Sunday in the Park with Brian: Therapy Session #18 (The “Hot Buttered Pop Culture” Version)


A mere week ago, I babbled in the previous “Sunday in the Park” that I hadn’t been to an actual movie theater in years. This was not meant to be a grandiose defiance of participating in Pavlovian entertainment, but merely a reflection that going to see a movie these days, no matter how sublime the film might be, can destroy your soul. So many people, at least in America, have completely disconnected from the proper way to behave in a public setting. We used to watch movies with a collective respect for what was happening on the screen. Now? It’s all about incessant chatter in the audience, blinding flashes from a multitude of cell phones, and a complete disregard for fellow patrons.

These people are not here to see a movie. They are here to document on social media the fact that they are pretending to see a movie. #IReallyLoveMyself

So, yesterday, when my partner announced that he had a yearning to go see “Rogue One”, the latest installment in the time-slip that has become the “Star Wars” franchise, I immediately distanced myself from any involvement in such an agenda. That’s fine, sweetie. You go do that, and I’ll stay here and work on my blogs and continue the pretense that I am actually contributing something to society with my undistinguished ability to use a keyboard, as if no one has ever done that before. My partner, fully aware of my anathema towards people in general, nodded knowingly and proceeded to make plans for his solo adventure earlier today.

He trotted off to bed. I did not trot, because I’m a night owl, and my personal muse dictates that I contemplate things at 3am. And one of my contemplations was that I was being something of an ass. My partner wanted to go and I should go with him, because that’s what partners do. So when he popped out of bed the next morning, humming with joy at the pending excursion, and I fell out of bed because I’d only been there about twenty minutes, I announced that we could now tag-team this adventure. After he got over the initial shock, we eventually piled in the car, stopped off for some moderately-enjoyable Chinese buffet, and then pulled into the parking lot of the nearest 84-screen movie megaplex.

Herewith, my thoughts on the matter…

ONE. The ancient man at the ticket booth.

The elderly gentleman responsible for taking one’s money and rewarding him with a small rectangle clearly had no desire to be responsible for this operation. He was gruff and surly, and he spoke the least amount of words he could get away with not speaking. Granted, he might have a tragic backstory that could help us better understand why he was being such a jerk. (Maybe he had lost his retirement through no fault of his own. Maybe this was entirely his fault, forced to perform a version of community service after getting drunk and peeing in the town-square fountain just as a busload of vacation bible schoolers arrived on a field trip, wide-eyed and pointing. Who knows.)

I can understand not liking your job, trust. What I cannot grasp is how some people take out their personal misery on people who have nothing to do with your situation. I’m just here to watch a movie about very busy people plotting against each other. I don’t need you to act it out for me during an innocent business transaction. You don’t have to get all Mary Poppins, of course, throwing in a song and dance routine (although that would score you bonus points). But, at the very least, you can be cordial during our time together. You do know about cordial, right? Or is that just something you drink before you start your shift?

TWO. It apparently takes a lot of people to do one job these days.

Surprisingly, the lobby wasn’t crowded at all. Except for the designated area where we were supposed to hand over our tickets. There were three young ladies all lined up at the little stand, babbling excitedly about something. (Was Taylor Swift about to release a new music video? Had someone invented a new phone that automatically took a selfie when its sensors detected a pose-worthy moment? Had one of them finally figured out long division?) One of the young ladies stepped forward, and the other two stepped back, in a practiced move that spoke of careful choreography. (Chatter, chatter, chatter, step back, smile innocently, wait for interlopers to exit stage left, step forward, chatter, chatter, chatter, Taylor, selfie, carry the three!)

The lead dancer accepted our tickets, thanked us for the thoughtful gifts, glanced at them, nodded as if we had made a very wise career decision, then she raised one uniformed arm in a showy but effective manner and pointed. “Three doors down on the right. Enjoy the show!” Then she grinned with enough exuberance that we could almost hear world peace being reached simultaneously across the globe. She was really good. No wonder she was the featured performer of the trio. As we headed in the direction indicated by her jazz finger, and the young ladies reconvened their teen-culture coven, it was obvious that the backup dancers had nowhere else to be. Maybe they rotated turns? If so, it is now my goal in life to secure a job where I only have to work a third of the time and still get full pay.

THREE. The nastiness of men and the people who clean up after them.

This is another topic not fit for the still-gasping vacation bible schoolers, but it is a path that we must take. My partner and I darted into a restroom for a quick bit of recycling. (It was going to be a long movie, and we were not leaving our seats, no sir.) The restroom appeared to be clean and tidy, so we were initially pleased. But as we entered the urinal area, our shoes started sticking and crackling sounds began to echo off the pseudo art-deco wall tiles.

