For the most part, I’m a pretty easy-going guy. That’s not to say I’m not easily pissed off. I just tend to avoid confrontation because it usually ends badly for me. I’m one of those who thinks of the perfect retort long after the argument is over. I’m pretty terrible at confrontation because I let emotion get the best of me and come across looking like an asshole. Now that I think about it, I guess I’m not so-much easy-going as I am skilled at keeping shit bottled up. Just ask my wife.
I usually try to avoid physical confrontation, too. I’ve been in two fights my entire life and lost both of them. I’ve almost never been angry enough to punch somebody and have managed to avoid being pummeled by anyone I’ve pissed off. I don’t think that necessarily makes me a coward; I simply have a realistic assessment of my meager fighting skills. What’s the point of scrapping with some angry asshole when I’m 90% certain of the outcome? Repeatedly smashing my own face into a brick wall would accomplish the same thing, and I’d be the one to determine when I’ve had enough.
So yeah, I try to get through life as conflict-free as The Dude in The Big Lebowski, with a couple of notable exceptions…
Over the years, I’ve developed an increasingly short fuse behind the wheel, a trait I must have inherited from my dad (who once coined the term, ‘dinkfuckers,’ to describe the legions of idiots allowed behind the wheel). I have almost no tolerance for dinkfuckers either, because unless you’re just learning to drive or completely shitfaced, operating a car isn't that hard. Sorry, dinkfuckers…if you act like a spastic Jerry Lewis behind the wheel, this dude does not abide, and will let you know with the blast of a horn and every middle finger at his disposal.
The other exception is at the movies. Unless you are my wife and kids, I don’t want to see you, hear you or know you're even there. I didn’t pay for your company and no one (including the people you showed up with) gives a rat’s ass what you have to say. If the movie needs a narrator, the director will provide one.
Speaking of narrators…Disney’s 1940 classic, Fantasia, was restored and re-released in theaters in 1990 for its 50th anniversary. Being that it’s a movie best-appreciated on the big screen, my wife, Francie, and I went to see it the day it opened. Even though the theater was packed, we managed to find perfect seats, right in the middle, and just far enough away from the screen to take everything in.
But all it took was a single douchebag to ruin the movie. A man and his daughter were seated right behind us. He’d obviously seen the movie before and wanted to share the experience with his kid. And that’s cool. I enjoy sharing films I loved in my youth with my own children. What wasn’t cool was this asshole’s need to explain every scene to his kid, spouting pretentious & inane shit like “see how the music and images fit together” and “just look at Disney’s use of color and shade to create the mood.” For Chrissakes, this was Fan-fucking-tasia. Not even LSD-tripping hippies who saw it in the sixties needed help understanding the goddamn thing. I wanted to move seats, but there was nowhere else to go, and even a few well-timed skunk-eyes from yours-truly didn’t dissuade this oblivious shitstain from his verbal vomit. By the end of the movie, I couldn’t take anymore. As the credits rolled, I turned around and sarcastically said, “Hey, thanks for narrating the whole goddamn movie for everybody.” The man shot me an indignant look like he didn’t know what I was talking about.
Since then, I don’t even wait until the end of a movie to protest some babbling butt-munch in the theater. The second they feel the need to add their own ignorant commentary, I have a small cache of retorts to end things right then and there:
- “I didn’t pay ten bucks to hear what you have to say”
- “Hey, the movie doesn’t need a narrator.”
- “You ain’t watching this in your living room.”
- “You don’t go out much, do you?”
- “Shut the fuck up.”
“Shut the fuck up” is usually the most effective. Even Francie used this one when we checked-out the special edition of Star Wars, re-released in theaters in the late 90s. Most of the folks in the theater were simply happy to see it on the big screen again, but a few teenage boys behind us assumed it was Mystery Science Theater time. When Darth Vader first appeared, one of these guys mockingly chortled, “Luke, I am your father.” Francie twisted her head around without moving her body and hissed “Shut the fuck up!” with the same venomous stare that has made me piss myself on occasion. These guys didn’t say another word for the rest of the movie. Even they knew better than to mess with my wife.
The more movies cost to see, the less I’m willing to put up with this. As much as I’ve tried avoiding physical altercations my entire life, at the movies is the one place where I don’t care how big & intimidating someone is. It’s important to remind them to shut the fuck up because they’re probably so used to talking in their own living rooms that they forget when they’re in public.
Francie has pretty-much been my only constant movie companion for 25 years, so I’m always more-than-comfortable voicing my displeasure at some Chatty Kathy without embarrassing her. However, my zero-tolerance talking policy was put to the test during a recent trip to visit her mom…
Francie loves doing stuff with her family, which means I end up doing stuff with her family. I’m pretty lucky in the fact that I actually like my in-laws, even though I never provided a real reason for them to be overly-impressed with me. And that’s okay. While I’m certain I’m not missed too much when Francie chooses to visit them alone, whenever I do tag along, they make me feel welcome, even during our annual 4th of July visits to her uncle’s house by the Columbia River when I always end up drinking too much.
Not too long ago, when trailers for upcoming summer movies began popping up, Francie was really excited for Disney’s The Lone Ranger. Personally, I thought it looked as appealing as a shit & anchovy pizza, the same attitude she had for World War Z (I took my youngest daughter to that one, and we both agreed it was pretty awesome).
Francie made big plans for the 4th of July weekend, as usual. After the traditional riverside party, she’d take her Uncle Art, a huge fan of westerns, to see The Lone Ranger, while I went with her mother to see The Heat. I love my mother-in-law, but we never really ever hung-out together, and the idea of watching a movie without Francie around was sort-of jarring. Still, this prospect seemed infinitely more appealing than watching The Lone Ranger.
|"Jesus Christ...was that you?"|
All of this makes me wonder how much more I would have enjoyed The Heat if it wasn’t for the old woman in the row behind us, seated with whom I’m assuming was her husband, daughter and son-in-law. Her shriveled old pie hole wouldn't stop moving, loudly restating in her own words what everyone in the theater just watched onscreen, or predicting what she thought would happen later (“Oh, I’ll bet he’s the one who did it!”).
I couldn’t stand it, but because my mother-in-law was seated right next to me (she didn’t appear the least-bit bothered by the babbling ol' bat behind us), I bit my tongue numerous times during the course of the film. Not wanting to make a scene, I reverted back to dramatically whipping the skunk-eye her way with obvious disapproval (even though the same tactic didn’t work on the Fantasia fucknut 20 years ago). Sometimes you can tell someone is stupid just by looking at them, and her face was that of a clueless idiot, staring up at the screen and saying whatever popped into her head. Her comments weren’t even aimed at anyone in particular. The old woman was simply talking for the sake of talking, not giving a damn if anybody was listening, or if she was irritating those around her. Like the jackasses who drive ten miles under the speed limit and don’t signal when changing lanes because the’re yakking on their phones, this old woman was oblivious to her surroundings.
But I refrained from saying anything for the sake of my mother-in-law, who’s far more passive about such social inadequacies than I am. Besides, we both still enjoyed The Heat, which is the first movie since Jurassic Park that I can say I’d like to see in a theater again, this time with Francie, my tried-and-true movie pal who loves stuff like this. If she were sitting by my side at The Heat instead of my mother-in-law, the old lady seated behind us would have shut the fuck up shortly after the opening credits.