Sunday, December 11, 2005

Harry Potter and the Aisle of Chairs

. . . Evening approaches . . .

When we got to the theater, the machines that spit out movie tickets with a single swipe of the credit card through weren't working, so we had to wait in line anyway... but at least we knew (or were hopeful) we had seats.

And we did, in fact, get great aisle seats - a treat if you're the type who likes to pop out for a drink, popcorn or the restroom. The minute we sat down, however, an old lady with a walker came in with her granddaughter (we had both uttered heartfelt "awwwww"s when we saw them waiting in line together).

[Before I continue, a brief description of the movie theater: there are 10 rows of, say, 20 chairs and one aisle down one side. This is typical of Israeli movie theaters. Also, not directly related to the seating plan but possibly indirectly related to it: there is always an intermission during the movie. Doesn't matter which movie or how long. Intermission will always, always come jarringly in the middle of a word, split a sentence, collapse the height of suspense with that flickering smattering of letters, numbers and lines that signals the end of the reel. It's possible that intermission is a necessary thing here given the 30-odd people buried deep inside their rows with no aisle on the horizon and no way out over the scrunched-up knees of the other 17 potentially griping, booing viewers whose views would be obstructed by potential bathroom-goers. Also important to keep in mind: seating is assigned, assisted by unhelpful ushers who obstruct the aisle stairs so that you can't avoid tripping down them in the dark.]

Now we had the grandma and the granddaughter and the walker, trying to reach - from the single aisle - seat number 17 of 20. Which you knew was going to be impossible. So a kind young couple at the end of their row gave up their aisle seats ... and then, because they had a baby and a stroller and needed another aisle seat, we (also young and kind, though not a couple) gave up ours. Only to discover that we were expected to take the grandma's seats way inside.

Now it was getting awkward because the movie was starting (for once we did get there early, but, sadly, we missed all previews due to this game of musical chairs that was feeling less and less altruistically charming as the opening credits started rolling). Grandma was still standing in the aisle, granddaughter was trying to fold up the walker, the lights kept going on and off and we were stuck standing on the aisle trying to figure out where to sit in a theater filled to capacity. Which put us in a good position to ask the ushers to keep the lights on long enough for the lady to find her seat. And could they please restart the movie so we could all watch it from the beginning? No, we can't restart the movie. No, we can't even pause the movie. And we can't turn the lights on to help an 80-year-old get settled because the entire roomful of audience is in the grips of anticipatory psychosis and we can't take the booing.

Grandma finally found her seat as flames and doom (and brooms? I don't know, I was trying not to trip down the stairs) roared across the screen, but there was no chance we were going to get past her (and her walker) to seats number 17 and 18. The audience was locked in a single silent stare and to break it would have been to invite disaster. There were five seats available in the center of the theater so even though the ushers were still insisting it was fully booked, we just sat ourselves down and put our knees up and ...

... Wouldn't you know it, a whole family of kids came traipsing in and we couldn't bear to split them up - after all , they did have tickets. So we got up again, this time with a plan that had to work. We figured we'd ask for tickets to the next show, two hours later, and just look around the mall until then. But the manager insisted that show was also sold out (and fast, I might add: When scavenging for tickets earlier, I noted many empty seats during all showings) and offered us tickets for any other day that month.

Now, it is complicated for me to arrange to go out at night, since I work at night, even more so to reschedule with another person. And we really had a hankering for this movie. So we took the proffered plastic chairs sat on the aisle stairs. After we got over being annoyed and selfrighteous, it was pretty cool - we didn't have anyone in front of us, we had easy access during intermission, and nobody put their feet up on our backs. It turned out to be a prime location.

A side note on noise and the Israeli movie theater:

The silence during Harry Potter was rare for this kind, or any kind, of Israeli audience. Ordinarily, the teenagers talk, all cellphones ring, and everyone else makes noise shushing them. How odd, then, and hysterical, to hear how this audience wanted absolute silence ... the quiet was reverent, focused, awed. In Israel!

There were two exceptions. But really, only two.

There was a crying infant. It belonged to the couple who took our seat. Their other 3 kids were quiet. And probably more than a little scared. Taking your entire family to see a movie is a wonderful and beautiful thing. But did the 4-month-old really need to see You-Know-Who? I'd've cried too.

And toward the end of the movie, I was thinking how amazing (and bloggable) it was that not a single phone had rung during the entire movie, when suddenly, a phone started ringing ... and kept ringing ... and then ...

... there were the few isolated beeps of a message.

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