many performances are marred for audience members by the furtive rustle of cellophane by the phantom Raspberry Ruffle eater, or the hollow 'pok-pok' of Maltesers rolling about in their little cardboard box during a particularly tense or tender scene onstage?
The whole point of theatre is to immerse oneself in the performance and leave the outside world behind - particularly if one has paid a hefty sum for the privilege. Would the culprits please show consideration for other patrons and have their tea before they come out?
However irritating theatre-going has become, it's not a patch on the cinema. I've practically given up going to the pictures.
I'll postpone seeing the latest 'must see' until it's available for home consumption. And why? For multiplex reasons.
We've come a long way from the uncomfortably prickly plush seats of yesteryear, an ashtray wedged between each pair. The air was thickly blue, with an occasional strong whiff of singeing as an ill-extinguished cigarette-end set light to the long hair of the girl in front; the ice-cream lady with her horse-halter tray appeared at the intermission (I never had Wall's ice-cream because my mother said it was made with whale-oil), and acned adolescents in the back row performed mouth to mouth resuscitation upon each other all the way through the Pearl & Dean advertisements, Movietone News, two trailers, a travelogue and the big picture, unless interrupted by a vigilant burly commissionaire with his torch.
Audiences were quiet, attentive and not above shooshing and glaring at anyone who wasn't. Our local cinema offered 'continuous performance', which meant the unprincipled, by judicious timing, often managed to see the main feature twice.
But back to the multiplex reasons why I rarely darken the door of a cinema now. It's the infernal racket - the ears assaulted by a sound-system so powerful it reverberates through the seats.
It's the screen - so in-yer-face you can see up the actors' noses no matter how far back you sit.
It's the reclining seats that leave you lying at a sun-lounger angle like a beached porpoise and you can't struggle up again.
And here come the people, stumbling up the stairs in the dark laden with buckets of babysick-smelling popcorn, gallons of Coke and trays of pungent crunchy things just as the opening credits roll, squeezing past, showering popcorn, to the seats beside, before or behind you.
Then they carry on as if they're in their own front room, chomping, slurping, audibly explaining the plot, serial texting, showing each other photographs, even ordering things online.
When the lights go up, the floor is like a bombsite. How I long for the return of the burly commissionaire with the torch to spotlight their shame.