Tamera Schlueter Moviegoers wring fun out of rare matinee

It was the first time we’d been to a movie since we watched Sandra Bullock defy gravity last October. I won’t tell you where we went, or what we saw, but it was in another community during a Saturday matinee. The movie was a big-deal new release billed as “the best of the year.” Aren’t they all?

Hunka Burnin’ Hubby and I are bona fide cave dwellers in the winter, shirking social settings for sweatshirts and chili before a roaring fireplace in our living room. Come spring our friends look at us squinty-eyed, and compare Facebook pictures to be sure we are who we say we are.

But last weekend we were lured by the call of theater seats, a big glowing screen, and a couple hours of darkness for the price of two, four-dollar tickets. Maybe I missed a posted list of warnings that included “Beware! Matinees spawned the concept of zoos.” Perhaps somebody spiked the concession stand Coke machine, or I could be growing into one of those crotchety dames who chases kids off the lawn. Whatever the reason, I’ve rarely witnessed such a concentrated clot of abysmal human behavior.

You know things are going downhill when you wind up sharing space with a row of ramped-up pre-teens in a movie few tweenies in their right minds would consider remotely interesting. What they did find interesting was slapping each other in the back of the head, and mashing neighboring toes on their frequent trips to/from wherever head-slapping pre-teens go.

We focused with all our might on tuning them out, but the woman on our other side discovered a way to turn cellophane-wrapped candy into a terrorist interrogation technique. The sound was akin to taking the stiff plastic wrapper from a holiday fruit basket, and mashing it repeatedly into a fist-sized ball, followed by wet, tongue-licking slurps usually found in horror films.

If you want to get rich, invent soft theater candy with quiet wrappers.

There was a guy playing Candy Crush on his iPhone, next to a man who wouldn’t shut up; forecasting each scene with the stealth of a ballpark announcer describing a game-winning homerun.

“I knew it!” he’d shriek. “That’s what I thought would happen!”

We did what crotchety people do, and moved to another section, claiming two seats in front of the most fearsome beast ever to grace a theater seat . . . the Sick Chick. I could have toasted a marshmallow off her fever, and I swear she hacked up a lung. She pinched her nose, and repeatedly blew the hounds of Hades into her tissue with the force of a barge whistle.

“WONK WONK!” said her nose. “Make way for mucus! Hope you enjoy the flu!”

I considered making a trip to the concession stand to ask for a can of Lysol and a shot of penicillin.

We were lucky to make it out alive. People who scrape lungs from theater floors and mucus from the backs of seats don’t get paid enough.

After a while the whole scene became a bit amusing — the Teenie Weenies, Candy Girl, iPhone Guy, Sherlock Holmes, and Mucus Moira. The more we thought about it the funnier it became, until we lost track of the movie, and focused solely on the cacophony that enveloped us.

“This is proof that aliens exist,” Hunka whispered, and I erupted into a fit of laughter until Mucus Moira shushed me with sniffling flair. The irony made me laugh even more.

I honestly hope Moira feels better. I hope iPhone Guy won his game, the teens settled down, Sherlock stuck the ending, and Candy Girl enjoyed her snack. But more than ever before, I completely get the appeal of home theater systems.

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