Sunday, January 23, 2011

Karmic retribution

Over the years, I have stolen exactly 48 movies, by virtue of going to the theater, paying for one movie, and then sneaking in to a second.

Thursday night, the movies stole back.

In fact, they lifted my wallet.

Which didn't actually have any cash in it. As luck would have it, I spent my last dollar on snacks just before the movie -- the first of two movies in one of these illegal double features I mentioned above.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So I went to the movies on Thursday night, intending to pay for Blue Valentine and sneak into Another Year. The times lined up perfectly, and I'd actually cased the joint earlier in the week to make sure both films were in the same wing of the theater. The Landmark on Pico has an upstairs section and a downstairs section, both of which have a ticket taker at the entrance. Once you're past the taker, you're free to roam from theater to theater. Upstairs, you even have a bathroom that's accessible, so you can do your duty between movies without having to cross the ticket-taker threshold. That's not true downstairs, which is where both movies were supposed to be playing. But I figured, if I really needed to pee between the two movies, I could purposefully march out and purposefully march back in. If I were stopped, I could present a legitimate ticket stub and explain that I was going back in to meet my date. See, she stayed for the end credits, but I had to piss like a racehorse. By this point he or she would scream "TMI!" and wave me through.

I say the films were "supposed to be playing" in the downstairs wing because they pulled a fast one on me. They shuffled which films were playing on which screens. You expect this kind of thing from week to week on a Friday, but they'd done it since I was there to see Rabbit Hole last Saturday. Another Year was still downstairs, but both screens playing Blue Valentine were now upstairs. And since Blue Valentine was my priority out of those two, it meant I'd need to watch Blue Valentine and a second movie playing upstairs if I wanted to pull off the double feature.

So I had to make a quick decision. I saw that The Green Hornet was playing upstairs with about the same start times as Blue Valentine. Normally, I'd buy the ticket to Blue Valentine and sneak into Green Hornet -- if it makes no difference in terms of the start times, you need to schedule the movie you're most interested in first, in case you don't make it to the second. Besides, I'd rather give my money, officially, to a small relationship drama, than a 3D superhero movie with bad buzz. But there was an extra variable in this scenario: the 3D. I needed to buy the actual ticket to Green Hornet (for a whopping $15.50) because I needed to get the 3D glasses. So I bought the ticket for the 7:40 Hornet and lined up a sneak-in to the 9:50 Valentine. Since the Landmark doesn't play commercials -- God bless 'em -- I was actually about a minute late to the start of Hornet, but I don't think I missed much.

[Pause for a moment to recognize the inadvertent theme of this double feature: There's a color in each title.]

Getting into Valentine proved easy. As mentioned, now that my two movies were upstairs, I had a bathroom to hang out in between movies. But I didn't need to hang for long, because one benefit of Hornet's excessive running time is that it shortened the window before my second movie. I spent only about five to ten minutes in the bathroom, enough time to make the ushers forget I'd come out of one movie when they saw me walking into another -- or so I surmised. And it worked. Or if it didn't, at least nobody said anything.

As an added bonus, the 9:50 showing of Valentine was playing in the Screening Lounge, unlike the 7:50 showing. The Screening Lounge -- there are actually two such theaters at the Landmark -- is a theater with only about 30 seats. And they're not just your regular seats. They're leather couches and other comfortable-as-hell accommodations. Given the lateness of the hour, the theater was less than half full, meaning I had a whole three-seat couch to myself.

And this, I think, is where the theater grabbed my wallet.

Losing my wallet was my fault, but it's easier to blame those couches.

Stretched out as I was, I had to remove a number of items from my pockets for greater comfort. I can't be sure, but this seems like where my wallet became permanently separated from me. But because I did have keys and phones and drinks and other items -- like maybe a wallet -- spread out in my available space, I scanned pretty thoroughly at the end. However, we're talking about a dark brown wallet against a black couch, in dim light. I totally could have missed it.

I didn't notice until this morning that I didn't have it, and for that I blame the multiplicity of other items I had with me, which also included my ipod, a pack of gum and a tin of Altoids. (I brought a ton of things to keep me awake, having learned from my experience of the Tron: Legacy/True Grit double feature, when I was fighting sleep the whole time.) In my day-to-day life, it's always when I've got too much stuff in my pockets that I leave something important at home, like my phone or my wallet. See, you don't notice something's missing. Which was the problem last night.

I did a cursory search of my house and the areas next to the driver's seat in the car, before deciding to just head in to work -- driving carefully, of course. Wouldn't want to compound things by getting pulled over and not having a driver's license. I was a bit worried, but not panicked -- I knew the most likely outcome was that I would call the theater's lost and found when the concierge got in, and they'd tell me they had my wallet. Nonetheless, I was clearly worried enough to call every ten minutes, until someone finally picked up at 9:45.

My heart started beating rapidly when the woman put me on hold to check. "Nope, nobody turned it in."


"Okay, I'd like to come there to check where I was sitting," I told her.

"Which movie did you see?"


"Well, I saw two. I went to The Green Hornet and Blue Valentine."

Busted? Nah. She never asked if I'd paid for both tickets. ("Of course" was going to be my immediate response).

That's the good news. The bad news has yet to come.

Driven onward by my increasingly agitated nerves, and unable to endure the slightest stoppages at traffic lights, I made it to the theater at quarter past 10. (Having left my office without even saying anything to anybody.) The concierge led me first into the couch theater, which I considered the likeliest spot. Nope, nothing. We removed couch cushions and shined flashlights. It was clean.

