I wrote this last year after The Lovely Emily and I nearly got killed at the 7 pm showing of TTT. On opening night. At the most popular theater in town. Because we are morons. Not, however, as stupid as this journaller's roommate. So it seems like a good time to repost it. And yes, this is exactly what happened. Mostly.
The Two Tickets
"ATTENTION, PLEASE. IF YOU HAVE TICKETS FOR THE SEVEN O'CLOCK SHOW OF LORD OF THE RINGS, PLEASE LINE UP ON THE LEFT. IF YOU HAVE TICKETS FOR ANYTHING ELSE, PLEASE LINE UP ON THE RIGHT."
A massive groan went up on the right side of the theater, in part led by the Lovely Emily and myself: The theater management did not bother to make this announcement until both lines, on both sides of the theater, were backed up to the front doors. Of course, nearly everyone there wanted to see The Two Towers—we sure as hell weren't there to see The Hot Chick—so a lot of extremely disgruntled people would be forced to give up their places in line on the left side, places they had been camping for thirty, forty-five minutes—and trek across the lobby-café to the right side. More importantly, to the back of the line already there. We were not happy.
"This is bullshit!" I shouted. "There's two seven o'clock shows! You can let us in this door just as easily as the other one!"
"Yeah!" The cry went up behind me like a chorus as the right-side line rallied together. "That's not fair! We've been here nearly an hour! Let us in this side!"
"IT'S BULLSHIT!" yelled the Lovely Emily and I in unison.
The assistant manager came over to us, fiddling nervously with his clipboard. "You have to go to the right side of the lobby," he said desperately. He was younger than both of us, I think, and suddenly I felt bad for him. "We don't have enough room for everyone—there's other movies, you know, people want to see other movies, and—" His voice caught in his throat. "The eight o'clocks are coming, and we didn't leave enough room between shows, we can't get the theaters clean fast enough, I don't know what we're going to do—" His voice dropped to a whisper: "You must lead the people to the other side of the lobby! They won't listen to me!"
The Lovely Em and I looked at each other. And then we sighed. "Come on, let's go!" cried the Lovely Em.
So we gave up our places in the right line by the dozens and snaked around the café tables and the Daredevil standee and the video game booths all the way over to the right side of the lobby to join the other line. After doing the math, the Lovely Em and I realized that the 3:30 show was not out yet, even as it crept closer to seven—and the employees would still have to clean the theater. We started shifting from foot to foot as the wait continued, the hand on my watch moved closer to seven but we got no closer to the door—the line was winding its way all the way back around up the right side of the wall, around the tables and the chairs and the video games—it was getting longer but it wasn't moving forward. A little girl behind me threw herself around her mother's legs. "You have to stay here with your brother," the woman said pleadingly. "You have to keep our places in line!"
"Wanna go bafroom wif you!" sobbed the little girl.
"I have to go alone!" whispered the mother. I was watching quietly over my shoulder, and I'm telling you, I saw fear in her eyes. "I may not come back! Stay with your brother and whatever happens, get into that theater!" I'm telling you, it was tragedy out there.
The Lovely Em and I—having given up our prime places near the front of the right line, goddammit—ended up on the front lines; how, I don't know, but we were among the unfortunate folk stuck right in front of the wall of glass doors, not to mention privy to the panic of the theater staff. It was, for example, getting very ugly outside as a fresh wave of LOTR fans were gathering, and I began to realize that they didn't have enough employees on duty. Two of their leaders—ASST MNGR and MANAGER, read their name tags—were discussing the situation a couple of feet away, trying not to let us hear the growing desperation in their voices.
The manager's glance swept over the snack bars and drink fountains: they were manned by teenagers, working part-time shifts to earn Christmas money. "These are just kids," the assistant manager told him darkly. "They're no regulars. They'll never make it through this."
"We have no one else," gritted the manager through his teeth. "Janice is gone all this week and David called in sick!"
Their pow-wow was interrupted by a younger employee who raced over in a fit of panic: "Sir! I think we oversold the seats! We don't have enough room!"
Of course, the entire line heard that, and the people around me started to mutter in agitation. And if Em and I thought we had it bad so far back in the line, what about the people piled behind us, crushed into the video arcade?
"Stop talking like that!" shouted the assistant manager. "Not in front of them! You don't want to frighten them!"
