Popcorn Professionals: Real Life Scenes from the Cinema
Popcorn Professionals is a collection of short stories I wrote about working in a cinema. Here are a couple of extracts. Please follow the link if you would like to read more: popcornprofessionals.com
The usher stands outside the cinema screens holding a bin bag and a brush, collecting the rubbish and impressions of the audience who walk by. Swarms of ‘oh darling’ WASPy wannabe Ladies who clink their ‘dry white, 2 ice cubes’ glasses and cackle at jokes about things that are ‘such a bother’. Will I grow to want my nails painted professionally salmon pink? Maybe a designer bra will seem ‘a necessity’ to push my tits back up as they start to sag. I hope I don’t eat a packet of gourmet popcorn and ‘oops silly me!’ leave the dropped wrapper on the floor for someone else…to maintain me.
I watch the ‘Silver Screen’ pensioner customers and wonder if I will think much about how I am old when I am really really old. The props of age must clutter up your carefree mind: Sticks, and pills, 3 pairs of glasses, coughs and shakes… making you moody! Maybe it all doesn’t matter, if you’ve still got someone holding your wrinkly hand (and a weekly routine lil’ dose of escapism at the ‘Silver Screen’). Perhaps time feels different when you’re old, as it takes you so much longer for your body to do anything. When you have so many memories that are compressed and reworked in your mind, do you dream more of what you once did, rather than (like me) trying to picture what you could/ should do? At the end of the day, maybe spending your free time (and my paid time) at the cinema isn’t such a bad way to go.
Staff on the RoofUp on the roof you’ll spot some half smoked ciggies; pigeons, poets and kisses (secret smooching only when it’s dark). The staff lean, huddle, perch, and if someone’s feeling a little flirty they may sidle up next to the guy hogging the step. Beer barrels are bystanders, and fruit crates prop up the awkward lemon: a newbie who doesn’t smoke but is there ‘just coz’.
Clouds do their cycle; white fluff to moody grey, disappear and back again. Just like us. Our collective feeling and tone of conversation changes like the weather pattern. The only constant is a crane: stooped in the near distance, bowing down to the hovering sun/ moon.
There’s a boom and slump of the cinema trade cycle throughout the day. We like the little patches of customer inactivity, when they’re all comfy and rustling in their red velvet seats. This lets us steal a few cheeky puffs of a ciggie, up on the roof.
A boy reads out his poem about the street cleaners in Japan, and a girl cackles at a joke that she’s heard before. At some point we all sigh when we think about the customers; their complaints, mess and malfunction all cranking away below.
A noisy fan extracts the air from the cinema and blows out the stuffiness into our private break space. There’s a handy poster of a cartoon blue blob monster, he’s the authority that tells us to ‘ put your litter in the bin’. But there ain’t no bin, so I’ll have to stick my gum to The Man, up on the roof.
If there’s one, five or even the intimate two, someone will always be a little lost in their private phone world. They’re escaping this escape by texting and ‘liking’, but we’ve learnt to not feel that their semi- absence is awkward, when we’re up on the roof.
It’s a real fantastical scene played out just above the unreal action on the screen. We’re all evaporated and floating in a situation where we don’t feel quite ourselves. Dried milk splashes and popcorn dust cling to our black uniform tops. We don’t look smart, but we’re all dressed the same, so that sort of brings us together I suppose.