Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why I Hated Madagascar 3

A month or two ago, we bought a trio of blu-rays from Dreamworks. Upon bringing them home, we realized each had a coupon for $8 off a kid's ticket for Madagascar 3, and since we have three kids, yay! We were hanging out with a good friends from out of town who have a couple little hooligans of their own, so we decided to go see the movie together on Saturday.

We arrived at the mall with plenty of time to do a bit of shopping before hand. We congregated at the entrance to the theatre at 2:45 (the movie was supposed to start at 3:30), but the doors were closed and there was a sign saying they'd open at 3:00. Fine. Let's hang out for fifteen minutes longer, no problem. We put our kids in the hurricane simulator. We chatted. We waited.

The doors opened, and we made our way in. We found out we couldn't use our printed-out coupons at the little automatic kiosks. Also, the box office was closed (apparently our theatre is under-staffed). No problem. We'll just stand in line and get our tickets at the snack bar, like everybody else. Our friends got their tickets at the kiosks and said they'd save us some seats. At this point, it was about 3:05.

Well, we waited in line. There were three of them, and of course we picked the one that was being attended by a staff member in training. Or else he was just really methodical. I don't know. At any rate, our line was moving very slowly. Our kids were getting restless. I was getting restless. But you know what, that's okay. I'm glad they have staff members in training, or at some point that would run out of staff, am I right?

After about fifteen minutes in line - at about the point we realized we'd probably not get into the theatre in time, my wife nudged me and whispered, "These people are trying to cut in line."

I looked, and there was a small group of people standing right next to us. A lady with two kids that looked like hers and one more kid who didn't. They were staring straight ahead, and the youngest kid was standing almost directly behind my wife in line. It appeared he was trying to look like he belonged in our group.

But I like giving people the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they were just standing in an odd place. I asked my wife how she knew, and she said that this little family had been doing the same thing to the people in front of us, and that she had heard one of them telling the kid that "the line is back there," which had been followed by the small family moving to stand beside us.


I looked at the kid. He looked at me and quickly looked elsewhere. Some people tell me I'm intimidating.

I stood there and thought about these people for the next five minutes while the line moved a few feet and our movie started without us. The kid and his family slowly began to wedge themselves between us and the people behind us.

I turned to them and, gesturing with my face, asked them, "Do you know these guys?"

"Nope. I think they're trying to cut in front of us."

"Yeah. I think you're right."

I thought a bit longer.

But then I put my face close to the kid's and asked him if he was trying to cut in line. He said, "Well that's my mom right there." Classic. Reminds me of the purse incident from my childhood. Pretty sure I should tell that story some time.

I said, "That's not what I asked. I asked if you're trying to cut in line."

He didn't say anything.

"Would you like it if you'd been standing in line for 20 minutes and some guy tried to cut in front of you?"

He shook his head.

"Then be a good guy and go to the back of the line, please. Because I wouldn't like it, either."

The kid moved to stand on the other side of his mother. I heard him whispering to her. She said something in an offended tone; I caught the word "jerk." I imagine she was referring to me. The family stayed right next to us, albeit not as close as before, for a few more minutes. We inched closer to the till.

Presently they moved to stand a few feet up, looking to try cutting in front of the people a group or two up.

I asked the people ahead of us, "Do you know these guys?"

"Nope. I think they're trying to cut in front of us."


So there we all stood, letting ourselves be taken advantage of.

Finally, I couldn't stand it any longer. I walked up behind the matriarch of the family, tapped her on the shoulder and said, "Ma'am, do you have a good reason to be here?"

Because I still wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she had a good reason to be cutting in line! I couldn't think of any good reason to cut in line at a movie theatre, but hey. I'm not the most creative guy in the world.

She stuttered a bit and looked around. Classic.

It looked like I was about to win the day, when a large woman standing in line in front of the group in front of us said, "I'm letting her go ahead of me."

I turned to her. "Why?"

"Well because I'm waiting for my husband to come because he's buying our tickets."

"So you're letting these people cut in front of you?"


"Do you know them?"

She looked nervous. I repeated the question.

"I do now."

I was appalled. Temporarily speechless.

"You can't do that!" I finally said.

"Yes I can," she retorted, finally finding her courage. "This is my place in line, and it is my prerogative if I want to let someone cut in front of me. She's not the first person I've let do this."

My voice grew loud enough for the all the people around me to hear what I was saying.

"Absolutely not! It is absolutely not your prerogative to let people cut in front of you! If you were the only person in line, then it would be your prerogative to let everyone and their dog walk all over you, but you are not the only person in line! There are close to 40 other people who have been waiting in line for their movie tickets, movies they're missing now because you've been letting people barge in front of you! You are not the only person here, and what you are doing affects everyone else!!!"

She looked ashamed of herself. She said, "I suppose your right, when you put it like that."

But it was too late. The cutting family was purchasing their tickets and their large quantities of food and drink. I contemplated confronting them as they left and demanding that they hand their tickets over to me, to give to the next people in line. My wife told me that would be illegal, but that cutting in line was not, in fact, illegal.

I fumed out loud for a bit. The families in front and behind thanked me for doing what I did. Of course, no one else in that line had my back while I was trying to stop the cutters. They just watched.

I suppose this is one of the few times I think I'd rather live in the States. I can't imagine Americans watching blithely while a petty injustice like this took place.

So finally we got to the front and tried purchasing our tickets with the coupons. By this time our movie had already been running a full ten minutes. The kid at the till had never seen this type of coupon before and had no idea what to do. He went and got his manager. The manager processed a coupon and then said I owed him 25 cents. Apparently they couldn't just run it all through and charge me two adult tickets plus 75 cents for the kids. This looked like it was going to take a while, as we had no cash and so I was going to have to run my credit card through the machine three times for a quarter and then once for 18 bucks.

Despondent and grumpy, I said, "Screw it, I'll just pay for the full amount of the remaining kids' tickets and ours." So I did.

Tickets in hand, we left the line and got to the place where they rip your ticket up. Then I realized I only had four tickets in hand. Looking at the receipt, I realized that I had indeed only paid for four tickets. I almost felt like crying.

I told the guy, "I've only been given four tickets."

"That's okay," he said, and let us through.

So went into the theatre. Our friends waved at us. We sat down and watched the movie. I couldn't really enjoy it.

I can only recall really chuckling at one point in the movie:

Julien and his two sidekicks have just entered a train car that looks like it has a monster in it - spooky music is playing, and you hear a small child singing; a classic movie trope. Then the camera pans down and you see it is only Julien's smaller side kick humming happily to himself.

But that's about it. Everyone else thought the movie was awesome, so that's cool.

Later on, driving home, I asked my wife if I'd embarrassed her. She nodded in the affirmative.

"I'm sorry. I don't like embarrassing you. But at the moment, I'm actually struggling with guilt - guilt that I didn't do more to stop those people from taking advantage of all the people in the line."

She understood. And she said that she was only embarrassed because she hates public confrontation, and not because I did anything particularly embarrassing.

The moral of this story, in my mind, is that our society mostly works. Our species is awesome. We have a successful society because we are capable of empathy. We can imagine what it is like to stand in line for 45 minutes and how little we would appreciate people cutting in front of us, and so WE DON'T DO IT! This mother suppressed her empathy gland, I guess. She was teaching her kids that other people don't matter.

But thankfully, she only represented a tiny percentage of all the people crowding that theatre lobby.

Perhaps that is why, when this mother had finished purchasing her stuff and was walking toward the theatre, I called after her kids, as a parting shot:

"Hey kids! Don't be like your mom!"

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