Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Lord of the Colds

My husband had a day off last week, so the night before, I decided to sweet talk him into taking me to see the latest “Lord of the Rings” movie the next day.

Convincing him, however, wasn’t all that easy. For one thing, meteorologists were predicting a day so cold, just five minutes outside was supposed to turn everyone into giant Popsicles.

“Can’t we just wait till the movie comes out on video?” my husband asked. “The way they rush things nowadays, it’ll be in the video stores by next week.”

“But this is the kind of movie, a real epic, that HAS to be seen on a big screen,” I said. I didn’t mention, however, that seeing a 15-foot close-up of Viggo Mortensen’s baby-blue eyes (Viggo plays a king in the movie) was one of the main reasons why I wanted the “big screen” experience.

My husband finally agreed to take me to see the movie…a noontime matinee, for $6.

The next day, just as we turned into the parking lot of the movie theater, I decided I’d better make a confession, to ease the blow. “By the way,” I said as casually as possible, “the movie is three hours and 35 minutes long.”

My words nearly caused us to rear-end the car in front of us. “Three hours and 35 minutes!” my husband’s panic-filled voice repeated. “I won’t be able to move if I have to sit for that long without being able to put my feet up or stretch my legs! Rigor mortis will set in! And I’ll definitely need a bathroom break! Is there an intermission? Or will I miss a major part of the movie?”

“I’m sure there’s an intermission,” I lied.

There weren’t very many people in the theater, probably 30 at the most. My husband and I settled into our seats near the back of the theater just as the previews of coming attractions popped on.

As I sat there, I realized why most of the people in the theater weren’t at work. They were sick. There was so much coughing, sneezing and nose-blowing going on, the place sounded like a refuge for wild geese. I didn’t dare take a deep breath, for fear of sucking in thousands of germs.

The movie finally started and I tried to find a comfy position for the next three hours and thirty-five minutes. That’s when I got very (and I do mean very) upset. Just to the right of the center of the film was a big black line, running from the top of the screen all the way down to the bottom. And when the long-awaited first close-up of Viggo Mortensen appeared, the line dissected his face. He looked as if he’d been attacked by a slasher who’d dipped his weapon in black paint.

“Look at that line!” I said to my husband. “That’s terrible!”

“Shhhhh!” he said. “Just ignore it.”

“ I can’t ignore it!” I protested. “It’s too distracting! And it’s totally ruining my big-screen experience!”

To my annoyance, the line remained, and if that weren’t bad enough, a second line suddenly appeared on the other side of the screen. Now I had two to distract me. I spent so much time staring at those lines and giving them the evil eye, I missed the first half-hour of the movie.

And although the previews had been so loud, people out in the parking lot probably could have heard them, the volume on the movie was so low, I had to strain to hear what the characters were saying. One character in particular, a creepy little creature named Gollum, who talked in a growly whisper that made him sound as if he’d stuffed his mouth full of cotton, could have been a mime for all I knew. And I couldn’t read his lips, because he didn’t have any.

A couple sat directly behind us (even though there were empty seats everywhere) and the woman had a cold. I knew she had a cold because she kept sniffling and saying, “God, I wish I could get rid of this darned cold!”

Apparently someone must have told her that garlic helps ease cold symptoms, because she smelled as if she’d eaten Italian spaghetti, a pizza and a loaf of garlic bread for lunch, and then, just for good measure, had stuffed two cloves of garlic into her bra.

Her cold obviously made her breathe through her mouth, because puffs of garlic-filled air kept hitting me in the back of the head throughout the entire movie. By the time the movie was over, I had no curl left back there. My hair had completely wilted.

My husband and I walked stiff-legged, from hours of sitting, out into 350-below-zero weather and climbed into our ice-cold van. As I sat there, my teeth chattering so hard, they sounded like castanets, my husband said, “That first preview they showed looked really good. We’ll have to go see that movie when it comes out.”

I think I’ll wait for the video.