Tuesday, November 14, 2006

An Idle Matinee

"Cheap! That’s what this is about."

I noticed the 100th person in the winding line most probably didn’t hear the comment as he was still engaged in the belt-through-the-belt-buckle-passage quandary. Must have been a long night and an early rising that had him here at the Omniplex for a matinee showing of the movie I was going to, in short time, be regretting soiling my eyes with.

"No.", he calmly replied. "It's thrifty."

"I know thrifty and , trust me, this is not thrifty. It’s cheap, plain and true.", she said turning on him the full fire of her beliefs. If he had a pocket mirror, he would have seen "Cheap" had been branded onto his forehead. (Well, actually it would be "paehC" that he'd be seeing).

The ever-loving wife and I usually get to bantering if we’re queuing (If you want to be clever and combine the 2 words, be my guest. You can even O.E.D. it, although I think they’re past the "B"'s and "Q"'s at this point.). We are not, I think, the Loud People. Usually. Other couples, perhaps still early in their marital bliss, still evidence excessively high levels of enthusiasm for the marital exchanges. So, for the two of us, veterans of public private discourse, this exchange was a trip down memory's lane.
Volume constituted importance and passion.
My ears pricked up and bent slightly in their direction.

The line was much longer than I'd anticipated. Most matinees I attend are sparse of movie watchers. Sometimes, there are more attendants than attendees. That is how I prefer it; the less people, the better. For some movies, only a big screen will do; a dvd at home just doesn’t cut it. A forced march to the local multi-screen is in order.

I favor not attending movie theaters, at all. The level of noise booming on both side walls of the theater you're in takes away enjoyment from the movie you're watching. Then, there's the general low level of social behavior that one has to endure at a movie theater. Talking, predicting, scene-comparing, louder-than-necessary chewing/munching/container-opening, yelling-across-aisles-at-friends-who-are-yelling-back-in-equally-strong-voice, criminally prosecutable bathing habits, etc. You’ve all gone through it and, most probably, it's not a unique experience. It's something that happens each time you’ve gone to a movie theater. Why pay full price for this behavior? It’s not as if the movie shown at 12:00 has lesser actors than that same movie shown at 8:30. And it's more packed at night than during the day.

"This is not only thrifty, it is less wearing on the soul", he offered as an indication of his sound reasoning.

Picking up the handkerchief, she thrusted, "No, I know thrifty. Thrifty is a virtue, like Grace or Empathy . Cheap is a vice."

The rabble was getting louder as we approached the glass-protective ticket booth. We were still within earshot. I debated whether to buy the tickets or hang around for the knockout.
"Sorry, was that vice or vise?", he inquired, sharpening his blade.

"Hmmm. Actually, it’s both. Cheap’s a bad habit that turns into a socially demeaning activity that eventually turns into a vice that probably has some 3 digit criminal code attached to it. Cheap’s also a vise, squeezing the limited social interactions out of your lonely misanthropic life. Don’t you see? Being cheap is a drain on your soul and since I’m here in line with you, a drain on mine as well."

Oh, she was good! Would the movie offer this type of repartee?

"Misanthropic?" he protested lightly, buckling to one knee. "Isn’t that too scathing for 11:00 in the morning? I’d prefer cynical, if you wouldn’t mind."

Silence. Some minor parrying. Some preening. Some licking of wounds.

"Look, we've been in this line for 15 minutes. Cheap or not, can we ride it to the end? If the movie is good, then we got a bargain. If it's bad, we'll feel good that we didn't pay full price for (dreck).", he offered, his neck bared.

She looked up slightly, seeing her words had done more than intended, and nodded.
"O.K., but you've really got to work out this "cheap" thing. It reflects poorly on you, you know. Sort of cheapens your character." Twist !

He sagged a little more. I sighed, in empathy, perhaps a little bit too loudly. His eyes caught mine and we exchanged knowing glances over the generational gap.

It was a most beautiful day out there that day. A day that demanded one's full attention out of the house and not enclosed in a movie theater. A matinee, while saving a modicum of money, was costing them (and us) a stroll in the park in 70 degree weather in November or simply a seat in a backyard, wineglass in hand, face tilted up and following the sun’s path like a sunflower.

The guy had nothing. Nothing except hopes that the movie, with its potential laughs and moments of delight, will lighten the day they've chosen to be in darkened quarters.

As we were to find out shortly, the movie flunked a happy and sunny day. A bite out of our souls. I didn't see that couple once we entered the noisy echoing cave of stall # 3 in the multiplex. I'm not sure if they enjoyed the movie or not. For their sakes, I pray there were some laughs. Their performance was much more interesting. On our way home, we talked about them rather than the movie. Veterans, we were careful about picking sides but, instead, reworked some of their dialogue into an appreciative critique of a couple still struggling for the unspoken understanding.

And matinees? I’ll probably be going solo, with much lower expectations. A cheap thrill if ever there was one.


A precious story.
Sounds like you got your money's worth.
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