"Is it true though?" yelled out a man behind us. "Are there enough seats, or are we just standing out here for nothing?"
"Yeah!" came another shout, and another: "You just took our money for nothing?"
"I want a refund!"
"We will not be giving out refunds unless—" began the assistant manager, but no one waited to hear the "unless" part. The crowd surged up around the employees in an ugly rush of panic and fury, until the manager stepped forward and began to shout like a preacher, walking up and down the line: "Everyone will be seated! I will seat people in theater nine before I seat them in theater ten! I will seat people in theater ten after I have filled up theater nine! Do you understand?"
"Yes!" we shouted, as one.
"Will I seat people in theater ten before I seat them in theater nine?"
"Where will I seat them first?"
"THEATER NINE!" we roared, feeling greatly cheered to see some sort of plan in action.
And then, out in the darkness of the falling night, we saw their ghostly lights approaching: the headlights of the eight o'clock moviegoers in the parking lot, come early to secure their places in a line that was already crushed against the closed glass doors. We froze where we stood, our voices falling into silence, as the lights began to circle the lot, looking for parking places already taken up by the seven o'clock crowd and not yet vacated by the 3:30.
"They are coming!" breathed the assistant manager. "The eight o'clocks are here!"
The manager's eyes cut back over to him. "Get the people for other movies into the theaters!"
"What about the seven o'clocks?" assistant manager.
"We don't have room!" cried a nervous ticket-taker. "The cleaning crew isn't done with the 3:30 theater yet!"
The manager made an executive decision: "Lock the doors!" he commanded. "Stop selling eight P.M. tickets until 7:30! We don't have enough room for the eights in the lobby right now!"
Outside the storm was brewing: Angry moviegoers were lining up before ticket booths, and when the trembling assistant manager took up the microphone in one of the booths and announced that tickets would not be sold for the moment, the patrons broke ranks with an angry shout and crowded up against the doors. But the doors were already locked.
"The door locks have to hold," said the manager to the assistant.
The assistant swallowed, pale. "They will hold. We just installed them last week."
Outside, the eight o'clocks were massing against the doors, their furious breath steaming up the glass. We seven o'clocks stood there, trapped between the free-standing Matrix posters and the doors on the front lines, watching wide-eyed as the eight o'clocks began to rumble louder and louder, growling, stomping, kicking the doors—
"I'm going to go get security," said the manager.
"You know they won't come!" snapped the assistant manager. "You told off Williams last week! 'Stay on your side of the Summit!' Well, I don't think he'll come now!"
"He's our only hope now," said the manager grimly. "It's the only thing left to do."
Behind them, the Lovely Em and I exchanged looks of fear.
Just then a new formation appeared outside the door—strange polo shirts we did not recognize. They let them in through the employees' entrance to the side of the ticket booths.
"Sir! Old Navy has come!"
TRISH, read their leader's name tag. "In times of old you stood beside us during the Day After Thanksgiving Sale," said TRISH soberly. "We will not let the Summit Carmike fall."
They put them behind the cash registers at the ticket booths, the snack bars, and the drink fountains, so that the Carmike employees, new hires and veterans alike, armed with their colors and their name tags, could guide the refugee moviegoers crowded uneasily in the lobby to safety.
"I'm going, then," said the manager. "Look for me in the east in the golf carts of the security guards." He was a brave man, that manager.
He tried to calm the crowd outside as he slipped out through the employee entrance, but they would have none of it. The last I saw of him as the crowd began to pound the doors, he was sprinting down the sidewalk towards the Summit shuttle bus. And outside the war cry of the eight o'clocks, denied entrance, went up like a great howl of rage: "WE BOUGHT OUR TICKETS ON FANDANGO!"
"RETREAT!" shouted the assistant manager.
The ticket sellers fled their booths.
The eight o'clocks stopped pounding on the doors with their fists and for a moment, and we let out our breath in a great collective shudder. It was not to be, however—they came back with redoubled strength, this time bearing patio chairs from the Crepes Eggcetera next door, ramming them into the doors in an attempt to break the locks.
The Carmike employees started running down the lines—"You," said the assistant manager, grabbing the Lovely Em and me. "You were in the front of the right-hand line. Take the people at the back of the line into theater nine!"
And the last thing we heard behind us as we ran was, "Sir! The doors have been breached!"
"TO THEATER TEN!" shouted the assistant manager. And that was the last I saw of him.