Friday, June 19, 2009

One Fine Day at the Theater (part 1: Rock and Roll Grandma)

I thought it would be fun to post some of my more interesting experiences from my old work before they fade from my mind. So here goes...

From May of '08 to May of this year I had worked at a small theater in Pleasant Hill, California. If you drive down I-80 through Pleasant Hill towards the Carquinez Bridge, you might see a dome-shaped structure to your right nestled between a gym and a bar. That is it. It is a theater that only plays independent, foreign, or artistic films, but once in a while some mainstream films can sneak in (I worked there for the midnight showing of the Dark Knight, which was amazing). Last year a friend of mine worked there and I told him that I was looking for a job. He said that the Dome was hiring and he would put in a good word for me. So I filled out an application, was interviewed, and, batta-boom batta-bing, I was hired. It was a long, strange trip where I met many interesting people and seen many interesting things. I don't regret working there because it was good experience for a first job, but it still left a funny taste in my mouth. Like anchovies and peanut butter.

After some time of working there, they trusted me around money (which I do not wish to work around again for a long time) and put me at the snack bar registers and box office more often than sweeping popcorn or tearing tickets. A few months back I was in the box office, sitting and waiting for something to happen. You see, the way this particular theater worked was that there would be a time frame when movies got in, followed by 2-3 hours of little to no activity. If you worked in the box office, your job was to sell tickets, answer the phone, and sit there and look pretty. It was an easy job, but there was not much else to do in those hours when no movies were playing (those 9 hour shifts were real killers). The box office was located outside, separated from the rest of the theater. Sure, there was a door that led to the office, but there wasn't always anybody in there, manager or otherwise (which resulted in many frustrating moments). As you can imagine, it also got horribly lonely as well as boring in there. However, there was a time when a most interesting fellow approached the box office during a slow part of the day.

He had a wild, scraggly gray beard, his clothes were plain but looked as if he hadn't taken them off in days, he wore a baseball cap with the United States Air Force logo emblazoned on the front, and he had this nasty looking growth on the right side of his face. He approached the box office, laid a dollar bill on the counter, and started to tell me a story. At first I was receptive because I thought he was trying to tell me a joke, but when no punch line came I started to worry. This "story" was about a homeless Mexican trying to pass off a dollar bill as a one-hundred dollar bill to some guy...but then he lost me as he started to ramble on and on and on about nothing. Listening to this crazy guy was amusing for a while. At some points he said some funny things such as: "yeah, rock and roll grandma!" or "that's how we rock and roll, man." At one point he even took out a lighter and flared it up and laughed for whatever reason. All the while I just nodded to everything he said like some stupid bobble head and said, "mm-hm." At one point he stopped to look at me as if he had asked a question that he wanted an answer to. I merely nodded and said, "mm-hm." The guy laughed so hard that some spittle flew out of his mouth and onto the protective glass between us and said, "this kid's sharp!"
But after listening to him for five minutes, I started to think: What should I do if he stays here for too long? What if he gets violent? What if customers want to buy tickets? What will this guy do? Should I call the police? So he kept on talking. And talking. And talking. I started to look around to see if anyone was watching. But, of course, I did not see any of my co-workers or managers around, so I was stuck with this guy without any backup. His ramblings became more disturbing as he started to say things like, "I hope you guys throw everything you got at me, because I got this chemical inside me that'll keep me alive, man." He then asked if he could get a free ticket to see a movie. I said, "sorry, I can't." Then he asked for money. I gave the same answer to his first question. Then he asked if he could just step inside for a minute, assuring me that the place would soon be packed with customers as if his presence would attract good business. I was worried that he would get agitated, but instead of waiting for an answer to that last question he just talked for another five minutes before finally walking away.

When it was all over, I felt glad that he was gone but also kind of bummed to have met such a person. Maybe he was on drugs or maybe he had a mental disorder. Either way, it was a weird experience, but it did help pass the time.
I guess a little madness in your day is better than nothing at all.

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