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Monday
Sep062010

Curious Gorge

Why I Won't Concede to Concessions (Anymore)

I’m trying the diet-and-exercise thing again.

Yesterday, Day One, was almost awesome.  I had several small meals consisting of fiber bars, lightly spread peanut butter on whole-grain toast, and several pint glasses of ice water.  I even did relatively well at the mall Quiznos, opting out of the “combo” when ordering a beef sandwich (on wheat, of course).

Dinner, though, was what the kids call an Epic Fail.  Earlier in the day, Darlena had prepped the mountain of healthy dinner fixin’s and snacks for the week; after we’d planned out all the meals, she chopped and bagged baby carrots and green peppers, baked low-calorie blueberry oat bars, and made some delicious seasoned pita chips—all healthy alternatives to, say, a “Big Grab” bag of Doritos.  Unfortunately, our meal plan was set to begin on Monday, leaving Sunday night open to a trip to the local sandwich place; I devoured a cheeseburger and—in a moment of true “Fuck it” weakness—French fries.

This morning, I woke up to find that I’d lost 0.6 pounds; not bad for a dodgy first day of eating and only an hour-long, stroller-pushing mall walk for exercise.  But at age thirty-three, at my height, weighing in at two-twelve is nothing to be proud of unless you’re a body builder or auditioning to be the Fat Best Friend in a Kate Hudson movie.

Speaking of which, the movies represent what will likely be my biggest hurdle in the quest to get fit (or at least healthy).  Every week, I go to the same theatre, and every week, the smell of fresh popcorn assaults my olfactory nerve the moment I open the door.

There have been numerous studies and news stories in recent years about the astounding number of calories found in movie theatre concessions; I’ve read most of them, and understand how terrible that salty, processed garbage is for my body—but I’m still waiting on the report that discusses how best to combat the sensory-control nano-bots that surely live within the very air wafting through Skokie’s AMC Crown Village lobby.

I’d happily pay a Will Power Surcharge on my matinee ticket if it meant I could make a bee-line from ticket stand to auditorium without stopping for a small popcorn, a box of watermelon Sour Patch Kids, and a small Coke Zero (I consider the last item to be a bit of pre-diet progress, an upgrade from the lime Icees and Pibb Extras of days past).  But until that day comes, I’m just going to have to remind myself of how much those “treats” cost, week after week.

During the last month-and-a-half (at least) of moviegoing, I’ve had that same combination of snacks.  Each time, it has cost exactly $13.  Keep in mind that if I were to buy these very items at the Walgreens across the parking lot, the grand total would be something like $6.  Multiply that seven bucks of wasted money by six weeks’ worth of before-noon ticket prices, and I could have easily seen two months’ worth of movies for free (or, you know, saved for my son’s college education or something equally lame)!

The obvious solution is to just smuggle my own snacks into the theatre, but that goes against a deep-seeded code of ethics instilled in me by Batman comics and the D.A.R.E. program.  Besides, I’m pretty sure the reason there are six sliding-door fridges packed with untouched, $3 bottles of Dasani water in the lobby is because people keep bringing their own.  My armchair analyst’s understanding of supply and demand suggests that if people keep sneaking in food and not buying the products that the theatres have already paid to have stocked, the prices of all of the goods will keep going up (there are probably a few logical or moral fallacies in that argument, but in the immortal words of Dave Lister, “I just went to art college”.).

Besides the ethical dilemma, I’m just plain afraid I’d get caught.  Sure, in the past I hid the occasional box of Dots in my winter coat.  But I felt really bad about it—until I sat down in my seat and mixed the candy with some overly buttered and salted popcorn to create the ultimate movie snack (which, for inquiring minds, tastes like Trix cereal, with the texture of a Halloween popcorn ball).

When Machete let out on Friday, I saw a kid exit the auditorium with a black backpack.  I don’t know if he was a student or a smuggler, but I immediately praised his bravado.  I wouldn’t have the audacity to just bring a big bag of food into the theatre.  I’m too afraid that the clip-on-bowtie mafia would escort me from the premises and club me to death with their orange midget-rave glow sticks.

But that’s the second strangest thing I saw at the movies that day.  The first was the pair of coupons the girl at the concession stand handed me with my receipt.  They were good for any size popcorn and soda during the rest of the Labor Day weekend—for $1 each!  Finally, an honest-to-goodness bargain at the movies, I thought.  Until I realized that I wasn’t coming back to the movies this weekend.

Shit.

Which brings me to my last “point”:  Free refills on large popcorn and soda; my AMC offers this, but I’ve never taken them up on it. I always wonder how many patrons actually go back for re-fills of large-size popcorn.  I mean, Jesus, unless you’re feeding a family out of this trough, there’s no reason an adult should leave a movie and say “Fill ‘er up” to the kid behind the counter.

Part of me thinks it’s just a ploy to get people to pay more for a service that promises a “bargain” they’ll never need to use.  On the other hand, if people are taking advantage of these kinds of offers, doesn’t that further de-value popcorn and syrup water?  Why not just cut the bullshit and sell us these things for a buck every day?

I’m glad this doesn’t happen, actually, because my diet would never survive such a policy.  It’s bad enough that my coping mechanism for sitting through awful films has often been to bury my face in popcorn.  Fact: the amount of popcorn I consume at the movies is directly related to my enjoyment of whatever film I’m watching.  After good movies let out, I’ve been known to throw as much as three-quarters of a bag of popcorn in the trash; after bad movies, I’m usually just getting rid of a handful of un-popped kernels swimming in sugar-butter.

Is it possible to pin my weight gain on this summer’s awful films?  Maybe, but come next weekend, I’ll have only the label on a Dasani bottle to keep me interested and satisfied—unless the movie’s any good.

Sunday
Jul182010

You're Not Gay, Okay?

There’s a phenomenon that happens in movie theatres.

Maybe you’ve seen it.

Maybe you’ve taken part.

Two guys walk into an auditorium and sit down, leaving one empty seat between them.  They don’t fill it with jackets, popcorn or candy; it’s not a placeholder for a girlfriend or a late friend.  The seat just sits there, unoccupied, for the duration of the show.

It could be psychic residue from the unwritten Guy Code that prevents men from standing next to each other at urinals (which begs the question, why don’t they just space the urinals further apart?).  In that instance, though, I can kind of understand: I mean, if you’re not a look-up-and-stare-at-the-wall-like-you’re-deliberately-trying-to-not-notice-the-penises-on-either-side-of-you kind of person, this must be a traumatizing couple of minutes.

But in a movie theatre, everyone—for the most part—has their pants pulled up, and the crowds are full of strangers.  So what’s with the over-extended personal space, guys?  Are you really so afraid of bumping elbows with your bro, or having some random, immature douchebag assume you’re part of a gay couple that you have to put up an invisible barrier/beacon of heterosexuality?

It used to make me laugh, but now I just find it sad.  I never see women sit apart from each other. I’ve only seen a married couple do it once (which is part of a whole ‘nother column).  It’s exclusively a dude behavior; and not just a scared frat guy thing: for years, I’ve seen all kinds of men and boys sitting in these bizarre plush punctuations, and wondered to myself, “Did I not get a memo?”

I have no idea why this bothers me, and I should probably let it go.  But there’s something so fundamentally closed-minded and wrong about the gap seat—particularly in a movie theatre, where the whole point is the shared experience—that I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.

I can only pity these proximity-phobes, and hope they keep their distance.

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