Yesterday, The Teenager came with me to see M3GAN, which I had an interest in because of an episode of NPR’s podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour.
The weather had turned rainy and dreary, making the cold January dusk seem later and more ominous than it was.
And when we walked into Regal– there was no one in the lobby except one employee behind the concession stand desperately trying to find things to do. (We scanned my Regal loyalty card and it said my visits were at negative four. That amused me. I attend about once movie a year, and I think the last one the Teenager bought the tickets online because it was her movie.)
The big sign in the outdoor-facing booth where viewers used to queue as little as three years ago (I remember because it was one of my few sad post-break-up attempts at a Tinder date) read “Buy Tickets at Concession Stand” but the little room stood so oddly barren and the theater so damn dark I thought I had entered The Walking Dead and was about to try and loot the place for stale Jujyfruits and processed nacho cheese sauce (two of my favorites). Excuse the extreme run-on sentence because it’s Saturday morning and I’ve been trying to write this since Thursday night and now I’m getting swept up in the mood.
When I googled my spelling of Jujyfruits, this clip came up and I did not watch Seinfeld “back in the day” and I love a fresh Jujyfruit, I had to watch it. Let me share:
The Teenager, as I paid for the tickets, surveyed the concession menu and grimaced. I could tell by her body language that the prices had been a sucker punch. She asked me if I had a quarter as we traversed the long, empty (and silent) corridor to the last theater in the corner. I had one, and she had been obsessing for days about an everlasting gobstopper. I gave her my quarter and she raced to the boxy red gumball machines and moaned when she discovered her sugar fix of choice was fifty cents.
I suggested she go to the car for a second quarter, which she did after much deliberation. I handed her her ticket and opened the door to the very empty theater.
I forgot to check my tickets for seat numbers. I’m “of that age” that this assigned seats at the movies doesn’t make sense to me. I plop my butt in a chair and receive a text from The Teenager.
“The car is locked.”
I heard the theater door open and I was about to toss the fob at her when I realized it was a rather rotund man with a soda and a vat of popcorn the size of my head (including my frizzy shoulder-length curls) walked in. And he sat just enough behind me that I could hear his chewing and have that cozy feeling that the dog had come to the movies with us.
The Teenager returned and I offered the keys and she announced that she had surrendered the hunt for the confection. She asked what seat was hers. She looked at her ticket and pointed out we should have been exactly one seat over on the other side of the aisle. I thought it pretty impressive I had almost selected the seat the lovely person at the concession stand had assigned to us. And, my anxiety made me debate for the next ten minutes whether we needed to move to the other side of the aisle in the empty theater. I stayed put. And no one else came into the theater so it was not an issue.
And this was when the theater lit up with an advertisement that they needed employees, and I may have chortled.
“To do what?” I asked the teenager.
Now I fully intend to write a review of the movie, and I hope my brain can do a good job as I forgot my journal so I did not jot down notes. I then thought I would make some notes when I surprised the teen with dinner, but as we go on with the story you’ll see why I did not.
And when I checked my email after the movie, I noticed Regal had sent me an email while I was at the film offering me fifty percent off a popcorn for National Popcorn Day.
The Teenager darted toward the door after the movie declaring that she hated it, in that same tone that she used to tell me how much she hated summer camp. That she attended nine summers in a row.
“Am I driving?” she asked. And there may have been a reference to what was for dinner.
“I figured I wouldn’t feel like cooking…”
“Do you want me to make something?” she interrupted.
“I was thinking of IHOP, I’ve had a craving for pancakes,” I said.
She was in. But when we left the parking lot of the enormous, confusing shopping plaza, it was pouring rain and my windows fogged up faster than the car could defrost them and my astigmatism made it impossible to see with nearly-a-half-century-old eyes. I turned into the opposite side of the highway and went away from the IHOP instead of toward. Traffic and eyesight meant we went almost half way home before we found a spot to turn the car away. But we wanted pancakes.
And not comforting, grill-greased diner pancakes, but sickeningly sweet IHOP pancakes. Meanwhile, the Teenager googles IHOP’s hours because we’ve had a long day at this point and I don’t want to fight my way there and learn they closed at 6 p.m. or even 7 p.m. (It’s about 6:50 p.m.)
But as she typed– she typed IGOB instead of IHOP and we have a good laugh about IGOB because that sounds like her kind of place. Like an all-you-can-eat buffet where you show up and they pile food in front of you and you shove it all it your gob. (Did you know: apparently gob is British slang?)
We made it to IHOP and we drive around the building through the parking lot. All the lights were on but the place was empty. We practically drove up to the front door and there was one person, hunched over the counter by the register, scribbling on a tablet, or maybe dead. The former Howard Johnson’s/America’s Best motel beside us was literally falling down. I tried to park the car nicely in the streaming rain and I totally missed the lines.
“I’m driving home,” The Teenager said.
“Please do,” I replied.
Now, the theme of Zombie Apocalypse was running amok in my head. I felt like I had entered a dystopian fantasy. And part of me wanted to give up and forget pancakes.
And I had Christmas cash in my purse that the Teenager had given to me and I had traded her electronic funds into her checking accounts because she knows I like to have a cash reserve. The budget is super tight the next few months and I have pledged to minimize use of my Amex until I replenish my savings. Especially if I am approved for the service dog wait list.
This week might be a week of last hurrahs.
We walked in and it became apparent there was one employee in the kitchen and one in the front of house. The hostess/server announced they were closing in twenty minutes, which really meant the kitchen closed in thirty minutes but close enough, right?
I suggested maybe we should go and the employee’s demeanor changed.
“Oh no,” she said. “You’re good.”
(Maybe she realized serving us would be more interesting than standing around doing nothing for an hour?)
The server, Holly as the receipt later said, started telling us all the things we were out of.
“We just want pancakes,” I said.
The Teenager ordered the cupcake pancakes and I ordered the protein lemon ricotta pancakes with mixed berry sauce. Tossing protein powder in pancakes makes them healthy, right?
As we waited for the pancakes, which may have taken eight minutes (we were in and out in thirty minutes, including the five minutes I watched out server hand wash dishes before coming to take my money), The Teenager (using her waitress eyes from her time in the business) spotted a very dirty five under a ketchup bottle. We passed it along to Holly. She was grateful.
The bill came to $25.63, which I remember because I counted out the 63 cents and The Teenager kept thinking nickels were quarters (kids today), and I left $40.63. Yes, I left a $14 tip. Hopefully I brought Holly some joy, or helped her pay a bill, who knows? The place was so desolate it felt like it was the right thing to do.
Then I went home to these two. Foster Louise the Tripod acts like FURR kitten Jennifer Grey is such a threat. But Jenny keeps trying to be friends. They cuddle me from opposite sides of the bed. Louise gets my right; Jenny gets my left.