Ms Rods ‘n’ Cones (2)

Reappears in January …

She’s back. Rods ‘n’ cones lady comes in with two blue large handbags of equal size but different texture. Are her eye’s rods ‘ n’ cones powerful enough to tell that they’re slightly mismatched shades of blue, coming too close to a clash? But rods ‘n’ cones makes her own distinctive point. And maybe, I suspect, for her the point is not co- ordination, but boldness. She stands out in her crookedness . The impossibility of her as a continuous, surviving being is manifest in the way that her ragged trunk weighs down on a pin- thin sharp pointed kitten heel. The shoe is like a derelict casino, crushing down on its supporting slither of column. Like the relationship between body and shoe, Ms rods ‘n’cones’ whole being sways, teetering on the edge of chaos. 

So at odds with herself, she holds a mismatched half moon and sun high on her face. Here is another impossibility that rods ‘n’ cones rises above: Her day/ night eyes beam out across the cinema foyer. She’s enlightening everyone with some pointless facts and questionings; “can you believe it that she’s never been here before?! It’s only down the road from the library where we spend all day. You must have seen this woman before?!” 

Rods ‘n’ cones is pointing to her new found companion from the library : a short , plump, draggy dressed Indian woman. I do believe that this woman has not been to this cinema before because she’s on a photo taking frenzy. Even the grubby fake plants and menu holders are being snapped at and stored by this woman’s camera. So Intense with her photo action I thought; ‘is this the old blind friend?! Could she have been given the gift of rods’ n’ cones and newly entered the world of the seeing?!’ 

Desperate to preserve all of her visual ‘moments’, Rods n Cones’ friend valued the look of that menu holder, the beer mat, potted plant, and plate of chips more than any other customer did. Possessing an instant awe and fondness for things that she could see held magnificence, where others would disregard them for their dullness. 

To be a friend of Ms Rods n Cones, I believe you don’t need to be blind. Just numb to ‘the normal’, with a dulled sensitivity for the absurd. 


Messy Popcorn 

Customers are messy creatures with slimy habits; they love to litter. Amongst the weirdest and most horrible of the discarded belongings are: half a boiled egg, a piles cushion, toffees chewed and spat out, and a poo! A festering turd, a frikkin poo!! Someone took a dump in their seat and just left it for the usher to find. It was a secret shitter scandal! Who is this outlaw? A podgy, pongy woman with shark eyes and a jellyfish body was discussing ‘whether just to leave it?’with her sidekick friend as she skulked off to the NO EXIT.

It’s funny what people choose to do in that big dark room full of silent strangers. If it’s not totally silent we sometimes get complaints:

 “why do you sell that God awful popcorn??! People crunching to my left, munching to my right … I couldn’t concentrate on the film! It’s ridiculous that you sell tickets for a show and then also something that will completely ruin the experience you twits!”

This was an old man customer, ranting and all in a rage. Some people are all chewed up and ugly. When customers are spitting and heaving and clenching their fists and tut –tut- tutting their vicious tongues at me, I start to pop inside. ‘I’m a human being too!!’ I think. “I’m sorry you feel like that Sir/ Madame” I say.

I enjoy a moment alone in the dark of the cinema. I weave in and out of the rows of red velvet chairs, sweeping up the popcorn and picking up the coffee cups and empty glasses that have been left after a show. ‘Eurgh Apple core!’ When the credits are rolling and the customers have gone; it’s my time to be entertained. Now that it’s as quiet as it is dark; I can sing out the catchy theme tune of ‘A Bigger Splash’ (It’s ‘Emotional Rescue’ by the Rolling Stones). This song gives me that shimmery super star rush of good feeling! Ten minutes later when I go to clean the other screen, the melancholic soundtrack of ‘Youth’ is haunting the room. I’m ‘la la la – ing’ along, but oops! I’m not alone: A lady sits in the back corner, she pops up to help me pick up wrappers and crushed cans.

Customer : “I don’t know why people don’t stay to watch the credits anymore. In arts cinemas they always used to stay and watch all the names, right until the very end.”

Me: “yes I suppose people nowadays are all too hectic and in a rush.”

