Why I am here? I could have said no. Made an excuse. “I have to get up early tomorrow.” “A long lost family member is showing up in town.” Or I could have suggested something else – “Hey, let’s check out a Lakers game.” “How about we binge watch something on Netflix?” This is my first night off in two weeks. Two whole weeks of dealing with a 19 year old drugged out loser who’s only running the company because of his last name. Two weeks of no sleep, fast food for every meal, and reassuring our clients this asshole kid won’t run our company into the ground. But instead of chilling, I’m stuck at a movie theater. I hate movie theaters. They’re the worst places in the world. But I’m here. So I’ll try to make the best of it. Dammit.
The line to get tickets isn’t too long. And at least I get to hang out with Daniel and Marcus, two of my best friends since middle school. Daniel works with special needs kids and Marcus is a computer programmer, which means when he talks about his job I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about. But they’re great. Except – crap, Daniel brought Lewis. Had to bring the movie snob. I swear this guy Lewis only sees movies so he can critique them using big words. “I found the relationship at once overwrought and entirely devoid of any emotion. It rang disingenuous. This key element of the film was jejune.” Dude, just say it like normal people. You hated the romantic subplot.
I will survive this, I tell myself. This movie will be good, it’s gotten great reviews, I’ll ignore Lewis. But when we get to the front of the line we find out the movie is sold out. Okay. For a second, I think my prayers have been answered. We can go back to my place and hang out. Except Lewis has a suggestion. He mentions another movie, some Serbian black and white indie, a three-hour metaphor of industrialization and capitalism. Shoot me in the head. Who the hell watches these movies? Finally we agree to go see “Paranormal Activity 27,” a movie that should sufficiently scare the crap out of us. Naturally Lewis protests this decision, forced to endure a movie well beneath his “movie-palette.”
So it’s time to buy food. Luckily, I brought my own snack, a Ziploc bag of peanuts and dried pineapple slices. I won’t be spending eight bucks on a bag of popcorn or $6.50 for a box of Red Vines. Suckers. But Lewis insists we split a bag of overpriced popcorn, which is the dumbest food to split in the history of dumb food splitting. One person is going to want a lot of butter on it, another person will insist on tons of salt, and somebody has to have a secret ingredient no one has ever thought about (mustard + popcorn = heaven). But me, I try to avoid popcorn. I always end up with the seeds because the universe hates me.
We finally get into the theater and it takes nine million hours to find the right seats because Lewis is an expert in “movie theater seat picking.” And now we have to decide the proper seating. Lewis needs to be next to the person with the popcorn, Daniel nearest the aisle because his bladder is the size of one of those aforementioned popcorn seeds, Marcus also near an aisle because he never shuts up during a movie - “Don’t go in there, Don’t go in there!!! I knew she shouldn’t have gone in there.” I just want to sit as far away from that buttered, salted, mustarded mess of a popcorn bucket. Yeah, it’s a bucket. No, really, it has a handle.
Now that we’ve determined the optimal seating arrangement, I can finally look at the movie screen. Trailer time. The first trailer: down on his luck, steroid-using, divorced, dead-beat father who apparently pissed off the wrong person because now some international terrorists are holding his estranged wife and kid hostage. Why don’t they just skip the clichéd hostage situation and just try to steal money or bring down the United States? The second trailer: it’s the future and the world is a wonderful utopia. But, oh no, there’s some type of asteroid or global pandemic that threatens humanity. And it’s up to a bunch of people who are way too attractive to be scientists to find a solution to save all of humanity. I wonder if they’ll make it? The third trailer: A loser who’s addicted to drugs is suddenly put in a situation where he needs to be responsible or he’ll lose someone he loves. And that someone is a girl who is drop dead gorgeous, who for some bizarre reason is intrigued by this pot-smoking loser. The fourth trailer (four goddamn trailers - I paid to see a movie, not advertisements for more movies): There’s a new boy or girl at school. I can’t really tell. And she’s different, I wonder if… yep, vampire. Always a vampire. I’ve never understood the obsession with teenage vampires. It has nothing to do with real life. “I totally remember all those vampires we hung out with in high school,” said no one, ever.
The trailers are over and now there’s a cute robot cartoon warning the audience to turn off their cell phones. The screen goes black and the movie is about to begin. I feel a tug on my shirt. Marcus turns to me and says, “I hope this movie is good.” I have a bad feeling.
The movie begins. Something about a house that’s haunted. Scary music, something is moving behind the curtains. Ghost. Zombie. I hope to hell it’s not a vampire. Marcus is shouting, “I don’t like the look of this!” and “It’s quiet here. Too quiet!”
Now there’s a boring scene about ghost hunters and skeptics talking about how each of them is close-minded. I look around the theater and I’m amazed to see tons of young kids. Babies. What’s wrong with these parents? Don’t they know this movie will give their kids nightmares for months? When I was a kid, the only movies I went to were about elves and talking animals. I never saw horror movies because if I did, I’d be so scared I’d end up sleeping in my parents’ bed until my mid 30s.
Suddenly the screen goes black. At first the audience is surprised, and then they grow restless. A voice over the PA announces, “We’re sorry to announce that we’re having some technical difficulties and we’ll be unable to continue the movie. Please proceed to the exits immediately.”
Several of the moviegoers begin to shout. One person even throws his bucket of popcorn at the PA system. (Yeah, buddy, that will fix everything). We head to the exit while listening to Lewis ranting about how he’d never attend this movie theater again and that management should be embarrassed about this “travesty.” Yeah, he used the word “travesty.” I’m just relieved I have an excuse to go home.
We get outside and one of the attendants approaches us. “I’m so sorry about this. Take one of these coupons to see a free movie.”
I look at the coupon. Good for the next calendar year. Lewis suggests another obnoxious foreign film. Daniel and Marcus nod and agree. Great idea. The three of them look at me. I can’t think of an excuse. Oh, crap. What am I going to do?
“Sure,” I reluctantly say. “Why not?”
Max Schouweiler is a writer living in California.