I was in a movie theater, preparing for the show to start.
You know, arranging the popcorn, getting the straw in the drink, mixing up my pitcher of martinis, when the warning on the screen came on to turn off your cellphone under penalty of death and/or dismemberment.
Well, I figured, I've got another 40 years or so of life left, and I haven't even had the chance to burden my children in my old age, so I took out my cellphone and started turning it off.
Then I realized I was the only person in the theater. And when you're the only person in the theater, is turning off one's cellphone even necessary?
This was a new one. Ever since the early 1990s, when I lived with four other guys in a two-bedroom apartment and needed space wherever I could get it, I have occasionally gone to movies alone. I felt like a leper the first time I did. It just seemed weird. I just knew everyone was looking at me and wondering why I had no friends.
But this was the first time I went to a movie alone when I was really alone.
There are so many advantages to seeing a movie alone. The first is that you get to see what you want to see. There's no arguing between a romantic comedy or an exploding kung fu movie. There's no having to hear someone say that since you picked the last movie, this time we're going to see the serious, sentimental, girl-dies-of-cancer-in-the-end film.
Seeing a movie alone also means there's absolutely no question of perceived quality. That can be important. You can go see something that looks semi-intriguing, but you know it is likely to be totally incomprehensible and awful. And you don't have to answer to anybody.
That brings me to being in a theater alone with my cellphone. Apparently, I was the only person in all of central Contra Costa County that night who thought seeing "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" was a good idea. (It was between that and the new Sylvester Stallone movie, which looked like it had a lot of explosions but didn't feature Gemma Arterton in leather). There were a couple other good films playing that my wife and I had discussed seeing together, and I didn't want to get in trouble for going without her (thereby adding to the trouble I was already in, which played a part in me being at a movie alone in the first place, and that's all I'll say about that).
Another great part about seeing a movie alone is you can become that guy everybody hates in a theater. You can lift the armrest and stretch out. You can put your feet up -- which I actually hesitated to do, because I hate it so much when other people do it. You can laugh as loud as you want, which I did (and which tells you something about "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters," since it's not supposed to be a comedy).
And, yes, I could have talked and/or texted on my phone, but I didn't want me to think I was that rude.
You don't have to apologize to people in your row for crushing their toes when your kid has to go to the restroom for the ninth time. And even better, nobody is crushing yours when it's their kid.
Maybe the best part of being in an empty theater is that you don't have to sit there, contemplating violence, when the 17-year-olds in front of you won't shut their traps.
So I left my phone on and enjoyed feeling like I was doing something I wasn't supposed to. The next time I go see a movie alone, it probably will be in a theater with other people. So I'll be turning off my cellphone, keeping my feet down and remaining appropriately quiet.
And, hopefully, I'll be watching a better movie.