Today I’m going to tell you a horror story for the holidays. A gross tale of how a blockbuster movie released at Thanksgiving, a smoking hot country artist with crossover appeal, and countless kids and parents destroyed my child-like enjoyment of a once joyous holiday season.
My first job was at a movie theater when I was 16. My first day was July 7, 2000. The first few months were pretty easy. I didn’t know how to do anything, so not a whole lot was expected of me. But by the time the holidays rolled around, I was a trusted member of the staff with increased responsibilities. Which meant that instead of standing there like a dolt ripping tickets, I was now expected to stand there like a dolt and shovel popcorn.
There are three times you hate to work at a movie theater: holidays, summer weekdays, and payday. I’d like to take you back to Wednesday, November 21, 2000. Day before Thanksgiving. Ron Howard and Jim Carrey came together to produce a movie about a green dog-looking creature who wanted to dress like Santa and fuck up everybody’s day. The Grinch was expected to be a huge hit, but this teenager didn’t realize just how much of a hit it would be.
Decked out in the terrible theater uniform (white, short sleeve, button down collared shirt, khakis, and a crimson vest caked in dried out butter flavoring), nothing seemed amiss and I expected a normal day. It had been a half day at school. I was scheduled for a seemingly simple 12-5 shift. After work I was heading to Dulles with my Dad and brother Greg to pick up my brother Jim from the airport, home from UMass. So I was in a pretty good mood, and expecting an easy enough time at work.
I was wrong.
They had the Grinch playing in three theaters, each one packed to the brim. Packed with parents and their little terrible kids. And not just any kids. You know how when you go to the movies, some groups of kids are content to share popcorn or candy with their friends/siblings? I swear, every single kid in the theater that day had to have their own shit. No budding socialists up in that bitch.
Working behind the concession stand, I had waves of people purchasing terrible food at an exorbitant price. They mostly bought this thing called a kid’s pack, which was a small drink, a single scoop of popcorn, and a packet full of colored sugar known as “fun dip,” or as parents call it, “I-wish-I-got-a-vasectomy dip.” Fun dip is not really that fun for anyone. It’s the candy company’s way of giving up on creative ways to package sugar. “Fuck it. Why don’t we just color it, throw it in a bag and tell them it’s fun so it sounds cool? They’ll believe us because they’re kids, and the parents will be too busy wondering why they didn’t have an abortion to complain!” This stuff got the kids amped and ready to mess shit up. Might as well give ’em a scoop of cocaine.
After the initial rush, the boss lady told me I had to go clean theaters that were letting out. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but the theater was littered with garbage everywhere. It was an abomination, a veritable landfill. Popcorn, soda cups, candy, nacho trays. Probably toxic waste. Dead animals, I bet. It was a true garbage wonderland. If you had told me an army of hobos had broken in and had a giant orgy, I couldn’t have disagreed with you. Because of film was in such high demand, these theaters had to be cleaned quickly. Luckily, I had some tricks up my sleeve. Any of you aspiring movie theater employees should take note – here’s how you get a theater cleaned ASAP:
1) Sweep garbage under the seats. By the time the next crowd figures out they’re sitting in garbage, they’ll be so firmly ensconsed in the audience that they won’t want to get up.
2) Bring a partner – preferably a younger, impressionable employee – and begin to delegate immediately. Act like you know what you’re doing with strategic tips that sound logical. “Start at the top row, left corner. People tend to cluster on the left hand side when it’s busy.” This will not get the job done quicker, but you will have to do less.
3) Just leave shit there.
It was the first time I had faced a seemingly insurmountable rush at the theater. Serving what seemed like thousands of angry customers and then cleaning up after their mess seemed like a horrible enough fate. But as I waded through an army of garbage, I was taunted further. The end credits featured a Faith Hill song called Where Are You Christmas? It might not be the worst song ever made, but due to the circumstances and how I heard it, it will forever be the soundtrack to my own personal Hell. It was a sappy, faux poignant Christmas song about absolutely nothing. Seriously, read the lyrics. It reads like somebody who forgot the words to a song and made up new ones on the spot. Here’s an example:
Where are you Christmas
Why can’t I find you
Why have you gone away
Where is the laughter
You used to bring me
Why can’t I hear music play
Um…what? Can’t hear music? You might want to check out a doctor right quick. Another way to read this: Faith Hill used to bang Santa Claus, and now she’s mad that he stopped returning her texts, so she used these lyrics as a thinly veiled metaphor of how pissed she is. Can’t you picture Santa sneaking out of her bed at 4 AM while she sleeps, slipping on his giant boots and red coat, making sure he flushes the rubber so she won’t try to catch him in a bogus pregnancy? Yeah, that kind of thing DOES happen out there fellas, so watch your backs.
For me, that terrible song is now synonymous with sheer terror. You know how in Inception, when that Edith Piaf song starts playing and everyone looks up with a worried look on their face? That’s how I am when I hear that piece of shit song. To this day. Whenever it comes on the radio, I just assume I’ll end up getting a half-filled large cup of Dr. Pepper spilled directly on my shitty khakis by a five year old.
So when people ask me on Thanksgiving or Christmas if I want to go see a movie, I immediately say no. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it. I’d be too worried that someone will ask me to grab a broom and clean a theater. Or maybe they’ll ask that I jump behind the concession stand and scoop some popcorn into a bag while some ungrateful 5 year old bounces Whoppers off my forehead. When you go to the movies this holiday season, make sure you go easy on the guy getting your popcorn. He may never felt what I felt, but everyone has their own personal Grinch.
And for Frosty’s sake, throw away your garbage.