Date Night From Hell
Emily Post wrote, “A knowledge of etiquette is of course essential to one’s decent behavior, just as clothing is essential to one’s appearance.”
Rules of etiquette exist for writing thank-you notes, setting the table, and how to eat spaghetti. There are even rules of etiquette at a movie theater: no crying babies, no cellphones, no ten-gallon hats, and no talking. Mrs. Post would somersault in her grave if she witnessed my experience at a movie theater several years ago.
My husband and I were frazzled; he worked long hours, and as a stay-at-home mom with two young daughters, I worked twenty-four hours a day, everyday. We usually spent Saturday nights at home with them watching Little Bear for the umpteenth time. A night on the town without children was a rarity; something savored like a fine bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon straight from Napa. When my in-laws offered to take the kids for the night, we jumped at the chance to go out for dinner and a movie.
It’s a long running joke between my husband and I; if there’s a nut job in the theater, they will inevitably sit next to me. I’ve had bubblegum poppers, a man smelling like weed and cow manure, a person loudly expelling gas – you name it. I thought I’d seen, heard, and smelled it all. I was wrong.
We walked into the theater and had our choice of seats. After climbing the steps, we picked two in the middle and settled in. From the corner of my eye, I spied a middle-aged couple inching down our row. Surely they weren’t going to sit next to us. The place was full of empty seats in prime locations. Of course, they sat right next to me.
They looked sane enough. I imagined he was a successful orthodontist, she his schoolteacher wife. A couple of empty-nesters enjoying a night at the cinema. Harmless. The lights dimmed, the theater went black, and the movie started. It wasn’t the only thing.
I love a good thriller, add a dash of Gyllenhaal to the mix and I’ll love it even more. My eyes were focused on him until a sound distracted me. Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. I looked at my husband. Nothing. I looked at the empty-nesters on my right. Bingo. The man riffled through his bag, digging and clawing like a dog searching for a buried bone. Hmm, he must really want that box of Milk Duds.
His lady flopped her foot across his lap and wiggled her painted toes. They were dangerously close. I knew any moment I’d feel them rub against my thigh. Orthodontist stopped digging and pulled something from his man purse, and it was not candy. It was a bottle of lotion. Visions of Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs flashed through my mind. “It rubs the lotion on its skin.” This has to be a joke.
I pulled my attention from the foot and glanced at the man holding it, and the lotion. Our eyes met, or at least I think they did. It was hard to tell with the glare from his glasses. I narrowed my eyes and pursed my lips. My signature bitch face would send a silent message: stop the shenanigans. I held it for a moment, making sure my point was crystal clear, and slowly turned my attention back to Jake.
Space invader raised the bottle and squeezed. What the hell! Splat. Slurp. I huffed and then scanned the row of people on the other side of us. Seriously, where are the hidden cameras? Everyone had their eyes on the big screen. Splat. Slurp. The bottle continued to hum its empty tune. Dear god, make it stop.
Finally, he collected enough lotion to massage his beloved’s bunions. This was no simple massage. He pulled toes, targeted pressure points, and sloughed rough spots. Perhaps he wasn’t an orthodontist like I imagined, clearly his passion was feet. I nudged my husband and motioned to the spa treatment happening next to me. He shrugged. Thanks for nothing. Maybe I should put my foot in the podiatrist’s lap and demand a massage. I held my tongue.
The massage continued through most of the movie. When one foot went down, the other came up. Finally, I moved to an open seat on the other side of my husband. My new neighbor gave me the same bitchy look I gave foot massager moments earlier. I poked his arm and pointed at the pair. “That man wouldn’t stop rubbing his date’s feet.”
He peered down the row and winced. “That’s disgusting.”
“Why do you think I moved?”
Someone shushed us. I didn’t mind. I was basking in validation. See, it wasn’t a figment of my imagination.
I tried, really tried, to enjoy the rest of the movie. It didn’t happen. The stress the foot massagers created was hard to overcome. PTSD is no joke. I left the theater a different person, but I learned an important lesson: no place is immune. People lacking etiquette can be anywhere, even a movie theater. No wonder Netflix and Redbox have become so popular.
Mary Miller is a freelance writer, with a BA degree in Journalism and Broadcasting from Oklahoma State University, who adores reading and writing narrative essay and memoir. She is currently working on a memoir about her years in catholic high school and another about her closed adoption and reunion with her birth family thirty-three years later. You can read about her adoption-related thoughts on her blog: mkatmiller.blogspot.com.