Copyright is held by the author.
IT DIDN’T really devastate me when my employer informed me recently that my services would no longer be needed. I’d always suspected I ranked rather high on the redundancy scale, in or outside of the workplace. And, while my job didn’t bore me, I can’t say I had a passion for it. And, while my co-workers were mostly a fun group. all of whom I’ll miss somewhat, we didn’t exactly spend our free time hobnobbing around town together, or attending each other’s birthday or anniversary celebrations, or planning weekend group trips to Jackson Hole. So like I say, I wasn’t devastated. But I did feel resentment, not toward any person really, but toward the system — a system that allows people to be discarded so easily. So I decided to exact my revenge on “the man” by dropping out — for three days.
My last day at work was on a Friday. I spent most of the following Saturday and Sunday playing video games and binge watching The Office (the one with Steve Carell, not the one with Ricky Gervais who, if you ask me, was born to annoy.) But what I really want to talk about is what I did that Monday morning.
Early (well, relatively early), while all my former fellow workers were safely tucked away in their cubicles, and while I should have been checking want ads or updating my resume or calling job contacts, I drove, somewhat guiltily, about 10 miles to catch a 9:30 showing of Godzilla King of Monsters at a shopping centre multiplex.
It felt somewhat eerie driving there in such light traffic and in the opposite direction I’d normally be driving in on a Monday morning. Then, once I got to the theatre, things became even eerier. You know how sometimes in a movie a regular human will enter a populated space in which he or she believes everyone else is also human but the audience knows they’re not — they’re like automatons or vampires or something? The other characters do a pretty good job of mimicking humans, but looking at their faces and actions you can see something is not quite right. That’s how I felt upon encountering the theatre workers as I entered — the only people (I use the term loosely) I did encounter, as there were no other movie-goers in sight.
The girl in the front booth sold me my ticket with a smile and a vacant stare, like a Stepford cashier. The ticket-taker sullenly directed me to theatre 9, then glared at me as he ripped my ticket apart and handed a portion back to me. A worker vacuuming the carpet seemed way too focused on his job when I passed him — as if the vacuum might break free and go nuts like in a Jerry Lewis movie if he took his eyes off it. He clearly didn’t want to acknowledge my presence. The manager (I assume he was the manager since he wore a thin red cotton blazer with black lapels that made him look like a ringmaster, while everyone else wore vests), who stood outside the refreshment counter talking to the girl on the other side, gave me a decidedly flaccid smile (Ricky Gervais!) as I drew near — a smile that said, “Smiling’s part of my job, but we both know you don’t belong here.” As for the girl, she looked past me, not at me, and then looked down and pretended to adjust a Red Vines display. (I wouldn’t be stopping at the counter anyway; I had a box of Whoppers stashed in my pocket, all the sustenance I ever need during a movie.)
But that wasn’t the end of the creepiness I felt. As I walked toward theatre 9, I had the distinct sense that the eyes in the various promotional posters that lined the walls were following me. I even turned around quickly once trying to catch one of them. But either I was imagining things, or Idris Elba is really quick.
I entered the theatre to a pawn shop ad. This struck me as really odd, since I’d never seen a pawn shop ad preceding a movie before. But then, I’d never been to a 9:30 Monday morning movie before. Maybe the pawn shop people had their demographics down pat. There were about seven other people in the room, every one of them alone, each with generous amounts of space between them and the others. Maybe no one wanted to be recognized, who knows? At any rate, I fell in with the pattern.
Before the movie started, there were the usual trailers and ads, and a couple of announcements. One asked us to silence our phones. The other cautioned us to check the exit locations in case of emergency. The funny thing is, I already had.
I have not much to report about the movie. I’m not a big fan of the genre, and I was really only there to be there. Time and place mattered, not the movie. But something wonderful did happen once the movie started. A woman six rows in front of me and about ten seats to the left, was a big fan, at least of the creatures. Every time a new one appeared on the screen, she would giggle and screech, and stand up and clasp her hands in front of her and say their names excitedly — Mothra! Godzilla! Ghidora! — like she and the various monsters were old high school friends who’d bumped into each other unexpectedly after many years apart. She fascinated me, because I myself could never do such a thing, for fear of being thought obnoxious or a nut job, or, in this case, of calling attention to myself at a Monday morning movie. But she, if she ever even had such thoughts, would, I was convinced, never let them come between her and her precious monsters, which she clearly had genuine affection for. My only fear was that someone might try to stop her. But no one did. I never heard a single “shush” or “sit down” the whole time. I found myself so taken by her that I even forgot the Whoppers in my pocket, which by the time I did remember them had had their chocolaty outsides melted by my body heat.
When the movie ended, I waited through the credits because she did. I hoped to have a word with her. By then, I almost felt like I had known her in high school. But once the lights went up, she walked (glided?) down the aisle to the front of the theatre and exited through an emergency door. I’m not sure if an alarm was supposed to sound, but none did.
I turned and headed up the tunnel toward the light. When I reached it, an usher smiled warmly at me and thanked me for coming. Next to him, a grandmotherly woman waited to enter the theatre. She asked me how it was. “Better than I expected,” I said. “So much better.”