Sunday, December 29, 2013

Movie house ettiquette

Kim and I had just settled into our seats, she with the ginormous bucket of buttered popcorn and me with the gigantic cup of Diet Coke, both of which we would share with each other.

It served as our $12 lunch for our noontime matinee of "Saving Mr. Banks," the Disney picture about Walt Disney's beleaguered effort to coax author P.L. Travers to sign over the movie rights to her Mary Poppins character.

I was looking forward to the flick because I am a child of the '50s. Which makes me a child of the television era. Which makes me a child of (well, in a manner of speaking...) Disney. A Mouseketeer, if you must.

The theater was quickly filling up and it was evident that while the flick was heading into its third week of first run, it was still going to draw a crowd. Seats would be at a premium.

Kim and I had gotten aisle seats because I am a man in my 60s and occasionally need a quick exit for the men's room, especially after slurping on gigantic Cokes. Kim, actually, was in the aisle seat, while I was in the seat next to her. Three vacant seats followed down the row we were in.

My only fear was that those three tempting empties would be filled with a couple of preteen screaming meemies who had no interest in the movie. That does happen sometimes.

So imagine my relief when three elderly women (I say "elderly" even though I think they were probably close to my own age. "Elderly" is a distinction I haven't quite conceded for myself just yet) excused themselves and entered our aisle while coming attractions were on the screen.

My relief, however, was ephemeral.

The third woman in line — the one who would sit next to me on my right for the next two hours — tried to make herself friendly by pointing into our bucket of popcorn so suddenly that I thought she was actually going to grab a handful of the stuff. "Ohh, that looks good," she said. "Is it?"

I immediately went into De Niro mode. "You talkin' to me?" I said to myself. "You talkin' to me?" In retrospect, I wish I had said it to her. Instead, I replied, "Yes, it is," and hoped that was that. End of conversation. Forever.

I looked at Kim with eyes that said "Uh oh." Kim looked petrified. At least she was in the aisle seat.

Moments later, when the opening scene flickered on the screen, this woman reached into her hand bag and pulled out her ... knitting. I kid you not. Knitting needles began stitching socks or a scarf or a hat or something right before my very eyes.

While she was knitting away, whenever part of the score from Mary Poppins came on the screen, she would start humming the tune or, if she remembered the lyrics, she would sing along. Not loudly. Not so that Kim could hear her. Just me. "Chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim chim cheroo..."

"She's singing along," I whispered to Kim, who looked like she needed some Pepto.

Or, whenever something dramatic happened on the screen (the movie is mostly dialogue driven, but there are moments in Travers' life with an alcoholic father, seen in flashbacks, that promise drama), this woman would utter "Oh, my" or "Oh, dear" or "Oh, no," under her breath. I got some kind of audible editorial comment from her pretty much for the duration.

I figured I was being punished for not offering her my popcorn. Meanwhile, her knitting needles just kept purling away. At one point I was wondering if I should take the needles and stuff them down her throat while knitting a cozy around her larynx, or, perhaps more kindly, jam them into my ears. For relief.

Instead, I tried to stay focused. In the end, I think I enjoyed the movie. I might have to see it again, though. On TV.

I understand we live in a world that takes all kinds. Somebody out there no doubt considers me weird and off my balance. And in a crowded movie theater, it's all up for grabs anyway. You never know what you're gonna get.

But, sheesh, knitting at the movies while humming along with the soundtrack? Jiminy Cricket, I can't make this stuff up. I doubt if Disney could.

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