A few months ago, I was just outside of Phoenix waiting to get a car. I decided to kill the time by going to an early movie matinee at a nearby theater. I love the experience of going to a new theater in a new town where I've never been before. I refer to it as a virgin theater experience.
This was an older theater, and as I arrived before it officially opened for the day, I got a chance to speak to a staff member as he was setting up the Concession stand. Turns out that this was once a big old movie palace, but had been split into four smaller auditoriums to compete as a multiplex. They were playing NEVER LET ME GO, an indie film that I had been anxious to see. A quiet, nice, gentle little movie.
The staff member, a jolly fellow named Jerry, explained that it was usually slow enough for the first show that the box office out front was closed. Tickets would be sold in the lobby at the far end of the Concession stand. So I stood there to be first in line, and by the time they were ready to open 20 people had lined up behind me. Jerry was now setting up a cash drawer so he could begin to sell tickets, and suddenly there was a commotion coming from the entrance door to the lobby.
"Come on! Let's go, hurry up!" came the screeching and overly loud voice of an elderly woman. I turned and saw her, as she marched forward followed by her much older-looking husband who was dependent on a cane to stand up.
Jerry smiled at me and said, "OK, all set. What movie are you seeing?"
"One for NEVER LET ME GO, please."
"Excuse me! Excuse me!" It was the elderly woman, who had walked right up beside me and slapped her hand on the counter. "Is this where I buy the tickets, please? We want two."
"Ma'am, you'll have to wait in line," Jerry patiently explained.
"What?" she shrieked.
"What's he saying?" her husband asked.
"Hush, Herbert. Young man, we are senior citizens, we don't wait in line. Now, do you have any of those headsets for those who are hard of hearing?"
"No ma'am, we don't have those at this theater."
"Oh, that's a shame, a terrible shame."
"What's that? What did he say, Louella?" asked Herbert.
"Never mind, Herbert!" It seemed like each time Louella spoke to Herbert, her already loud voice got much louder.
"Did you ask about the headsets?" Herbert wanted to know.
"They don't have them," replied Louella. "I'll just have to explain what's going on to you throughout the movie. No problem."
I got my ticket and started away. Louella grabbed me by the arm. "Excuse me, young man, I need to ask you a personal question."
"Yes ma'am, how can I help you?"
"I overheard you say that you're seeing NEVER LET ME GO. That's what we came to see, what do you know about it."
My heart sunk. They were there to watch the same movie as me, and I knew that there was going to be non-stop loud talking all through the feature. I looked at her sadly and said, "I hear that it's really horrible."
"What'd he say?" asked Herbert.
Louella seemed perturbed by her husband. "He's telling me about our movie."
"He's telling you how to move?" Herbert said, confused.
Louella shook her head. "Tell me more, tell me what you know."
"I know that there is supposed to be a lot of gratuitous sex and nudity."
Louella made spitting gestures as she made a noise something like "Tu, tu, tu."
I felt I needed to add more. "And there is also a lot of grotesque violence and
graphic bloody torture scenes."
Louella's face puckered up like a prune. "Oh no, no, no. That doesn't sound any good at all."
"Very dark, very depressing. It will leave you with an intense sense of dread."
Herbert demanded to be heard. "I want to know what this man is saying."
"He says our movie is bad, very bad," said Louella.
"Of course I'm glad," crowed Herbert. "I'm alive and at the movies."
Louella eyed me with scrutiny. "Now wait. Why are you going to see the movie if its so bad?"
"I see every movie, I'm sort of an amateur movie critic."
"And then you can tell people like us what to avoid. Very smart, very industrious. But now what can we go see?"
"I suggest SECRETARIAT, its the feel-good movie of the Fall season. You're gonna love it."
"What? What?" asked a flustered Herbert.
"He says we should go see SECRETARIAT, Herbert!" she yelled.
"Now you know I haven't had a secretary since I retired 20 years ago."
I went to my theater and enjoyed the movie in peace and solitude. And in my heart, I felt good about sending Herbert and Louella off to see a movie that I knew would bring them a smile.