This story appeared in Untrue Stories, Volume One by Pantoum Press in 2012. If you enjoy it, please share.
Sans Commentary, Please
by Mitch Lavender
“Start the movie already!” the guy screamed at the screen. We had sat through two commercials and four movie previews, with another just starting. I don’t know when It became OK to show 25 minutes of commercials before a movie, but we acquiesced and sat quietly, waiting for the feature to begin. We always did. Still, I silently had to agree with the guy – Start the movie!
“Woooooop!” the guy shouted as aliens and humans fought it out in the preview. “Woooooop!” he repeated when an alien lost a showdown with Daniel Craig, taking a laser blast between its bugged eyes. “Dead!”
The theater was dark and crowded, opening night of a blockbuster; no one would have expected less than a full house. I leaned forward to see the guy yelling at the screen. He was three rows in front, four seats down; a young guy, maybe twenty, sitting with two friends. Great. Three punks at the theater. It’s bad enough that I pay $12 a ticket, have to wear cheesy Wayfarer-like 3D glasses and go into hock to buy popcorn and a drink, now I must tolerate the Woop-Boy commentary track as well. The truth is, I’m like the cranky old man yelling at the kids to get off of his lawn. I get testy when I’m up past my bedtime.
Woop-Boy continued to jack his commentary as the movie progressed. Thank goodness there were a lot of explosions that helped drowned out some of his crude, nonsensical comments. I grew more and more infuriated and fixated on his interruptions. I was all about him, not even watching the movie anymore.
Into the third act, after over an hour, I couldn’t take it anymore, got up and moved to Woop-Boy’s row in front, side-stepping past people, excuse me, pardon, sorry, excuse. Finally, I am in front of Woop-Boy. I see my reflection in his 3D glasses as an explosion goes off on the screen behind me. His jaw slackened, his teeth glistening in the ambient glow. I grabbed the collar of his shirt, pulling him up as I lean down, wanting him to hear me.
“Shut up,” I growled, cold and firm. When did I become Batman? His face was close to mine and I didn’t blink, but realized he wouldn’t know – I was still wearing those dorky 3D glasses.
“Screw you, Monkey-Man!” he shouted during a quiet moment in the movie, loud enough for the entire theater to hear.
My free hand balled into a fist, seconds away from punching him in the face.
“He’s got Tourette Syndrome,” the boy sitting next to him shouted, shoving me so hard I nearly tumbled over the row behind me. I scrambled, clutching Woop-Boy’s shirt as an anchor to regain my balance.
“I’m… S…sss…sssssorry,” Woop-Boy said, and then added, “dickhead!”
I stared at him for what had to be two or three seconds, but seemed much longer. Realizing I was still clutching his shirt, I let go and with a final look to his friends, I side-stepped back down the aisle, excuse me, pardon, sorry, excuse. When I got to the end, I walked out of the theater into the lobby, and waited for my wife, who joined me a few minutes later. We were both silent on the drive home.
As I climbed into bed that night, I confessed to my wife, “I was wrong. I shouldn’t have done anything.”
“You weren’t wrong. He ruined the movie for everyone. Everyone in the place wanted to do what you did.” She paused and gave me a wan smile. “I think the reason you feel badly is you didn’t finish what you started. You stepped in a mess and didn’t wipe it off.”
“Are you saying I should have punched him?”
“I’m saying that if a person has a disease where they can’t shut up, they shouldn’t go to a theater and annoy everyone else. He is no different than the new parents who bring their baby to a theater and expect everyone to just ignore the crying throughout the movie.”
“That’s not very sensitive to the person’s disability.” While I wasn’t sure I disagreed, I played Devil’s Advocate.
“People who can’t be quiet should not be in a place that requires they be quiet. It’s not you being insensitive to them. It is them being insensitive to everyone else.”
“I’m not sure. I mean, should a person in a wheelchair not go out because they slow down everyone behind them? Does it make them insensitive to others?”
“That’s different, don’t you think?” I recognized the tone in my wife’s voice and she was ready for a debate. “Once situated, the person in a wheelchair won’t bother anyone.”
While I saw her point, it was terrain I had not yet found my balance. “I don’t know.” The conversation ended there and I eventually drifted off to sleep.
Woooop! echoed in my restless dreams.