Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Exit Strategy"

When we left off last time, I was treating you to a lesson concerning the untrumpeted advantages of staying in the house. Perverse person that I am, this drove me to submit myself to the world’s uncertainties the following afternoon.

Don’t get the idea I’m agoraphobic; I’m not. I generally stay home, because I find few places worth the effort of putting on my shoes. The world is deficient here. Not me.

Says I.

My lifestyle of choice deeply concerned my mother who raised me. “Go outside. Be with people.” was her anguished, invariably ignored, imprecation. I had no interest in such advice. I had my programs. It was Toronto, meaning it was blisteringly cold, and there was no place I particularly wanted to go. Leading to my oft-heard response to her externally-directed beseechments,


Now, however, with my day’s responsibilities, such as they are, completed, I check the morning paper, and select a movie I will go to at a nearby multiplex. Not that “multi”, maybe six movies. Which is five more than the theaters I attended growing up, where we were limited to one.

I chose a movie that I knew Dr. M didn’t want to see, and off I went, walking the half mile or so to the theater. I walked there for two reasons. One, I had just been to a spa, where you get into the walking habit. And two, my car was in the body shop, and I did not want to risk driving the rental car, for which I had not purchased insurance, informing the rental agent I was covered by my regular car insurance, when I was not at all certain I was.

Arriving at the theater, I receive an unexpected surprise. It is “Seniors Tuesday” at the AMC. For the entire day, movie tickets for Seniors are just six dollars. Down from the usual eleven. This puts an enormous smile on my face.

Which immediately disappears when, for the “Small” popcorn and the “Small” bottle of water that I purchased inside, I am charged nine twenty-five.

“No ‘Seniors Tuesday’ for food, I guess, huh?”

The Concessiorairess shakes her head.

“Nine twenty-five.”

Six dollars for the movie, nine twenty-five for the refreshments. That’s like paying less for a ticket to a ballgame than you pay for the parking. Something is seriously out of whack.

There were two people working behind the concession stand. I mention that for a

reason. For the entire remainder of my outing, these would be the last human beings I would encounter.

That’s right. I step into “Theater Two” where my movie is playing, and the theater is entirely


It’s strange enough, in its way, to attend a movie by yourself. But then, to step into the theater and discover that the audience would comprise of “just you”, it’s like,

Strange squared.

Beginning with,

Selecting your seat.

“Anywhere” sounds like pretty much a slam dunk. But with so many choices, it is real easy to get it wrong. Yes, you can keep changing seats till you’re entirely comfortable, but how many times can you do that without seeming crazy, even to yourself?

To find “The Perfect Seat”, I deliberately adopt a mindset, which takes the form of this question:

“Where would I sit, if if wasn’t “just me”?

I imagine a theater, holding a substantial audience, and I look around, trying to determine, “Which seat would I choose, if the theater had people in it? The seat, which, if I found it still vacant amidst the burgeoning crowd, I would say to myself, ‘This is my lucky day!’”

I know that sounds odd, but it’s the only way I could do it.

I finally pick a spot on the left aisle, two rows closer than halfway back. I sit down. Yes, I confirm to myself with unmistakable certainty, despite the unlimited options, this is, indeed,

“The Perfect Seat.”

“Complaint Number One”:

Movie theaters today are entirely automated. There is no projectionist back there, someone you can appeal to, and say,

“Hey, Bruno, it’s just me. Can we skip the ‘Sneak Preview’ for the debuting ABC Family series Switched At Birth? Can we ‘fast forward’ through the trailer of Thor?

“And those Public Service announcements? ‘Don’t talk? Don’t “text?” ‘Don’t speak on the phone? It will disturb the moviegoing enjoyment of the other patrons’?

Are you kidding me?


I can do anything I want. I can take off my shoes. I can take off my pants if I want to. Though, as my daughter later advised, that might leave me vulnerable to what she artfully described as “A ‘Pee Wee’ Situation.”

The system is disinterestedly pre-programmed, like an elevator that stops automatically at every floor. You must endure the entire journey. Whether you want to or not.

On top of that – “Complaint Number Two” – I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but when they show the previews at the movies? They really jack up the sound. A procedure that is excruciatingly painful to an older person’s ears. Dr. M has been known to cover hers with her hands.

And that’s when an audience is present. Can you imagine what that amped-up preview audio feels like

When you’re the only person in the room?

In a similar but different modality – “Complaint Number Three” – consider the situation, wherein the air conditioning, set for the movie-going comfort of a considerably larger crowd, is blasting unilaterally

At you.

Resulting in a drippy nose that, as we speak, is heavily moistening my lower countenance.

The optimist’s perspective: It’s a “Private Screening.” In theory, maybe. But hardly the experience Louis B. Mayer might have enjoyed.

“It’s too loud!”

“Yes, Mr. Mayer.”

“And turn down the air!”

“Yes, Mr. Mayer.”

This was an entirely different situation. I am hardly Mr. Mayer. And there was nobody to complain to.

Finally, we come to the movie itself, a courtroom entertainment no better than a middle range Law and Order, the reruns of which I was missing by attending this picture.

A barely TV-level attraction, experienced under sub-polar weather conditions, with ear-shattering sound. And I am watching it alone.

But hey.

I was out of the house.


PALGOLAK said...

...crickets chirping...

Pat Borders said...

Wipe your countenance, sir! I was thinking of going to see that very unnamed movie, today, but I guess I won't bother now. Sounds like it should be on DVD by the end of this sentence. BUT, at least you were out and about, mixing among the missing.

Mac said...

An empty cinema is the only one I truly enjoy. That's why I try to catch early showings on a Monday. I even resent a couple of other people in there. I know it's the nearest I'll get to having my own private cinema and other people just break the illusion.

Blitzen said...

It's not blistering cold ALL the time in Toronto. This week will suck, and easter it rains I think, but it gets nice in June!

Anonymous said...

Very funny and fresh. It reminds me of the few times I would drag myself out of the house in years past to see a movie on a weekday, because I felt too guilty staying in the apartment while the maid cleaned (a bi-annual event). So I'd be in some Godforsaken Crackerjack box of a movie theater that was nearly empty. It wasn't as fun as watching TV. And after I was done, I felt odd and strangely depressed returning to reality & humans outside.