Sunday, March 27, 2011

How It All Ends

James Vincent McMorrow--"This Old Dark Machine"(mp3)

It started with a question from the guy selling the movie tickets: "Adult or Senior?"

I paused for a second. "Adult," I finally answered, but I had my own question, internally, which was, do I look like a senior citizen.? Gray hair, for sure, but beyond that? I don't know. I think my step is still pretty spry, but then, so are many of theirs. And I don't really know when the "Senior citizen's discount" kicks in at a Florida movie theater. 55? 65? Do they keep pushing it upwards like my Social Security-related "retirement age"?

There was a time about ten years ago when I relished being both "carded" for a drink and offered a "Senior citizen's discount" at a movie in the same week. Clearly, those days have passed.

No matter. I headed towards my movie, Martians Invade L.A. To Find Moms, or something like that. Hey, it was a Spring Break afternoon, I wanted to see a movie, so I picked one that looked like it would be okay, based on the poster outside the theater. But when I walked into the theater, which was all the way down at the end and then all the way to the right, there was no one in there. No one. I don't know about you, but that kind of creeps me out. I don't know what I think would happen, but whatever it might be, nobody's coming to the rescue.

So, I punted, went with my second choice, The Lincoln Lawyer. I'm not a fan of Matthew McConaughey's acting ability, but I figured he had the natural chops to play a sleazy lawyer, and I do like Marisa Tomei's chops. So I decided I deserved some popcorn and a drink to go with my new movie.

Armed with some sustenance, I entered my second theater. It, too, was hardly crowded less than ten minutes before it was supposed to start. An older couple sat a couple of rows up; another older couple a few rows above them. I decided on the second row of the risers, second seat in. Now, I know that violates the "creeper rule" I've often explained to my children (you never sit next to an open aisle seat because it leaves you vulnerable to the late-arriving solo weirdo), but I figured it wasn't going to be crowded, so what difference could it make?

An older gentleman arrived and sat in the row in front of me, a few seats over, in one of those stadium seats that reclines back. He kept looking back at me, but I didn't know why, so I concentrated on my popcorn. Within seconds, a trio of elderly women arrived, or maybe two older women and a daughter, and, surveying the mostly-empty theater, decided that they were going to sit in my row.

"I'll bet you can't believe we're going to sit here," one of them said as I rose and they slid past.

"I am surprised," I said. They sat, the closest with one seat between her and me.

Then the two women that the gentleman from the row in front had been waiting for arrived with their snacks, and they settled in, and leaned back in their recliners. This caused some consternation among my three row mates, who, after some raised eyebrows and whispered discussion, looked my way and then all moved one seat closer to me. "They told me to sit next to you," the closest one said.

"No problem," I responded lamely. Within just a couple of minutes, I had gone from sharing the imminent film with my popcorn and root beer, to having 60% of the audience in a room that seats hundreds sitting within ten feet of me.

Then another threesome of mixed elderly people entered from the left, and took the three recliner seats in front of me. My next-door-neighbor leaned over and said confidentially, "Watch out. If they lean back, you're toast." I watched out.

Then, I guess an entire bus arrived. In streamed some 15-20 more senior citizens who scoped out the whole theater and decided to sit, you guessed it, in the two rows directly behind me. I started to sweat, feeling the slightest bit claustrophobic and wondering where I could flee to. Back to the Martians? My neighbor must have noticed, because she remarked, "You're really in the thick of it now."

"I didn't expect to be so popular," I said.

"Maybe we're after your popcorn."

I had no response, and, really, none was needed, because the population of my movie sub-division had reached some kind of critical mass and suddenly burst into a dozen or more overlapping conversations on topics I can't remember, until we got to the previews and I could hear various women's voices commented on the trailer ("That looks good" or "Isn't he handsome").

I began to wonder if everyone would keep talking during the movie. Oddly, I was the irritated adult and they were the teenagers having too good a time to be clued-in to their surroundings. I guess that's how it all ends.

But, no worries. When the movie started they all settled down and we all settled into the plot. My elderly compadres enjoyed the same one-liners that I might have laughed at were I not so self-conciously not a senior citizen. "You got more balls than a Chinese ping-pong tournament!" another character told McConaughy's lawyer at one point. That certainly brought some giggles. It's all context, you know. If you work a movie theater in a town full of retirees, of course you're going to ask if someone is a senior citizen or not. And, if you are visiting that town for Spring Break, no worries for you either. If you keep coming back over enough years, eventually you'll fit right in with those seniors.


troutking said...

Robert Klein has this great joke: "I gotta tell you, I have a bone to pick with South Florida. I sent two perfectly healthy 65 year old parents down there...twenty years later, DEAD!"

dahlineric said...

I had a very similar experience in Massachusetts watching the same movie. When revenge was taken out on the bad guy a row of rowdy greyheads erupted into spontaneous applause.

Billy said...

Is it possible, and I'm ignorantly spitballing here, that your movie neighbors come from a time when attending a movie in the theater was an act of community building rather than something one does when one wishes to - alone or with specified company - escape the bustling outside world for 90-120 minutes?

Meaning, they sit in the theater in a way that makes them feel like a part of something, while we young'uns sit in a theater like we want to be left the frick alone?