The Invention of Laughing

My hubby and I wandered down to the local cinemaplex after a particularly serious day filled with legal shinnanegans and other adult nonsense. The cure for all of this brew-ha-ha seemed obvious - the newly released Ricky Gervais film, The Invention of Lying.

Popcorn, pop, and candy bar in hand, I made my way into an empty theater while Jason parked the car. There are perks to watching a 4:30 matinee, and one of them is that you can dance in the aisle to the piped in Regina Specktor music as you try out every possible seating location. Come to think of it, there's nothing saying you can't dance in the aisles even if the theater is packed to the gills.

A little bit of strategy had to go into my seat selection. As much as I would have loved to believe that I had my own personal viewing room for the afternoon, I knew I could depend on the 4:35 stragglers to come in during the Coke commercial that preceeded 10 movie previews. If I were seeing a movie alone, I would head for the very back row. Theory being that the wall behind me can't answer its cell phone, ask its girlfriend what's going to happen next, or snap gum. With my husband along, an entirely different strategy was needed. He likes to sit way up front, chin darting up to the cieling while the actors on stage look like the spaceship in the opening credits of Star Wars. So I compromise and try to find something in the middle.

If you want any evidence that humans are a herd specieis, simply try to park your car far away from all the others in a parking lot or sit in a remote location in the movie theater. Chances are, you will become the pioneer of a small cluster of humanity that ignores dozens of other empty spaces. I can't say that I mind this, as long as the unspoken courtesies of movie etiquette are followed. There is something to sitting in the dark with several other people who are eager to get whisked away in a fabulous story that has its own charm. When it goes well, it's enchanting.

Heaven knows I have been in movie theaters where gummy bears faced martyrdom as they slid a painful dissent down the silk screen. I have had Coke flood the bottom of my shoes and soak the underside of my purse when the person behind me accidentally knocked over their drink. I have also been the priss who calls in the usher to get the person behind me to get off their stupid cell phone.

But today, I had already made my peace with the four other people in the theater. There were two single women who I doubted would make any noise at all. An elderly couple sat four or five rows behind me, and at worst, they might ask each other what had just happened in the last scene. Whatever chair squeek, cellophane crinkle, or poor attempt at whispering happened in the next two hours, I was ready to tune them out and simply enjoy the movie. Yes, after 18 months of rigorous meditation training, I'm sure my mentors would be thrilled to know that I am putting the ancient discipline of mind mastery to the enjoyment of feature films.

Today, the last straggler in was a man I had seen outside the movie theater talking loudly into his cell phone. I imagined he was talking to a friend, and he didn't seem to have his heart set on any particular movie as he blithly ripped off the times of each flick. Secretly, I hoped he wouldn't go to mine. I had nothing against him except the idea that his overflowing voice and personality counldn't be adequately contained in a movie theater for 100 minutes, and he and I were both fools to think otherwise.

Sure enough, he popped into the row directly in front of me just before the credits began. Turned out there was nothing I could fault him with. The only thing that stood out was his sheer enjoyment of every punch line and gag. A line that might deserve a chuckle got an enthusiastic knee slap as he doubled over in his seat, repeating the line to himself as he wiped his eyes, and said things like "That's rich!" "Too funny!" or "Hillarious!" It wasn't ironic - he geniunely was loving each and every line. But it had a unique effect. I realized you could focus on his over the top reactions and think they were out of place - too much for too little gag. In no time, it would be easy to be annoyed at his constant outbursts. The alternative was to let his laughter become infectious, and this worked pretty well. Sure, my husband and I noticed that he got up at least 3 times during the movie. My husband guessed he was supporting the drug habit that allowed him to giggle so easily. I decided to believe that in addition to enjoying the film so much, he didn't want to disturb others when his silent vibrating cell phone went off. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.