Now I started to worry.

Next stop was where I watched The Green Hornet. I expected the wallet to be wedged between the seats. It had to be, right?

Nope. Not there either.

I had one more trick up my sleeve -- I would check the bathroom itself. I convinced myself it was possible I'd set down my wallet while I was in the cubicle. (I didn't actually have to go #2, mind you, but I thought sitting in the cubicle was a better way to kill ten minutes than hanging around the sink area, looking suspicious.)

It was not there either.

Flooded by equal parts stress and defeat.

The concierge took my phone number and assured me that their janitorial staff always turns in lost items. I consoled myself, only slightly, with the notion that because there was no cash in it, there would be no incentive to steal it. Heck, because my wife is leading the charge to reduce our credit card debt, I wasn't even carrying any credit cards.

Which was really nice when it came to the things I had to cancel yesterday. I should say "thing" -- only my ATM card needed to kept out of the hands of potential thieves. I'm still in denial over the fact that I'll have to replace my driver's license.

Well, I guess it was just my time. I've narrowly avoided losing my wallet countless times in recent years. In most cases, it's fallen out of my front pocket while I was driving, meaning I'll find it either under or next to the driver's seat. But there is danger in that, because it could fall out when you open the door. Then there are the more concrete narrow misses, most recently, when I left my wallet in my company's suite at the Staples Center for the Roger Waters concert in November. I'd gotten all the way to street level before noticing, meaning I had to be led back up by various security guards, against the flow of traffic, before finding it wedged between the seats. There have also been several incidents at other movies, the most memorable of which was when my wallet fell out during Paris Je T'Aime at the arthouse theater in Encino. I didn't discover it was missing until 15 minutes later, at a coffee shop. I wound my way back to the theater in a near panic, before breathing a sigh of relief upon finding it. The other movie incidents were resolved more quickly, meaning I don't even remember what the titles were.

So you would definitely agree that I had this coming. And that it's a massive failure on Darwin's scale of adaptability. Having nearly lost my wallet all these times, I should know, by now, to be more careful in situations with a high potentiality for wallet loss. Having found it every other time, I guess I got complacent. I guess I needed this wake-up call. Next time it'll be something more important than a wallet.

And fortunately, my wallet really isn't that important a thing to lose. I still have my family and my health. In all seriousness, though, the most excruciating thing in situations like this is not knowing what you lost -- not remembering exactly what cards you were carrying, or what irreplaceable keepsakes may have been hiding in the folds. And on that front I'm covered. Last June -- probably prompted by a similar incident with a better outcome -- I had the presence of mind to do a "wallet inventory." That's right, I made a list of exactly what I was carrying in my wallet, and saved it in a Microsoft Word document. Sure, I won't have that bank receipt on which I recorded the frame-by-frame scores of my best game of bowling. But this is a perfect example of the kind of thing I probably should lose, just to clear out some of my static. Just as forests must burn every once in awhile in order to come back stronger, wallets must get lost, to help us expel the clutter from our lives.

It's just too bad I like my clutter so much.

Ah, well. Maybe those 48 free movies were worth the inconvenience of replacing my bank card and driver's license.

Still, karma's a bitch.


Mike Lippert said...

Good story. Last time I went to a 3D movie I kept the glasses so that I could pay for a regular ticket and then just sneak into the 3D screening because I will never pay extra for 3D again.

Prophasi said...

It's coming up on a year since I went through almost exactly the same shenanigans with a lost wallet, so I can vividly relate to the blow-by-blow of theater-checking anguish.

I'd been at a couple movies for the Florida Film Festival one night, and - like you - didn't realize till the next morning that my wallet wasn't in my jeans when I checked. So of course, I did the hurried check around the house and car and finally had to head to work, taming down my driving lest I get pulled over by the law.

Called the theaters for lost and found... nothing. Drove to both theaters, jumped lines ahead of festival goers, borrowed flashlights, checked seats and floors and even bushes outside... nothing.

And I'd had EVERYTHING in my wallet: credit + bank cards, cash, my 16yo DL with my mullet photo, even my social security card (ohhh, so THAT'S why everyone in the WORLD says not to carry it in your wallet).

A few weeks later I was sitting at home on the computer. I shift slightly in my chair and hear a *plop* on the floor, look down -- and whaddya know, there's my wallet. Dark brown wallet got jammed in the tiny space between the seat and the back of the black chair.

So I guess my point is, keep looking -- you might find it yet.

Then again, I paid for all my tickets.

Vancetastic said...

Mike - Good idea. This is a stupid question, but any 3D glasses work equally well on any print of the movie, right? I mean, maybe not the 3D glasses they send you in magazines in order to watch special episodes of various
TV shows, but any theater-quality 3D glasses, right? Just wondering if you have ever had a problem with that. (Actually, I thought the 3D in Green Hornet looked pretty good. Rest of the movie, not so much.)

Prophasi - I know, I'm waiting for that to happen. The problem is, there was so little time between when I got home and when I went to work -- we're talking 12:15 to 6:45, most of which I spent sleeping. I'm afraid this one may be a loss. But a guy can always hope, right? Thanks for checking in!

Mike Lippert said...

Vance - I have no idea but I suspect so. I believe that IMAX is different but the rest should all use the same glasses.