Why I didn’t see Avatar over the weekend
On Sunday my wife and I go to Avatar 3D. When we get into the theatre it turns out all the good stadium seats are taken (at least those in pairs) and the only ones left are way up in the front where you have to lean back to see. We never sit in the front because it gives us headaches. We’re half an hour early to the late morning show, but not early enough.
“You’re kidding me,” my wife says. I watch as some people in front of us take the last remaining seats way in the back.
“I knew we’d be too late,” I say. But I always think that, so nobody listens to me anymore.
There’s a couple sitting right in the middle of the theatre with a seat on either side of them. I walk over and ask if either seat is taken and they shake their heads.
“Would you guys mind scooting over one seat so my wife and I can sit together?” I ask in my best apologetic voice. This usually works in whatever situation.
Cold stares are flung back at me. Tangible anger. “No,” they both say, shaking their heads and glaring.
“Really?” I say. “Just one seat over?” I repeat the part about how this would allow me to sit next to my wife. Maybe they didn’t hear that. Or maybe I didn’t hear them correctly.
“No,” the guy says. He’s probably about thirty-five, give or take a few years, and has a “don’t fuck with me” look on his face. The woman is about the same age. She’s giving me her very best, most practiced glare. I stare back for a second, still working through my surprise. I’m not used to this sort of smug hostility.
“Seriously?” I say finally. “It’s just one seat over.”
“We showed up early so that we could sit where we want and we’re not going to scoot for you,” the guy says. He has his best pissed off, tough-guy expression going by now. It’s even angrier-looking than the “don’t fuck with me” look he had on a second ago. The woman glares even harder. I imagine he’s doing this to impress her. I get the unnerving feeling that this whole act turns her on somehow. The seat to the left or right of them is still dead-center after all. The movie would be just as good one seat over. I think about explaining this to them, but the exact phrasing eludes me. I imagine the use of reason or any sort of appeal to their better nature would be a wasted effort.
So I stare, baffled but also a little angry at this point. I haven’t encountered this before. People around here are generally pretty friendly. The holiday season – especially just after the Big Day and the shopping ceasefire – is usually when people are at their most relaxed. Ours is a community of hippies and lackadaisical west-coasters, mountain bikers, and college kids. Stoned townies and friendly transients. Still, we’re experiencing our own brand of social decay. A kid was shot and killed here on Christmas. It was drug related. This has been happening more frequently the past few years.
“Don’t you stare at me,” the guy says. Very tough sounding. That “don’t fuck with me” look has really seeped into his speech at this point. He’s warming up.
I continue to stare. No witty rebuttals leap to mind. A woman behind the couple offers me the seat next to her. I politely decline. We need two seats. People all around are murmuring and shaking their heads. The dude is pretty loud and belligerent this whole time. Putting on a show. Not what you expect when you go to the movies. Stupid teenagers throwing popcorn (and worse) at each other, sure, but not adults acting like petulant children. I figure at this point I’ve become part of the problem, and turn to leave.
“Un-fucking-real,” I say, instantly regretting it when I notice kids seated a few rows down. They’ve heard worse, of course, but then I realize again that this sort of thing only adds to everyone’s discomfort.
Behind me I hear the guy say, “You want me to kick your ass? You don’t talk to me like that!” And then, mimicking me, “Un-fucking-real…” at which point my wife bursts out laughing. I chuckle, too, as I glance back at the guy. Laughter is contagious. He’s half out of his seat by now, but only half. My wife’s laughter has shaken him I can tell. There’s a bit of a nervous look about him now. He doesn’t know that I’m a pacifist. Maybe he thinks my wife is laughing because I’m more dangerous than he thought. Maybe he’s suddenly wondering if he made a mistake.
He looks about 5′ 7″ give or take a a couple inches. Stout, but not very. It’s hard to tell because he’s mostly sitting down. The sort of guy who makes up for his diminutive stature by acting like a bully. Statistically, I’m sure he can get away with this sort of thing because most people don’t like to get in fights at movie theatres, or anywhere really. I’m 6′ 2″ and I’ve certainly seen better days, but still… I chuckle and shake my head and walk over to my wife. We ignore both of them. We look around the theatre for any seats we might have missed.
I figure they deserve each other, these two sad, angry people. I figure guys like this are always looking for a fight, no matter how stupid the reason. I figure my wife laughing at him is probably the best response. Nothing wounds a tough-guy’s ego like a woman’s derisive laughter. Hell hath no fury….
There are no other seats. We go get our money back from the manager and leave the theatre and drive to pick up our daughter. The movie will still be here next week. We’ll go see it on New Years. I hear it’s a good big screen flick in spite of its pantheistic leanings. I don’t report the guy. I don’t break his nose or do any of the other things that I imagine myself doing in some other alternate universe where I’m a badass who doesn’t take shit from self-satisfied little assholes in movie theatres. I don’t get arrested.
I think about how I can write about this later – how it ties in to this theme of an atomized culture. Social decline. The apathy of a nation with too many toys and too few relationships. Kids shot and killed on Christmas day. The end of neighborliness. Entitlement and resentment and sad, empty threats. The new and improved modern alters constructed to sate our spiritual atrophy. Box offices and talk shows. A society of strangers, quick to anger and quicker to forget.
But I’m not sure it’s any of that, actually. Maybe it’s just two sad angry people in a movie theatre itching for a fight, looking for meaning at the end of a fist. Trying to impress one another. Maybe it was just foreplay at our expense.
And even there, maybe I’m trying too hard. Maybe we just should have showed up to the movie earlier. We could have had those two magical seats ourselves, right there in the middle of the theatre where the sound is just right – where the picture is perfect and clear and all the colors glow and shine more radiantly than anywhere else. Where the actors look that much sexier and the 3D is just that much more three-dimensional – where it really leaps out at you. Where the world is good and comfortable and safe and full of hope.