This means two things: One, most men are outright pigs when it comes to bodily functions. (Not all. You run across a well-trained one every once in a while, and I would strongly suggest that you marry him if you do, because the pickings are slim.) Two, whoever was responsible for cleaning this restroom (I’m guessing there were three of them, to match the set out front) clearly used a dirty mop to limply drag it across the tiles a few times and then they turned and fled. We now had some very unsatisfying decoupage action going on. Bathroom attendants of the world: Use a hot mop and finish the job. Men of the world: The urinal is not a suggestion. It truly is the target. I’m sure there are classes at the local community college that can help you out with this, should you need guidance.

FOUR. The absence of madness.

When we opened the doors to our designated theater (I think it was number 79) and clattered in, we knew instantly that something had gone terribly wrong. The place was completely deserted. Not a soul to be found. We were here to see a popular movie still in its first run on a no-school Sunday. This place should have been packed with screaming kids and 50-year-old stoners. Had we slipped into another dimension? If we went back out the doors, would the dancing tour guides be gone as well? Were we now trapped in the Overlook Theater with a really pissed-off Jack Nicholson waving a dripping death weapon that he found at the local Pottery Barn?

We were flummoxed. If we were in a movie, especially a horror flick, this would be the part where the only smart member of the entire cast would run like hell, thus assuring that he got to appear in the sequel. On the flip side, we were here to see a movie, and we’d already paid for our tickets. Screw it, we’re staying. As if to acknowledge this decision as a wise one, the screen suddenly burst into life with a promo for the latest Justin Bieber concert. That was the most horrifying moment in the whole ordeal, but we were brave, managed to snag the best seats in the house (because they were all empty) and we waited to see if anyone else was still living on this planet.

A few minutes later, two teenage girls wandered in, lugging a bucket of popcorn that was at least the size of Delaware, kid you not. Luckily, they sat far away. A bit later, a family of four showed up, empty-handed. They took one look at the Delaware Bucket, and they immediately dispatched two members to get their own Delaware. When the search and retrieval duo returned, sweating and shoving the oily bucket, the foursome set up shop even further away than the original Delaware residents. Finally, two guys sauntered in, each equipped with a more modest Rhode Island Bucket, and they staked a claim somewhere between the previous two settlements. None of the camps were anywhere near us.

And that was it. Ten people in the whole theater, including us. I was stunned. The main reason I avoid movie theaters is the overwhelming mass of clueless people doing annoying things. If somebody passed a law capping the audience limit at 10 but still retaining the same amount of seats and thus assuring separation from your fellow man, I would go see every movie ever made. Well, most of them, anyway.

FIVE. The black dot on the white screen.

I didn’t notice it at first, probably because we were deluged with a good thirty minutes of endless previews of movies that all seemed to have the same plot (buildings and cars were blowing up because women were running around in shirts that were too tight). Then, just as the movie proper was about to start, Partner muttered “that dot is going to drive me crazy”. Dot? Who the hell is Dot? Does he know one of those people eating the Delaware popcorn? Then I saw it, right smack in the upper middle of the screen. Dang it. Now that it’s been pointed out, that’s all I can see.

If we had been watching a more sedate movie, perhaps one of those European movies where people talk about their feelings a lot and Maggie Smith is wittily bitchy, the dot would not have bothered me. But no, we were watching an action movie where our heroes are constantly watching the skies for signs of an Imperial fighter jet swooping in to kill them all. And do you know what those jets look like from far away, just before the John Williams score intensifies? A black dot. I spent most of the movie thinking a surprise attack was coming and bad things were going to happen when most of the time there was nothing to worry about at all. (And, now that I ponder, that last sentence essentially applies to my entire life and explains why I’m on anxiety medication. Hmm.)

Dear Cinemark Theater in Cedar Hill, Texas: Please do something about the black dot on screen 79. It totally changes the viewing experience. And while you’re at it, could you manage to hire people who actually know how to properly mop a bathroom floor? And people who know how to be nice at the ticket booth? That would be swell. Love and kisses, B.


