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.