These Seats are Great
Before Fluff became available to buy. Before May Day appeared in Britain and mysteriously brought with it the one thing we British were never expecting, sun. Before I walked out of a cinema and declared Infinity War to be one of the best blockbuster experiences I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy, the universe taught me a valuable lesson.
You see, back when I’d booked the tickets for Infinity War, there’d been a little stress in our house. Well, that’s narrow that down. There’d been some stress in my head and my wife had been forced to live with it for an hour or so.
I’d been waiting to book tickets for that movie since Nick Fury had turned up at the end of Iron Man. I’d been waiting since Joss Whedon snuck a proto version of Thanos into the end of the first Avengers movie. Yep, as a comic book and a blockbuster cinema geek, I’d been excited about the cinematic version of The Infinity Gauntlet for damn near ten years of my life. So you can imagine the near nuclear meltdown that started in my head when the cinema we own loyalty cards for had an issue with their website the moment tickets became available. The showings were all there, but you couldn’t book them. It would freeze at every click of a button. It crashed as you selected the number of tickets. As you tried to use your loyalty cards. As you tried to select your seats. Every time, setting you back to the beginning of the process.
I was not a happy bunny.
I had the site open on my phone and my laptop and was screaming like a loon at both of them as they both continued to have the same problem. In the end, knowing that the Showcase in Leicester offered an XLR screen, I opted for that instead. I found the tickets in a matter of minutes and swiftly booked them before we lost out on decent seats. Luckily for me, everyone involved was happy with seeing it there and with paying a little bit more for the privilege.
“It’ll be great,” I remember telling them. “The XLR is basically an Imax and we’re seeing it in 3D as well.”
Man, how the time dragged as I waited to get into that cinema. I avoided every spoiler, every interview and opinion piece. I stayed away from the clips Marvel were releasing. I wanted to go in there knowing as little as possible. After all, I’d waited a decade for this. I didn’t want to ruin it for myself with only weeks to go.
Sam, who detests 3D, was not joining us, but she'd kindly offered to drop me and a friend from work over there. For the record, this friend has a cameo at the beginning of Something Needs Bleeding, but I’ll let him keep that secret until he’s ready to reveal it himself.
The plan was we’d leave work at five thirty and had two hours to get over to Leicester, eat and then meet the other people who were joining us. I was convinced traffic was going to be our biggest problem. It’d happened a few trips over to Birmingham, to use the old Thinktank Imax, which I still miss. It wasn't the greatest ran cinema in the world, but the atmosphere on a first night could be truly stunning there. A real theme park of a room, everyone ready for the ride.
Thankfully, we were lucky this time. The roads were kind. Even the ring roads of Leicester played nice. We got into the centre and parked easily. We opted for a quick KFC, which moderately backfired as the staff in there seemed to think 'fast food' was an ironic term. Still, for all my panicking, we got our food and got out with plenty of time.
By then I’d decided we were on a collision course with accidental spoilers. We were bound to walk past someone talking about the ending as we got to our seats. It was either that or our fellow cinema goers, whose tickets I had in my wallet, were going to be late. It didn’t take me long to convince myself that we were pretty doomed as punishment for doing so well already. Only we got in without having to dodge anyone leaving their screening and found our friends already waiting for us.
It all seemed to be going fine. We picked up snacks and drinks. We all had our 3D glasses. I was just starting to relax as we handed over our tickets and I could see the doors of screen 11 ahead of us. The XLR. The big screen, with the sharper sound and the large, comfortable seats. We were so close.
“Screen 9,” said the ticket guy.
“Screen 9, row J.”
“You mean Screen 11, right? We’re in 11.”
“Nope. One of you is in seat 11, but you’re in screen 9.”
Crestfallen, I was sent on my way. Baffled, gut punched, defeated. The others followed after me, asking what was happening. I tried to explain it, but it didn’t make any sense. I was certain I’d booked us seats in 11. Yes, okay, I’d been rushing and flustered and cursing like Brian Blessed, but I was sure I’d been on the XLR screen when I’d selected our seats. Now we were just in a normal screen. Just a normal, boring cinema screen. I’d failed us.
I started to lag behind as we went in. I cast one look back at the shiny doors to screen 11 before I followed after my group. I watched the happy, privileged people skipping to their seats with smiles plastered over their smug faces. I hated them. I should’ve been one of them. Now I was slumming it for one of the biggest nights cinema had to offer this year. I was in the wrong screen!
We had plenty of time before the lights went down. We found our seats, which were in the middle of the room.
Exactly where we should be sitting in the XLR, I thought glumly.
I tried to make the best of it. I tried to smile and make a joke out of it, but I couldn’t help but feel I’d known this was going to happen. Since booking the tickets, I’d known some storm was waiting for me on this horizon. I just hadn’t known what form it would it take. I hadn’t anticipated it being as annoying as this. We were across the corridor from where we were meant to be. We were metres from our rightful seats.
The lights went down, the adverts started. As we got past the irritating 20 minutes of TV ads and onto the trailers, I remember thinking that the XLR people were probably getting better trailers than us. They’d look better, anyway.
Then the lights fully dimmed. The curtains parted just a little bit to make the screen bigger, but nowhere near as big as an XLR screen. I sank into my seat and slipped on my 3D glasses as a group of kids piled into the seats behind us. They were buzzing. They were as excited as I should’ve been. They sorted out whose popcorn was whose, got their glasses on and one of them said something that completely taught me what an idiot I am.
“Lads, these seats are great.”
He said it was such total enthusiasm and he was right. One hundred percent right. On a night where cinemas were selling out of tickets across the world, a night where one of the biggest movies of all time was opening, we all had seats directly facing the screen. Not right at the back with teen dates. Not down at the front where some people had ended up sitting with their whinging little kids. No, we were where you wanted to be. XLR or not.
As the movie began, I felt like such a total fool. What had I been thinking? This was fine. This was what I’d wanted in the first place. I guess this has always been my problem, really. I rarely enjoy what I’ve got. I always think about what’s just across the hall from me. Success. Fame. Bigger houses, better wages. Holidays to exotic places. Local, decent comedy clubs or independent cinemas. Better, healthier bodies. Contented family lifestyle. A large, impeccable comic book collection.
If I put a movie on at home, I always spend a good few minutes thinking about what else I could’ve watched. I can’t ever seem to switch this wandering discontent off. I’ve always thinking about the greener looking grass on the other side and I guess, over time, I just got used to feeling like that. Until a chipper little movie geek showed me that I'm basically just acting like a spoilt moron.
So, I just want the universe to know that I heard it this time. I’m going to do my best to remember it. Come what may with new book sales or views. Or the live event we’re doing in July. Whatever happens with work or with our new house. Whatever I choose to watch or read. I have to always remember that I’m lucky to have what I’ve got. Things could be a lot worse for someone like me in this world. That's the plan, then. Enjoy where I am and not where other people are. I need to remember that these seats are pretty damn awesome.