Some of my colleagues are off at the Loews in Georgetown, catching a first-day showing of the latest Harry Potter film. I'll go check it out after the 20th, when I get paid next. The cupboards be pretty bare until then, kids.
I tried - unsuccessfully - today to share with my coworkers the story of the last time I went to see a Harry Potter movie at this particular upscale multiplex. For some odd reason, none of them wanted to hear my horror story! It is a fairly grotesque tale, and I think these ladies will be glad to read this epic here tomorrow, the day after their Georgetown jaunt.
Generally, I'm not really wild about the urban movie experience. But sometimes, when you're downtown and you get an undeniable hankering to see a flick, what can you do?
I had nearly forgotten about my urban Harry Potter nightmare until today - must be selective memory trying to save me the shuddering recollection. I think it must have been two films back, shortly after Loews opened their K Street location. I had an afternoon off work, and I decided it would be nice to catch a twilight show, right before the prices went up. The theater was nearly empty, and I swear it still had the movie theater equivalent of "new car smell."
I was actually reluctant to give Loews any money after my last experience at the Uptown, wherein a rat decided to enjoy my popcorn while another hovered at my feet. That was five minutes into a weekday matinee of "Return of the King" and found me screaming "RAT! RAAAAT!" as I bolted for the lobby. The concession employees didn't care, and the woman who was, I assume, a manager took her own sweet time coming down to talk to me. She, too, was unimpressed with my rat-tastic tale.
It took a great deal of effort to get a refund on my ticket and my rat-nibbled popcorn. A phone call to Loews' corporate office in New York got me an unsatisfactory non-apology from some schmuck who told me that rats were just a part of urban life and that the best restaurants in DC probably had rats in their kitchens. Nice.
1)I called the DC Health Department, they quickly inspected and - get this - actually called me back to affirm signs of rodents on the premises and told me the Uptown had two weeks to fix the situation. Wow! (FYI, my complaint is on record - name, date, the whole nine yards.)
2)The NYC schmucktard promised me two tickets to any Loews in the country for my trouble. Gee, whiz! Two tickets in exchange for a rat in my popcorn! Isn't that awesome!
3)Weeks and weeks later, the tickets still hadn't shown up. It took a couple of angry calls and e-mails to finally get those damn tickets. I wonder, if I had been a member of Congress or the press - or had a real blog back then - would the response have been different?
I've never been back to the Uptown. Sure, I miss that big ol' screen, but I really can't take a chance at having my ankles nibbled just because I like the size of the image. In the end, I figured the Georgetown location was new and clean and likely had no vermin.
Holy crap, was I ever wrong! The only thing is, the vermin in this theater walked on two legs.
Now, none of what I'm going to describe for you could even be remotely blamed on management at the theater. Part of it definitely can be blamed on one worker, and the other part? Dear god, it's just a matter of people with no class whatsoever.
Let's set the stage: I limp on in to the theater and find a nice seat in Row Six or Seven. (I once briefly dated a weird guy who would only sit in Rows Five through Seven because he was certain it was the only place with decent sound. I guess this stuck with me. Go figure.) A handful of other kid-movie-lovin' adults were scattered in the second tier behind me. Ahhh, heaven! A peaceful theater!
Then, shortly before the previews started, the front exit door to the left of the screen opened, and a theater employee looked around carefully. He opened the door wider and ushered in two homeless men. The stench they gave off wafted back and silently I begged, "Pleaseohpleaseohplease, do not let them sit near me!"
Was I mean to think that? Perhaps. But no one wants to endure two hours of odorama, unless it's a John Waters film, and you've specifically paid for that.
Of course, they sat down immediately in front of me. One of them had a two-liter Country Time lemonade bottle completely filled with what smelled like cheap malt liquor. Lovely.
