Sunday, February 14, 2010

Faith in humanity lost and restored

I should have known better. I should have known not to try to see a movie on the day it opens and I should have known better than to attempt to go anywhere in Charlottesville on a Friday afternoon. For some reason, I agreed to take Mr. McP to see Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightening Thief. He has been obsessed with the books, although so far he has only read the first one since they are impossible to get at the library. We have been trying to get the second volume for a year--a year!--and all copies are always checked out, with holds. He is getting a boxed set for his birthday.

And so we set out, about 3:30pm on Friday and immediately hit the mother of all traffic jams. But why would I even attempt to drive on a Friday afternoon in Charlottesville? We've lived here for twelve years, and one of the first things we learned is that every Friday afternoon, approximately ten million people gaily hop in their cars and drive like idiots. Where are they all going? I have no freaking clue. It's rush hour to the 20th power. I have spent the last twelve years *not* driving places on Fridays and today I broke my perfect record due to motherguilt and a ten year old boy who needed comforting after the terrible ordeal of having to confess to his math teacher that he'd lost the homework assignment.

We progressed at the rate of about an inch every five minutes, up Emmet St., which I once heard compared to a fallopian tube--an apt description. Charlottesvillians are crappy drivers, but at least they are articulate. When we finally got to the theater, more than twenty minutes late, we got the last parking space--the one that was already occupied by a snowbank. There was a fair number of people milling about in front of the ticket window. Great, on top of everything else, now we'd have to mingle with a crowd of mouthbreathing troglodytes. I could tell they were troglodytes from the vantage of my snowbank. Let's just say I have a talent.

We assumed our place in line. I was hoping that since we were late, the other people were buying tickets to other movies. More people got into place behind us, one of whom boomed a question, loud enough for the entire crowd, but possibly meant just for her friends: "Is this, like, the line to get in?" No, it's, like, the line to get your eyes clawed out by the irate woman in front of you if you assault her eardrums with any more fat-headed questions. She went on to declaim at length about how it was a two hour movie and did NOT have a complicated plot and so it didn't matter if they'd missed the beginning and anyway, she was gonna see this GODDAMMED movie no matter what. Then I saw a ballpoint-lettered sign, taped to the ticket window: Lightning Thief SOLD OUT. I couldn't decide if I should be disappointed at missing the movie or relieved at not having to share air space with the girl behind me, who was clearly the sort who talks loudly in movies and uses your seat back as a drum. Mr. McP, of course, chose to be disappointed.

On the way home I mentally berated myself for my inability to do supposedly normal things like see a movie on a Friday, without having a nervous breakdown. I was also irrationally irritated with all the people who had clogged the roads and filled the theater, and yet, I was one of them, so what right had I to be annoyed? As we neared downtown, I spotted a driver who had been pulled over by the police. In a city as small as Charlottesville, you tend to recognize the different police officers, and this one is one of my favorites. He looks like the protagonist of a children's picture book titled The Jolly Policeman. The driver, a forty-something woman, was standing outside her car getting a stern lecture from the Jolly Policeman. She must have done something very foolish or reckless, but she looked like a nice person in general, and who doesn't stoop to the foolish or reckless once in a while when faced with impossible traffic? The beautiful thing about this scene, which I was privileged to observe for several seconds as the traffic crawled past, was the face of the woman. She had carefully composed her facial expression to reflect seriousness and intense focus on the Jolly Policeman's lecture, yet despite the care with which she had arranged her features, it was obvious that her inner thoughts were along the lines of, "OH GOD, THIS SUCKS!" Indeed, her mental turmoil was emitting an almost tangible energy and something about the contrast between her demeanor with the Jolly Policeman and her distressed thought waves made me feel better about our disastrous afternoon. Here was no troglodyte.


  1. Once shortly after 9/11 when the security lines at the airport where hours long, we were at the end of the line in the Boston airport when this woman who may have been the same one in your story, looked at the line and asked the security guard where the line was for people whose planes leave in 30 minutes, and he pointed right behind us and said "Right there ma'am." I wanted to kiss the guy.

  2. Friday's traffic was sucktastic. It was that way at 2pm. I thought I'd be in between the long lunch crowd and the gotta pick up the kids from three different schools crowd. About 1/4 of the cars on the roads were from states further south. The heck? Romantic weekend in the snow-drenched capital?

    Coming home from Target at 3:54? Pulled up to my house at 4:54 and made my husband go back out to Barracks to drop me off for a 5pm coffee date.

    I hate that the Carmike doesn't have some sort of online ticketing where one can bypass the line. You know, fandango machines in the lobby or something.

  3. That whole experience would have made me super-crabby. I think this is partly why we never go to movies--it's a guarantee when you rent them.

  4. Yep - dealing with other people makes me a misanthrope. We generally rent/buy all our movies (although I buckled for Avatar), and ever since I discovered I suck at returning library books, Amazon has been my best friend.