On a Friday night awhile back our town’s middle school did a showing of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium which was a benefit event for the 5th grade class. I’m all for supporting the local schools, especially one that both my kids will eventually infest, but I’m thinking that we should have just dropped off a Hamilton and taken the kids to a real movie theater. One with proper velvet ropes and correct change. Or just any place with a feel that was 20 percent more pinkies in the air and ninety percent less cage full of monkeys throwing poop.
When we arrived, there was already a line out the door of the school lobby. By the time we’d made it inside I could see why. The whole of the lobby was an aimless drove of befuddlement. A cheap kiddie pool full of Barbies strapped to a vibrating bed would have shown more organized movement, and looked far more dignified. It was madness. Chaos. Somewhere in the back, I think I saw a velociraptor head pop up, look around, and then disappear.
Do you know what the one thing is that keeps our society from falling face first back into the primordial ooze? The tensabarrier. We construct labyrinths of pipe and rope in front of bank tellers and peddlers of fast food because without them we are lost. I’ve heard it said that the one thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to use cutlery. Wrong wrong wrong. It’s our ability to use crowd control. A herd of stampeding wildebeest with shrimp forks are still nothing more than slightly more dangerous to shrimp. But when those wildebeest queue up and wait their turn to stampede… that’s civilized.
The middle school lobby was not civilized. There was nothing (nothing!) to inform the uninitiated what was located where and where you should line up to wait your turn to get there. No easily identifiable signs, no ropes, no riot squads with fire hoses. In fact, right up until the point that I was finally able to buy our tickets I’d been under the impression that the entrance to the auditorium was on the opposite side of the lobby. But no, those were the bathrooms. The auditorium entrance was right behind the ticket booth… the ticket booth that was not actually selling tickets. No, for real. They just assumed that you would pay them money and then go into the auditorium and stay, even though they had a concession stand and Chinese raffle table set up in the lobby and had a barker in the auditorium encouraging people to patronize them. So, I paid for 4 people and then had to yell across the crowded lobby to Sara and the kids, who thought I’d got the tickets and needed to bring them over so we can go into the auditorium except that they need to come to me since I’m standing in from of the auditorium and they’re in front of the bathrooms and I’m afraid to move away from the auditorium because I have no goddam way to prove that I’d just paid for myself and 3 others.
Sara, yelling: “Did you get the tickets?”
Me, also yelling: “No. They don’t have tickets.”
Sara: “They ran out?” And I catch a brief glimpse of the kids overhearing this and the bottom lips beginning to quiver at the thought being denied their movie.
Me: “No! No. They aren’t… They’re not doing tickets. We just go in.”
Sara: “Alright. Let’s go!”
Me: “No, it’s over here! Come over here!”
Sara: “What? To the bathrooms?”
Very soon after, I went in to find seats with Re, and Sara took Sabe to the actual bathroom that she never realized that I didn’t know she was standing in front of the whole time I was in line at the not-a-ticket-booth that didn’t plan far enough ahead to assume that most everyone would be paying with twenties and so didn’t stock up on singles for change. Then when she tried to get in she had to argue with someone at the doors who, in effect, wanted to see her ticket. For real.
The auditorium never got completely quiet. Not even close. It was loud when we came in and found seats. It was loud when the lights went out and the previews came on. When the movie came on it finally got quiet and by that I mean the movie itself must have gotten quiet because I sure couldn’t hear it over the rest of the noise that hadn’t diminished at all. God forbid that the part of the crowd that were the parents should turn to the part of the crowd that were their kids and ask them nicely to shut the hell up. And while God is forbidding things, he might want to add the constant opening and closing of the doors that lead out of the auditorium and into the lobby and parking lot and the tweens that were sitting in front of our kids were too busy texting and talking on their phones to sit still and watch the movie. Amen.
But wait, there’s more! The auditorium had no real integrated sound system, despite the origins of the word auditorium, which comes from the Latin and means literally “lecture room that should really have some kind of integrated sound system”. How ever were we expected to hear the movie, especially over all these kids who are still talking? No problem. We’re just gonna take this microphone attached to that portable amplifier over there and insert it obscenely close to the speaker of the device that’s projecting the movie. For those of you not doing the math for yourself: one plus two equals unpredictable, bowel liquefying feedback.
By intermission, I’d done my best to staunch the blood coming out of my ears Sara and I both explained to the kids that we were leaving, and why. They took it surprisingly well. They also couldn’t deny the power of a bribe the size of a half gallon of ice cream apiece if they left in a calm and civilized manner, plus the promise to order the movie on Netflix sometime in the future.
Lucky for us, the future is a long way away.