Customer: “No it was more that they would stay and read all of the names out of respect for everyone who was involved in the making of the film.”

As this stranger helps me to pick up the discarded bits of rubbish, I think; hey, here’s a heap of junk that doesn’t belong anywhere… ‘Where are your belongings Mr. customer?’

 I suppose the 10 wasabi peas that missed your mouth – their dispersal is not really your responsibility. Wine glasses: those that look maybe more than half empty rather than half full must no longer be yours. Ice cream mini tubs and mini spoons, dropped on purpose now that you’ve licked up all the cold deliciousness, and let that ‘ginger spice’ ‘ choc chip’ delight drip onto the floor. 

You abandon your disposable belongings by wedging them down the armrest or kicking them under a cushion. Please just put them in my hand and meet me in the eye. When a licked wrapper falls on the floor it seems to instantly fall out of your possession. Its an MC wasteland.

 With all this rubbish deliberately dumped at my feet; and the conversation with the kind customer at the back of my mind, I think: yes, it’s respect that has been crunched up and strewn across the floor.

Aspiring Popcorn

Since I started working at the cinema I’ve begun to mark time differently. The films currently showing act as dropped pins, temporal markers. significant life events correlate with significant film releases:

Stopped seeing Nico: ‘the Martian’,                                                                                                                          

Jen came to stay: ‘Brooklyn’,                                                                                                                                 

Applied to the civil service: ‘Suffragette’,                                                                                           

When I had a gushy hopeful feeling about Jonathan: ‘Carol.’ 

My parallel existence is this tracking device unreality of entertainment. As the cinema draws in the crowds for the dark winter, and the big screen thrives with spectacle and glamour for Oscar season; events in my day to day reality pitter away.

Maybe it’s time to move on. Gotta make a film poster for myself: advertise my good bits, my intriguing bits…. where are my sensible bits? Spinning off CVs for ‘bigger things’ I’m not sure that I want to do. Because what will they say about me when my credits roll? Cinema is an escapism, but sometimes when I’m working here I feel a little bit suffocated under a pile of other people’s popcorn.

Ms Rods ‘n’ Cones (1)

Ms Rods ‘n’ Cones

Appears on Boxing Day ….

Here comes a wild eyed lady. Parading the suave grizzly bear style of matching manky coat, hat and hair -all matted together and stuck in greasy clumps. She’s 20 minutes late for ‘The Lady in the Van’. Plonking herself down on a stool in the corridor, she drops her wheezy wheely suitcase and 4 massive shopping bags full of xmas gift wrap tat. (We’re talking  zoomed in reindeer face portraits on A3 size gift bags).

“It makes me very sad to come here alone. You see I used to come here every Wednesday with my blind friend. But she’s cut me out. She’s dumped me. We had a routine on a Wednesday. I’d pick her up from the home, we’d come here, then I’d take her out on my taste card. I was her only connection to the world of the seeing. She has no one. No you couldn’t give her those rods ‘n’ cones! Rods ‘n’ cones are what make up the eye you know?! If she got the operation and the gift of sight, that’d be it! She’d go over the edge. Couldn’t cope with colours and things. She’d kill herself ! Like her sister did!”

The thoughts of death and colour made Ms rods’ n ‘cones flash suddenly more sparky and wild! She sits and chats, and chats, and ruffles and forgets about her film. I offer to store her bags of shopping in the cupboard. “Oh no! Need to keep them safe with me, there’s millions worth of stuff here. My son has made it big time as a rapper!! He’s got a CD! helps me out. No leave the goodies!”

I imagine the tacky reindeers on the shopping bags raising a questioning eyebrow to this comment, scrunching up their polystyrene coats. She shuffles into the screen 40 minutes into the film. “oh shit!” she’s shouting “Is this the movie?! Is this it?? Oh  put me at the front!” Here is a moment when the real life person in front of me eminates the character on the screen (Maggie Smith playing a crazy old cantankerous woman who lives in a van). Wow meta reality maaaan? Popped out and multiplied did this magic wizard whiskered lady. What a woman! “No you couldn’t give her the gift of rods ‘n’ cones. The old rods ‘n’ cones would tip her over the edge!”