29 replies »

  1. This was hysterically funny and you cited all the reasons why I no longer enjoy the theater “experience.” I used to work in a cineplex when I lived in Glendale so I know all the behind the scenes dramas that take place. Your descriptions were priceless. This blog sounded like every conversation I have about the various people I run into when I venture out of my house. So refreshing to know that I am not alone in my opinions.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “They are here to document on social media the fact that they are pretending to see a movie. #IReallyLoveMyself”. Spot on! 😂😂 And by the way, you might want to run by your shrink the whole Dot fiasco in case he missed the OCD. Totally not judging you, by the way 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You didn’t mention the family who brings their whining little toddlers! The little brats who stand in the aisle throwing a little hissy fit because Daddy got the wrong candy and a small drink instead of a large!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I too had not been to the movies in years and years….until this summer. I went by myself. The only other people in the theater were a man and a boy who were there together. I was amazed. No one else came. And the chairs! My God, the chairs in the theaters now are so comfy. Since then, I’ve gone twice more. Never a full theater and love the chairs. But I don’t do popcorn. I do Sno-Caps! Yum.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This experience really did somewhat restore my faith in movie-going, so I’m now more inclined to consider doing it again in the near future. I just need to make sure we work out the logistics so that there’s hardly anybody else in the theater. And yes, those chairs! When I first sat down I thought, uh oh, I might be asleep before the opening credits are over. But it all worked out and I stayed perky. (For the record, my fave movie snack is chocolate-covered raisins.)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The last time I went to the movies, it was with Loser. We saw “RED.” It was a $2.00 movie place but the popcorn and drinks were $10.00 each. I sneaked in a huge bottle of water and I think they saw it but didn’t say anything because he bought some popcorn.
    I’ll never go again. I don’t think there’s even one anywhere near my little Podunk town. LOLOL

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I never get anything from the concession stand, mainly because I need to make sure I can pay the next light bill. And I’m with you on the “creative” snack arrangement. You can get a LOT of goodies into a pair of multi-pocketed cargo pants…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. #IReallyLoveMyself – perfect. For an extended period of time, until several members of that band died, we would, really, make up “I love me” lyrics to songs. This was during the trailing edge of the ’80s, where I believe the current epidemic of PDN (public displays of narcissism) germinated. “I want to hold my hand,” “I love how I love me,” “I love me yeah, yeah yeah,” “I’m just too good to be true.” You can tell the oldies took a beating, as did musicals. “I have often walked, down my street before…” Current flavah wasn’t off the hook, though.

    I like to go see real and not so real theatah. Same as the movies or Mass. Someone, often backed up by another disembodied voice says “No video, put your phones away.” The lights go down, BAM. Out comes the etch a sketch sized tablet two rows down lighting up the room. There is no black dot. Please adjust your colander helmet and clean as specified telegraphed anxiety meme 714.7

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, if you’ll kindly look the other way, I’m going to steal your PDN acronym. I promise to use it for good and not evil. Those song titles are great, you should continue the tradition even if part of the team has moved on the movie theater in the sky. Or the multiplex in hell. I really didn’t know your friends, so I’m politely keeping the options open.

      And yes, even the “cultured” and “uncultured but rich and trying to be cultured” crowds have members who don’t have the decency to put away their devices. With all that morse-code flashing going on, I’m surprised that more people at live plays haven’t been killed when a 747 lands on the building, with the drunken pilot thinking he finally found a runway at JFK.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. You practically have to take out a mortgage to take a family to the cinema these days, no wonder it was empty. Dvds come out so quickly now, may as well wait to watch in the comfort of your own home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I completely agree. It’s MUCH cheaper to just wait for the DVD. You can pause the movie whenever you want and you have something physical to show for your money. But every once in a while, it’s fun to see a movie on a really big screen…

      Liked by 2 people

  8. We don’t go to the movies often, but we did see Rogue One. I enjoyed it, but realized after I couldn’t name a single character. Great action, but they didn’t spend much time developing characters. Loved the droid though. (Also the monk and his friend. Did you sense a romance there?)
    As to people not knowing how to behave in a theater, I always thought plays were different, but a few years back we went to a showing of the Phantom of the Opera. Unfortunately the only seats we could afford were in the nosebleed section and – believe it or not – the teenage girl behind us took off her shoes and rested them on an iron bar that ran behind our seats. If I turned my head the slightest bit, I saw her chipped toenails.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m on the same page with your assessment of “Rogue One”. Enjoyable but nothing of importance or something that I need to see again. And yes, I sensed the romance, whether it was intended or not. The best part was the droid, hands down.

      It saddens my heart that live theater is being slowly overrun by the unwashed and shoeless. (Please do not take that as a slam against the homeless, not my intention at all.) I blame it on the growing trend in society for folks to not take accountability for their own actions. After all, if I’M allowed to roam freely on the internet without repercussion, what is this world coming to? 😉

      Liked by 2 people

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