Hitchhiker’s Guide Review, Part One

April 27, 2005

Imagine a place where you don’t stand out because you are a geek. Seriously, think about it. The people around you like the same movies you do, listen to the same radio programs, read the same books. Some may like this one more than you do and you may like that book more than they do but you all understand each other.

I got to live it for a couple of hours tonight and it was interesting. I wouldn’t want to live that way, but it was fun to experience.

I had the great opportunity, thanks to my friend Ethan, to go see “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” this evening – it doesn’t open to the general public until Friday. I’ll post about the movie in my next post, but I wanted to comment on the theater outing first.

The preview show was at The Gateway near downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. The Gateway is a shopping and dining area that was built a few years ago after demolishing a run down area of town. A couple of decades ago I had worked for a week or two in a warehouse in that area – it was dingy and dirty then and it didn’t get better after that. The theater was okay; nothing great but the seats were comfortable enough. As a companion of a member of the press, there were no ticket stubs so when I went out to get a soda, I had to make sure that the two gatekeepers recognized me and were aware that I didn’t have a stub to get back in with. Not a problem; I’m good at being obnoxious in a temporarily endearing way.

First shocker – concession prices at The Gateway. Ouch. I don’t usually buy much at theaters since they are usually a bit more expensive than standard fast food fare but this was ridiculous. 3.75$US for a 32 ounce soda. Nachos were 4.75$US. A large popcorn was 5.75$US! Too rich for my blood. I was hungry, since I had run out the door to pick up Ethan and neglected to grab a snack but I wasn’t paying that much. I was thirsty so I grabbed my extravagant soda and headed back in.

Second shocker – access to the theater. It was way too easy to get in. The theater usher remembered me; I hadn’t been out of his sight so it wasn’t difficult. The door keeper wasn’t a theater employee and it showed; she couldn’t gather tickets from the people going in! She wouldn’t exert her authority so people were just walking in. Boy was she frustrated. She recognized me as well so I helped out for a second and stopped the stream of people intentionally, turned to the lead and said “She needs your ticket.” I was in a black T-Shirt (says “MySpleen” on it) and I’m not a small guy. She said thanks and I continued walking in. At this point I had presented no credentials and I saw four people walk in the theater unchallenged. Not good from the perspective of control. Not my problem though.

Third shocker – the wand lady. Just inside the theater door now stands a man and a woman with metal detector wands. It takes me a moment but I realized that they are checking people for hidden cameras. Problem is, they aren’t effective. Another problem is that either they aren’t using the wands correctly or, most likely, they aren’t turned on. I have a pocket full of change and keys on one side and a camera phone on the other. The man with the wand gives me the most perfunctory search, not even approaching me within six inches. No beeps. I turn to go and have my first encounter with the wand lady. She decides to give me a sweep as well. Eh, no big deal; it doesn’t take long… except she doesn’t step back when done. She just stands there, wand behind my back, very close to my right side. So, I step back. She follows. Hmmm.

She says, “Didn’t you hear a beep?”
“No,” I say and start to walk up the ramp to the theater. She is now walking very close to my side, following me.

Attempting to point out that we are now half way up the ramp, away from the door, I say, “Shall we dance?” and stick out my hand in a mime of a formal waltz. She walks a few more steps and I continue to walk towards the theater. We are less than ten feet from the theater and I’m beginning to get really weirded out when she stops and says, “You’re no fun.” She then turns around and walks back.

Now, in the interest of explanation let me say that I’m not an attractive guy, physically. I’m old, going bald, overweight. I don’t know what she was after, but I’m glad she decided I didn’t have it.

So now I’m back in the theater and it is mostly filled with people in love with this movie. There might be a few there because their Significant Other loved the books but it is filled with Fans. Some people had towels, some dressed in pajamas and robes. (After the show I saw one girl outside the restrooms with a stack of Douglas Adams books; I couldn’t help wonder if she was hoping for a signing of some sort and I didn’t have the heart to tell her he had died five years earlier.) I realize that I could start a conversation with anyone in that audience about Douglas Adams or HHGTTG and we could chat for hours about it.

Don’t get me wrong; I love finding things I have in common with people. However, as Ethan and I chatted before the movie I realized that I enjoy his company not for the things that we have in common as much as for the differences we have in our experiences and the things we like. I can learn things from him and hopefully he can from me as well; a better basis for friendship than we like the same book or two.

So, they threw out some t-shirts (we didn’t catch any), they gathered spare towels for the local Humane Society (we didn’t know and didn’t bring any) and tried to rile up a crowd that was already eager for the movie. I didn’t know at the time, but apparently the movie was sponsored by http://www.i-sci-fi.com, a local internet radio show about Science Fiction. I’ll have to give it a listen.

Anyway, I’ll review the movie in my next post.

Oh, I almost forgot about something else that was a bit amusing… A local daily newspaper in Salt Lake has a movie critic that I went to Utah State University with. We graduated from the same department, Journalism, and I don’t think I’ve talked to him in at least a decade. I’m not very fond of his movie reviews; they are rather negative of everything to the point that if I took his advice I wouldn’t see any movies. I did say hello and we sat a couple of seats away from him and his guest. I overheard him talking to someone about his review technique: “I go expecting not to like the movie so if I do I’m pleasantly surprised.” Well, it shows in his reviews. Imagine if I took that attitude to work; I’d be looking for a new job rather quickly.

(It was fun to taunt him that I knew who he was but he couldn’t remember my name; he was visibly uncomfortable when I started listing some ex-girlfriends)

[this post was edited for clarity and grammatical changes]

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