- Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), The Matrix Reloaded
What are my hours?
Me: What time do I work until?
Theater Manager: Until close.
Me: When is that?
Me: Because my dad has to pick me up. I don’t have a license.
TM: You can call him when we’re done.
Me: I can’t go back to the car and tell him that. People have lives.
Me: What are my hours tomorrow? The calendar just says “11.”
TM: 11am to close.
Me: What? Like 11 hours? I’m 16. We’re not supposed to work that many hours.
TM: What do you want me to say?
Me: It says “11” on the calendar by my name for Sunday, too.
TM: Till close!
Me: (Extends hand for handshake) Hi, I’m Adam. What’s your name?
Jack: Hey new guy…if life hands you lemons…
Me (confused): Make lemonade?
Jack: Give ‘em butter flavored toppings!
(Jack and Jill laugh like douches and then ignore me for 30 minutes)
Me (in my head): I’m trying to just do an honest job.
Later in the night
Me: Hey Jill, did you see Godzilla? (Note: It was not playing at our theater but was at the nicer, newer theater five minutes away)
Jill: What? You have a customer.
Me (in my head): These people are dispassionate about film.
The Concession Stand
• The public soured me quickly. I was pouring some old guy his pop and I must have spaced out because he said to me “Earth to kid!” This is demeaning. He broke a social contract and made it personal.
• Then because I was flustered I got pop on my shirt sleeve, so I had to work in this wet long sleeved, vertical striped dress shirt the rest of the day. You can’t work in wet sleeves!
• I also messed up and tore one of the popcorn bags and went to go throw it out. Jack suddenly cares and is all “You can’t throw away bags!” I’m like “Why? It’s a paper bag.” He goes “Inventory!” I said “Whatever,” and threw it out because fuck him and fuck inventory. They can take it out of my minimum wage. It’s a bag, man. It’s just a bag. I was never trained.
• On Saturday, Jack and Jill both took their lunch break at the same time and left me at the concession stand by myself and I was FREAKING OUT because right when they left…guess what…a rush. Of course. A bunch of kids and their parents were going to see Paulie and, let me tell you, there were lines. Every one of these people wanted kid combos. I had to ring and make the kid combos and then check in and see two dozen disappointed parrot heads looking at me with judgmental eyes. “Isn’t there anyone else working here?” one parent called out. “Is there a manager?” another said. “I don’t know where she is. I’m here. We’ll get through this!” was the gist of my reply back. Then, just as I’m almost done with this long line, a woman comes back and says “This Diet Coke tastes funny. Like bad.” I was all “What? Here’s another one.” “Still bad” she said. “How about a bottle of water?” I asked. “Do you need to ring me up for the exchange?” She inquired. “Take it! I’ll figure it out later.” I said, nervously trying to help the next customer.
The line ends and my manager walks over.
TM: “How are things going?”
Me: “Ok. I mean I was left up here in a rush with no training while everyone went on break and the pop tasted funny and I had to give a woman a bottled water instead, but otherwise fine.”
TM: Did you ring up the exchange?
Me: There wasn’t time for that!
TM: Where’s the soda cup?
Me: I threw it away.
TM: But that’s inventory.
Me: I’m sorry.
TM: Did you change the syrup?
Me: What? There’s syrup?
TM: Yeah for the pop.
Me: No one trained me on any of this!
The Movies Sucked
On the first night, I was not a big hit with my coworkers because at 10pm they’re like “Hey, you ready to clean with us?” and I was all “No can do, my good man and good woman. I’m out of here at 10pm. Cleared it with management. I’m 16 and ready to leave. Cheerio!” Maybe that’s why they ditched me during a rush on Saturday???
The Final Chapter
I was pretty sad and anxious after my second night. I knew I never wanted to go back to work at that theater. It was a crushing realization because this was my favorite theater throughout my boyhood. And now I had a negative association with it. I didn’t want to hate going there.
On Sunday morning, I arrived to work just before 11. I got to the box office and knocked on the window. My manager didn’t come out. I waited a couple of minutes and said fuck it to myself and shoved the uniform and my name badge into the box office. Seeing this, my manager rushed out. I said “I quit.” She looked at me puzzled. “You have to give two weeks notice,” she replied. “I can’t. I just can’t,” I declared and I left.
The theater closed about a year or so later. I went back a handful of times as customer. Each time, I had a queasy feeling in my stomach that almost prevented me from going at all. I got made fun of when I did go there by Jack and Jill. I never got concessions because I was trying to avoid them. It was rough. Try watching Small Soldiers sans snacks. See? You can’t!
In the end, I made the right decision. I took a job at Office Depot three months later. I look back on those two days working at a movie theater every once in a while. I’ll be in a meeting, in the car, or on a date and I’ll look off to the side for a moment, smile and reflect on what could have been.