01 March 2010
An ill-tempered customer demands to be let into the sold-out show at "The Theater."
About two months ago I started a job at a certain well-established movie theater in Manhattan that hosts some films festivals and screens art-house, repertory, foreign, and esoteric films throughout the year. Let's just call it "The Theater." Well, since I started at "The Theater" -- ushering, selling snacks, working the box office, what-have-you -- I've been re-learning the pleasantness that is dealing with the public and serving their various insatiable needs.
Now I'm no stranger to the public, not in the least. In order to earn some measly pocket money throughout college I took on several part-time retail jobs. I slaved at a bookstore (Barnes & Noble), a cafe (Barnes & Noble cafe), a restaurant (Red Robin), a clothing store (J Crew), a mall kiosk (selling some kitschy shit), and one summer I even worked at a women's sandal store, making custom-fit sandals for women! actually bending down on one knee and touching women's crusty feet! in an orange apron! in the middle of the hallway at the mall! It's safe to say that these jobs did nothing for my human dignity (and not much for my wallet either), but they did thicken my skin against the inconsiderateness and the many idiocies customers are capable of.
Even so, I was a little taken aback by the certain type of mania that specifically exists in film goers. I'm not talking about Average-Joe-weekend-blockbuster film goers, but cinephiles -- people for whom movies mean everything, for whom film-going is a lifestyle in itself. They are people that will wait in line an hour before the start of the show for a weekday afternoon matinee that maybe 30 people total will come to so they can get their specific seat; people who will insist on having the side of the ticket stub that is blank on the back so they can scribble notes (the usher is supposed to keep this side in "The Theater"); people who will yell at you without a second's hesitation for eating candy too loudly -- cinemaniacs. I was aware of these types from a documentary called Cinemania (featuring some regular patrons of "The Theater"), but seeing them in person is something else. It's fascinating. Some are nice enough, just a little kooky. Some I wish would fall down a deep, deep well.
Anyway, it's not only cinemaniacs that come to the theater, but all levels of cinephiles and, every now and then, an average multiplex movie-goer who would give a clueless shrug at the mention of a name like "Fassbinder." But when they are all together waiting in line at a ticket window for a sold-out screening of some dead foreign director's rare film they can be terrifying! A week ago I swore that a lynch mob was going to form -- they were so angry! Never mind that they showed up at the last minute and didn't buy tickets ahead of time, they want what they want and they want it now! And how dare you make them wait! How dare you that the tickets do not materialize in their hands within a nanosecond of shouting the request through the box office window! Of course when the system freezes it's our fault and we do it on purpose because we intend to make them angry (we are basically asking for it!). Anyway, it's tiring to even recount the specific happenings, but let's just say I have seen hell and it is in the form of a mob of angry cinephiles.
During the worst times it's hard to think that these people even like movies; it seems they just like demanding things and belonging a place they can complain about. As if the movies are secondary to the privilege of acting like a baby and getting away with it. BUT. I know that's not completely true. I know that a lot of these people are tired and maybe have boring or underwhelming lives and the movies are their only escape, or that they are incredibly lonely and when the film is playing they feel part of something or at least a little wanted, or that they have a chemical imbalance in the brain and need medication that they forgot to take -- there is still a love for the movies somewhere deep in the hearts of these cinephiles, a love that is masked by grouchiness and anal retentive behavior in public. At least that's what I'll keep telling myself for now.