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It Has Nothing to Do with Russell Crowe Singing

I can’t seem to see “Les Miserables.”

My dear friend Linda, who lives on the opposite coast, came up with the creative idea of  seeing the same movie and then chatting about it by phone. We often lament never seeing each other, and while virtual dates aren’t as good as actually enjoying her company, it’s been fun.  We’ve done it a few times in the last year, seeing “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Les Intouchables,” and “Argo,” and then hearing what each other had to say about the movie. We agreed on “Les Miserables” as our next bi-coastal outing.

I made plans to see it three or four times, but something interfered. This morning I actually made it to the theater for an 11:25 showing. I don’t have any work due until tomorrow at 7, so I took advantage of being self-employed.

“Theater 11,” the young woman at Guest Services told me–the box office isn’t open at that early hour. I made my way into the theater marked “11” even though it said “Hansel and Gretel” above the door. There was no one in the theater.

I went back out to Guest Services and reported that there was nothing on the screen, and that it said “Hansel and Gretel” above the door.  “You’re in theater 11, right?” she asked.   Yes.  “You’re in the right place,” she assured me.  “Sometimes they don’t change the Mylars.”  As for the blank screen, she told me that the theater recently converted to digital, and “we aren’t showing trailers right now.”

I have no idea what Mylars are, but took her word for it and went back in.  I sat alone in front of the blank screen while a disembodied voice announced that the music was by Celine Dion, then Bonnie Raitt, and then other artists I’d never heard of.  I kept waiting, even though the screen stayed vacant and Celine warbled on.  “Maybe they’re waiting until more people come to start the movie,” I rationalized.  I waited.  And waited.

I got lost in reverie for a while, thinking about the fact that I’ve never read “Les Miserables” nor have I seen the play. Victor Hugo’s house in Le Marais in Paris was one of my favorite haunts in the time I spent there in the 80s, but that’s as close as I’ve gotten to his literature.

I snapped to and looked at my watch.  It was 12:15!  I had been sitting there for nearly an hour.  Back to Guest Services.  “When is the movie going to start?”  The young woman looked startled.  She said urgently into the microphone around her neck, “Projection. Come in, come in.”

I watched her listening to whatever “Projection” was telling her which, apparently, was that that the movie was showing just fine. I am evidently the only one who can’t see it.

By then she was looking at me as if I’m a bit daft. Her co-worker, a young man, declared that he’d investigate and walked with me back toward the multiple theaters.  I stopped in front of the door marked “11.”

“This is theater 1,” he told me. “But there are two 1’s above the door,” I said in a mystified tone. That’s so people coming from either direction can see the number, he explained patiently, and offered to escort me down the corridor to the real theater 11.  “It’s a good movie,” he said.  “You need to see it. Do you want to see the next show?”

But now that I’ve wasted nearly an hour daydreaming in an empty (wrong) theater, I don’t have time to wait for the next showing.  “I can’t believe I did that,” I said in wonder, half to myself.  He looked at me pityingly, probably thinking, “This poor senile old bat.”

I’ve done this kind of thing many times in my life, waited and waited when I knew something was clearly amiss, but not speaking up or taking action, believing that somehow the situation would miraculously right itself. I’m thankful that today’s only consequence was missing a movie. In other reenactments of this pattern, waiting and hoping that a problem would vanish has exacted a very heavy toll.

The young woman at Guest Services gave me a pass to come back another day, but I think I’ll read the book.

About treacycolbert

I make my living by writing about health care. I've always written about life's chastening effect, but just as a way of sorting it out for myself. After years of doing this and keeping these essays quiet, I decided to put some of these impressions out there on this blog. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think.

9 responses »

  1. You are not alone. I do the waiting thing too, including not once, but FOUR TIMES, with the same therapist, who stood me up, not once, but FOUR TIMES. I waited and waited because I thought this must be some test of my discomfort tolerance… Oy, what a sap I can be! Each time, after almost an hour of sitting in her waiting room, I’d become aware that I’d been stood up. I’d call, she’d apologize, claim forgetfulness, and reschedule. And I kept going back, for more” abandonment therapy,” ha! Finally I wised up, and told her I wasn’t coming anymore, and she said we need a termination session. Because therapy shouldn’t end abruptly, I think she said. I told her it was already too late for that.

    • I hope you are going to write a story about this, Julietta. . . .waiting in the office for abandonment therapy. Only you can give this the treatment it deserves. And then send the story to the therapist ;-).

  2. Oh, sooo funny! I laughed out loud thinking about you wondering what was going on, but then had to laugh again at the absolute strange explanation for two #1’s so that that theater-goers would see it from both sides and not get confused. But of course we have all done similar things which is really what makes it funny. I started laughing out loud the third time when I read Julietta’s story above. Too funny! It’s nice that we are all so incredibly human.
    Let me know when you see it!

  3. Ha… Well, maybe the book will eventually take less time to accomplish. I read it one summer as my personal project, maybe between freshman and sophomore years (the previous summer being given over to discovering why WWI started…Can you say rural egghead?) I read a lot of it sitting in a big tree. About as far from Paris as possible, but it certainly sparked my imagination. Hope you enjoy the film when you do get to see it!

  4. OK, Now I really feel inferior! 😉


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