In the Unites States, Pat and I rarely went to the movies, but now, it’s an indulgence to bask in English. For the first time that day or week or month, I understand every word, grasp the nuance, and laugh at the jokes. Other times, going to the movies is a thinly veiled excuse to eat popcorn.
In any event, our movie habit started when we moved to Bratislava, Slovakia. It lapsed in Budapest, where movies are often dubbed (versus subtitled) into Hungarian. Now we live in Paris, the birthplace of cinema and a city where nearly all films are shown in their native language. Movies are back in our lives.
Last month, Pat and I saw La La Land and Moonlight: two afternoon, mid-week movie tickets, two buckets of popcorn. But while the experience was identical, the second time, the bill was six dollars more expensive than the first.
“Check the receipt,” Pat whispered, “She over charged you.”
“No. Look. It adds up.”
Then I realized, the first time, we must have received the senior discount. For a moment, I wanted to return to the young woman who sold us the ticket, explain the situation, and pay the extra six dollars for the movie we had seen five days earlier. In English, I might have attempted this, but wedged between French and annoyance, I decided to keep my mouth shut.
Pat and I have been offered the senior discount for a few years now. At first, I blamed him since his hair is grey. Until one day a woman offered me the discount when I was alone. A few weeks later, it happened again. That afternoon, I stood in the bathroom, looked in the mirror and analyzed my face. Clinically. First, the natural state. Then, I pulled back the skin by my eyes, simulating a faux facelift.
Up. Release. Compare. Up again. I smiled. This person would never be offered the senior discount. Now if only I could figure out how to create this look nonchalantly, and while executing any other action (like reaching into my purse for my credit card to pay for our movie tickets).
I released the skin, sighed, and went out to the kitchen to make lunch.
This year we both turn 60. We’re retired. I’ve resigned myself to taking the money. It’s preferable to the uncomfortable conversation that ensues:
“I’ll take two tickets.”
“Do you qualify for any discounts?”
“Oh, there’s discounts? What are they?”
“Well…. (pregnant embarrassed pause) Student? Under 25? Or over sixty?” The young women (it’s almost always a young woman) stares back at me doe-eyed, as if any of these discounts might equally apply.
“Sorry, I’m not old enough.”
“Full price. No problem.”
Perhaps the tweener years are now passed. Perhaps I can find peace in this.
On this Wednesday afternoon, Pat and I entered the movie theater and selected two available seats amidst a sea of retirees and high school truants. Then, I noticed that we were the only people eating popcorn, a point we have since debated.
Pat: “I distinctly heard a man behind me chewing popcorn.”
While waiting for the ads to end, I noodled on health studies designed to figure out why the French are thinner than Americans and realized I could have wrapped that study up in two hours and for the cost of a movie ticket. It also explains why the sole ticket seller performs double duty as the popcorn merchant. (Or why when we went to our third movie, at the Pantheon, they didn’t sell popcorn at all.)
Then the film started. There Pat and I sat. On a Wednesday afternoon. At two o’clock. With nothing to do but eat a box of popcorn and watch a movie. And as I waited for English to flood the theater, all I could think was, ‘Where have the years gone?’