Ah - I remember which movie it was now! "The Prisoner of Azkaban!" Why do I suddenly remember this? Because, when a character yelled, "Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban Prison!" one of the homeless guy yelled back, "Sirius Black? Sirius BLACK? Why ain't it 'Sirius White', muthafucka?!?" (That actually was the sole funny highlight of the whole event.)
A few minutes into the film, two women entered the theater. They were large ladies - just about my size - one wore a mini skirt and a glittery t-shirt about 8 sizes too small and the other, dressed in an oversized pair of "Come On Eileen" overalls, was having an animated, LOUD obscenity-laced conversation on her cell phone. Audience attempts to quiet her only got hissed obscenity in return from the cellular latecomer.
I tried to ignore it. Really. And for me, to ignore someone on a cell phone in a theater is quite a feat of control.
But then, something happened.
The other woman started to moan. And moan. Aaaand moan. And breathlessly say things like, "Oh yeah, baby. Fuck yeah! Unh-huh, you know that's how I like it!" While Harry and his schoolfriends battled the forces of darkness on screen, someone else was fighting with a primal force within. I turned around and saw something I hope to never see again: the overall'ed woman demonstrating her multitasking abilities. She still yammered away on the cell phone, clutched in her right hand, but her left hand was snaked into the wide open crotch of the other woman, who was now writhing in ecstasy in her seat, her panties on the floor, hanging around one tensed ankle.
Whoaaaakay, kids! Enough!
That was it. I was up and out of my seat and headed for the lobby. I looked for a manager (that is, anyone in a jacket) and told the first guy I saw about both the employee who had brought in the stinky drinky duo and the lesbian hand puppet show in the first row of the second tier.
He didn't believe me. "That would never happen in this theater, madame!" He would not come with me. Fuming, I returned to the theater, where the cell phone magician was still performing her talking while engaging in press-the-digit-in-the-indentation act. (Yeah, that was a long way to go for a "prestidigitation" joke. So, sue me.) I went right back out and made the irritated manager come in with me. Within seconds, the live sex show was canceled, much to the anger of the participants. But the smelly guys remained.
When I got back to my seat, my popcorn was gone. My seatmates were chowing down on it. One turned back to me, shaking my near-empty popcorn bag and said, "Oh hey, baby - you want this back?"
And I moved to a different row.
When the movie ended and the lights came up, the dynamic duo had finished off not only my popcorn, but their whole two-liter bottle of booze. They strolled up to the seats abruptly vacated by the lesbian couple and - god help me - sniffed the chairs. One guy started yelling, "HEY! Do y'all smell lesbians? Cuz I smell lesbians! Whoooo! Everyone should love lesbians, y'all!"
Well, hey, for the record, I'm all for loving lesbians, for sure. I'm a very pro-GLBT straight girl, after all. I'm just not for lesbians loving lesbians - or anyone, uh, loving anyone, for that matter - in movie theaters. At least, for Pete's sake, not in the first row next to the big aisle, and not with the loud moaning. Jeeeez.
Yes, my friends, there is nothing like the innocence of a children's movie matinee.
When I left the theater, the angry lesbians were sitting in the park across the street. They saw me and were pissed off. Really pissed off. I made it to the parking garage really fast and just sat in my car for a while, pondering how surreal the whole afternoon had been.
Turning onto Wisconsin and heading home, I almost hit Al Sharpton, resplendent in flowing grey silk, jaywalking in front of me.
"Now," I thought to myself, "this is officially the most fucked-up, surreal day ever."
I went home and related this story to a friend out in L.A. She reworked the Loews jingle they used to play before the movies started: "Thank you for coming to Loews/Sit back and relax/Enjoy the sex show!"
And so it shall forever be in my mind.
So, take this as a cautionary tale, my friends. If you put your bag of popcorn in the seat next to you in your local DC cinema, just remember: you have no idea what or who was there before you set down that salty bag of carbs. Maybe a rat... maybe a horny chick with a cell phone...
I really don't think there's any five-second rule that applies in this case. Just sayin'...
Quick - where's my Purell?!?