Tuesday, May 27, 2003

"Mrs. Robinson - are you trying to seduce me?"

Ah, summer movie season. Brought to you by an overt manipulation of dubious demographic information and a big rubber shark. So what if the marketing weenies of the movie studios think the release of teenagers everywhere from school heralds easy money to be vacuumed up (they're probably right). So what if Jaws made the studio heads drool and the bean counters generate predictive charts and graphs that have morphed into big, screechy, kinetic movies designed to move units of detonated corn covered in yellow-hued liquid saturated fat when summer's here and the time is right for dancing in the street.

The point is Hollywood is wingin' product at the wall and seeing what sticks so they can wing some of that same stuff next summer. In amidst the shitstorm there is much fun to be had, as long as we don't get all serious worrying about what's art, or question that movie meme that won't die: black people can make white people hip by teaching them to dance and chant clever phrases from the safer side of ebonics.

Oh the lights dim and the go-light green of the preview rating placard graces the screen and Pavlovian conditioning pumps endorphins into the supine body, resonating with the already quivering body's response to caffeine overload from the tub 'o pop, and Crisco shock. Maybe for the adults there's the added thrill of the stop-light red preview rating meaning we're gonna get a bonus glance of boobies, blood, or bad language - or all three!

Tip: Use today's marathon of previews to embark upon that final bladder-pressure maintenance trip, allowing the woman to go first because her line is longer.

I was standing, ticket in teeth, accomplishing just that item on the checklist for the perfect summer movie experience, when a fond memory swam up from my adolescent past. I worked at movie theatres from the time I was 14 until I was 23, starting as a ticket-taker/usher. Ripping a stack of tickets, counting them by feel to make sure there are enough for the group trying to pass your station, grinning and tossing off a meaningless wish for a grand time at the flicks is more of an accomplishment than it would appear. Personalities are on display in the myriad ways people approach the hand-off of the tickets. Some hand them low like a dealer in Vegas, some hold them fanned an inch from your face, some use extreme caution to avoid skin contact for fear of getting usher cooties evidently, etc., ad infinitum. The dicier situations are when someone approaches with hands full of concessions, a beseeching look on their face, meaning you have to pull the tickets from their person somewhere, and put the stubs back. One joker motioned towards his front pocket once; I told him (politely of course) he was free to set his popcorn on my podium and fish them out for himself.

But then there was that one time. The Jr. High art teacher whose name escapes me - and even if it didn't I wouldn't provide it for litigious reasons and to protect the innocent - approached me, popcorn in one hand, coke in the other, her ticket between her teeth.

This art teacher had most of the male population in the Jr. High walking behind their strategically placed science texts the majority of the day (clearly a man designed those monoliths, and I was convinced of the stupidity of someone who would make a book so large for kids to carry until I and the guys discovered what great boner shields they were - thank you, whoever you were). She resembled Dorothy Hamill with a slight acne problem. She always wore buttoned blouses or scooped fronts that would reveal her lacy bra when she bent down to help you add the shadow to the apple in the still-life or something. If she wasn't aware of what she was doing, she must have thought all the boys needed to cut back on sugar judging from the way our hands shook.

So, there she was, ticket held in her perfect white teeth, between her petal-soft lips, staring at me with those deep, brown eyes. I thought I was gonna die. Were I filming this accurately, this moment would be edited like the standoff in High Noon. Close-ups on each face. One calm, determined; the other wide-eyed, sweaty. Seconds pass.

"Just take it," she said around the ticket. Regaining a percentage of composure, I reached out to take the ticket from her mouth, but was met with resistance as she didn't let go when I pulled, so I let go of the ticket thinking she had changed her mind and was just going to set something down and hand it to me like most people did. The instant I let go, so did she. It dropped and lodged right in her cleavage. She was wearing a tube-top under a blouse tied at her waist, creating a mountainous display of womanhood. One corner of the ticket had caught on her left breast, one corner sat on her right breast, and the third rested against the material of her tube top. It dawned on me I was staring at her chest (with good reason, though), and I quickly looked up, probably with no small amount of lustful horror dripping from my face.

"Well," said she, "My hands are full." (On a stack of Bibles - she really said that.) Those words - "hands...full" - echoed in my head, which had reached a pressure much higher than the manufacturer's recommended limit.

"Get it," she said. At that point in my life I had never touched a breast on purpose, though I had really, really, really wanted to. However, if I had taken that opportunity at that moment, I truly would have passed out. (The horror of that scene played through my head: my manager responding to the thump of a body hitting the floor, only to discover his teenage usher on his back with a blatant erection tenting his slacks, in front of a patron with a ticket wedged between her boobs.)

To my continual pride, I plucked that ticket out of her cleavage with a flourish, tore it in half, stuck it back between her teeth (yes, she opened her mouth for me to do that), said to her brightly, "Enjoy the show," and off she went to do just that.

My wife claims that women don't do that kind of thing accidentally. She insists either the woman was toying with me, or that she wanted to toy with me. If I had known that at the time, I'm not sure it would have done me any good. You see, Jack Nicholson was right concerning that particular moment in my life; I couldn't have handled the truth.

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