Spring Break 2016: The Staycations from Hell

Nothing says paranoia like the unflinching smiles of the service industry.

By Molly Burke, University of Texas at Austin


I start as early as possible to maximize movie quantity.

With the purchase of only one ticket, I planned to watch The Hateful Eight at 12 pm, Star Wars at 1510, The Revenant at 1715, and The Forest at 2000 sharp. I feel encouraged by my use of military time.

I arrive at 1150 bright eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to fuck the system. I queue up behind a squadron of retirees in a mutually grumpy exchange with the computerized ticket kiosk. It’s broken; I’ll have to actually interact with a person to buy the ticket. Cue paranoia.

From the brief intel collection I did the day before, I know over half the bays in this cinema are currently in use, but I count no more than eight people milling about the lobby. Cold realization sets in: It’s way too early for this mischief. A human ticket dispenser will surely note the one guest here under age 65. Grim acknowledgement: The mission is compromised in its infancy.

No matter, after several minutes of amicable shouting from the hearing-aid clad pair ahead of me, I approach the ticket desk.

The clerk is a short, sharp-eyed, clean-cut weirdo wearing his official polo buttoned all the way up to his double chin.

He apologetically checks my ID to ensure age-appropriateness, trailing off ominously about “these new R-rated films…” He attempts to bond with me over our ten-year age difference. I fail to grasp the common ground.

I’m directed toward the correct theater, located at the far end of the first of two main hallways. A quick survey of the marquees above each door tells me my next target is in the other hallway, on the complete opposite side of the building. Wonderful. I’ll be forced to cross enemy lines in plain sight. The Crazy Floorplan Guy on Reddit was onto something after all! Why did I not anticipate something like this?!

I made the foolish assumption that with school in recess, I could camouflage myself among hordes of other attendees as I switched from movie to movie. I spend the long walk to The Hateful Eight talking myself out of a surrender wherein I bolt out of the theater screaming apologies for my foul intentions. Thankfully, Quentin Tarantino’s masterful hands deliver me from the mental trenches.

The Hateful Eight has as much gore as Saving Private Ryan and all the grandeur of a Joseph Turner painting. If the film had a texture, it would be that of the tacky yet luxuriant velour track pants I can’t bear to part with. Or the soft, matte silicone phone case I once petted for half an hour in Best Buy.

Three hours and two gluteal cramps later, I’m jerked out of the reverie: Show’s over, it’s time to make moves. I mentally applaud my selection of a bandit flick to set the proper ambiance for the illicit sortie.

As I exit the bay, a member of the maintenance staff politely holds the door open for me and smiles warmly. A chill runs down my vacant spinal cavity. He knows!

All resolve melts instantly and as soon as he turns his head, I lunge for the closest door I can find and dart around spastically in the dark for an unoccupied seat. The operation is now derailed, but I’m safe from ticket nazis and have successfully snuck into a second showing. Unfortunately, it soon reveals itself as the single most depraved thing I’ve ever seen.

I spend the next forty-five minutes discovering that the light-hearted trailers for The Big Short were all misleading.

Cringing my way through a scathing exposé of big banks’ ham-fisted orchestration of the Great Recession is not how I want to spend any holiday. My serotonin levels plummet like so many Wall Street dominoes.

As the credits roll, I’m parked at rock bottom, having spiritually metamorphosed into Steve Carell’s miserable dye job. I emerge from the theater feeling defeated, thoroughly punished and in no mood to do any more swindling. Limping shamefully for the exit doors, I am already curling into the fetal position.

When I reach the lobby, I unintentionally lock eyes with the strange 33-year-old ticket clerk. In his beady perceptiveness he reads the entire saga on my face as I slither out the main entrance. I don’t need to turn around to know he’s fist-bumping the maintenance guy on another victory.