Staring at a big screen with about fifty other people is a surprisingly self-conscious experience! There we all are in the dark having a shared experience – and yet we are all strangers. Or rather – they are all strangers to me.
I guess I should take two steps back on this before I go any further ahead. I had decided there was a film I needed to see and it seems there was no-one to join me in my cinephile quest for fulfillment. Going to the theatre solo isn’t really much of a personal challenge. Rather simple really. There is no synchronization of watches required, no complex decision tree on which film you will actually go and see. No need to balance out individual likes and dislikes. Just the simple choice of which showing. Or it seemed so simple.
The film had the potential to be fairly popular, so I thought an earlier showing would reduce the battle for seating and provide me with some buffer from other theatre goers. And right after work I headed to the theatre to catch an early evening showing. I was correct it wasn’t very busy.
There were clusters of teens and early twenties folks hanging in their usual clinging clusters of interaction. Some more clingy and intertwined than others. As I walked by I could feel their eyes staring at me – the old guy. The scrutiny was rather disturbing. I glanced down and checked to make sure my fly wasn’t down. Check – all good.
I bought a single ticket and proceeded to my specific theatre – stopping to grab a popcorn on my way. I stood in line and, with nothing else to do, listened to the conversations around me. Two twenty-something women were gossiping in front of me – one turned and saw I was standing in line behind them. She turned and stared at me – so I gave her a small smile. She snapped her head back forward and whispered something to her friend. And they left the line. Okay that was weird. Must remember to keep eyes down.
I got into the theater – plenty of empty seats so I picked one in the middle and waited for the film to start. By the time the film started there were about fifty people all sitting in clusters of four or more. Except me. Two empty seats to the left. Two empty seats to the right. Two empty seats in front of me. Excellent really – no one to block the view or make popcorn smacking noises.
The film started and then I realized me biggest mistake. You see the film was a comedy. And the thing about comedy is it makes you laugh. Laughing in the dark is okay. Laughing in the dark when no-one is sitting near you is surprisingly awkward.
In the end I did enjoy the film and I did forget my lone wolf status. Next time, however, I think I will go when it is a really crowded theatre and walk in with just seconds to spare. That way I can grab an orphaned seat and just be part of the crowd.