Sunday, February 11, 2007

Kill "The Messengers"

It's not "The Messengers" that's scaring me right now. It's The Usher down the hall at the Atlas Lakeshore Cinemas in Euclid, who looked at me as I walked down the 50-yard-long hallway from parking lot to theater lobby just like an actor walks down the red carpet to The Oscars ceremony.

He knows. He knows I'm here to steal one of his movies. He knows I'm not here just to watch "The Messengers", but that I'm going to sneak into one of his other movies right after. And maybe another one right after that. I felt his eyes on me from the moment I opened the theater door. He knows, because why else would someone be going to a movie theater at 5:30 in the afternoon right after work if they weren't planning on sneaking into another movie after the first movie ended?

Or it could be that he's watching me because I'm the only person in the freaking theater, and he's as bored for human contact as an astronaut stranded on Mars.

"Tickets that way," he points around the corner toward the lobby as I approach. "Go to your right, then turn left and go around the counter, and then to your left again."

Yep, good instructions for getting to the other side of the counter. Very detailed. This guy is VERY bored. But he knows. I know that he knows.

So now I'm watching "The Messengers" -- not a bad movie, it's keeping me entertained, but it's a PG-13 horror movie, so how scary can it be, plus I already figured out who the bad guy is because he's the one guy named in the credits that wasn't in ANY of the previews, and guess why that is??? -- but I'm more concerned with The Usher down the hallway than the ghosts on the screen. My second movie doesn't start exactly when my first one ends, and I'm not all that familiar with the layout of this theater. It's compact in the lobby, with three screening rooms within 15 feet of the concession stand. Then the rest of the theaters stretch along the hallway where I came in, with The Usher standing right in the middle with nothing to do.

Plus there's NO ONE HERE! I'm the only one watching "The Messengers", at least for the first 15 minutes of the movies, when two teenagers come in for their scare. I've only been thwarted at the theaters once before, 10 years ago, when a savvy teenage ticket-taker asked me what was under my coat when I was trying to smuggle a liter of Sprite into a movie.

"You should have told her it was your belly," laughed by girlfriend at the time. Even worse than choking under that teenage inquisition was that I was caught trying to smuggle a Sprite into "My Best Friend's Wedding."

And now here I am at "The Messengers," scared not of the movie but of The Usher, who I know knows. I have not prepared myself like Jack Bauer with blueprints of the building. Heck, I didn't even take a cursory glance of the theater when I came in, hoping to lay low despite being the only person in the building without a uniform.

When my movie ends, I exit the theater. There's no usher! And there's no one at the concession stand! If only I knew where the theater for the next movie was! I duck into the bathroom to hide out for a few minutes until the next movie time nears. Every so often I hear voices in the lobby, very few of them belonging to anyone coming in to see a movie.

Finally I compose myself and leave the bathroom. It looks like the theater I need is back down the long hallway I used to enter the building. But when I go back through the exit that leads down the hallway, I'm confused. A woman and her children are leaving one of the theaters right in front of me, and neither has the movie in it that I want! Did I take a wrong turn?

I turn back around to look into the lobby. Maybe I had just passed my theater. Nope, nothing there. Where the heck is that theater?

And then, "Can I help you, sir?" IT'S THE USHER! He knows, oh, how he knows. He's about halfway down the hallway, doing something (not taking tickets, of course, since no one's in the theater), and knows he has me.

"Oh, I'm just looking for someone," I say as I head toward him and the exit. "A friend of mine was supposed to meet me here."

"There's no one here," he says as I pass.

I know, I think, and now I'm not here either. Afraid of The Usher I head back down the red carpet, no Oscar in hand, and just as I'm leaving I see Theater 1, my Holy Grail. But it's too late now. There will be no free movie for me tonight. The Usher has thwarted me.

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