Matinee getaway

One of the best things about being my own boss is that I can occasionally take the afternoon off and go to the movies.

Sure, people who have regular jobs can sneak away for matinees, too, but there’s always the risk they’ll get caught and reprimanded. Those of us who are self-employed can skip all that anxiety, as long as we recognize that we’re blowing deadlines in favor of "Spider-Man: The Sequel Redux VI." I’m usually fine with that.

The joy of a weekday matinee is the sensation that it’s a private screening. Most people are at work or in school, so I sometimes have the theater all to myself. At worst, there’ll be only a few of us unemployed idlers scattered around the dark theater, losing ourselves in the big-screen experience.

Going to the matinee alone is a deliciously selfish indulgence:

--No compromising with the spouse about which movie to see. I don’t have to suffer through a "chick flick" with lavish costumes and good acting and a plot and stuff. I can go to a "guy movie," which means all explosions, all the time.

--No dragging the kids along. As delightful as it might be to share the experience of watching "Shrek XXII" with enthusiastic children, it’s even better to go without them. And you don’t have to worry about getting "gummy worms" stuck to your clothing.

--No catering to others’ seating needs. When I go alone, I can sit squarely in the middle if I like, or on the end of a row, so I don’t have to step over people when I go for seconds on popcorn. I can even change seats, without worrying that I’ve lost my children in the dark.

--No sharing the popcorn. Concessions are where movie theaters make their money, so I always feel compelled to help out by buying the "Gigantic Buick-Sized Bucket O’ Corn." But that still doesn’t mean there’s enough to go around.

(An aside: Try this experiment. When the pimply kid behind the counter asks if you want "butter flavoring" on your popcorn, tell him "just a tiny bit," and see what you get. Eight squirts of the mysterious yellow oil. On another trip, say, "A lot." Eight squirts. Say "none at all," and he’ll sneak in eight squirts when you’re not looking.)

Solo movie-going means ultimate flexibility. You don’t need a plan. You don’t even need to know what’s playing. You can show up at a workday matinee at the very last minute and still have your choice of seats. You can enter the theater after the previews are under way and not worry about walking up your spouse’s back in the dark.

Regular movie-goers know that home DVD viewing has ruined theater behavior. Some morons sit in the theater and talk out loud, as if they’re in their own living rooms. When you’re at the movies alone, in an uncrowded theater, you can simply heft your popcorn and move away from the gabbers. This can help you avoid those pesky manslaughter charges.

I know some people have given up on the movie theater experience altogether, turned off by the expense and the sticky floors and the bad manners of the public. It’s easier and certainly cheaper to watch DVDs at home. But it’s not the same. Watching a movie at home when you’re supposed to be working just feels lazy. Escaping to a matinee feels like playing hooky.

And that’s worth the price of admission.

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