We've all been there. The house lights are just coming up. The credits are scrolling across the screen. The empty Raisinets box has joined the unpopped kernels in the bottom of the giant cardboard tub. As we walk to the exit of the theater, we say to ourselves, "Yowza. That's two hours of my life I'll never get back."
What if we could, though? What if rather than sitting through painful dialog and pointless chase scenes we had been enhancing ourselves, improving our lives?
I don't know about you, but I've seen some unusually smelly films in the last year or so. And it's not that they necessarily offended with language, nudity or violence, but they did do damage to good taste, common sense and my wallet.
Can't Hollywood find a better way to spend $50 million dollars than on body function laughs? Isn't there a single screenwriter in Los Angeles who can write an entertaining script for kids that doesn't rely on easy jokes and the lazy writing of potty humor? Even a dimwitted columnist like me can write that kind of comedy. Seriously, I'm not afraid to say dirty diaper jokes have become my No. 2 biggest pet peeve.
With this in mind and with the new year still fresh, I've decided to launch an experiment. The next time I see an ad for a movie and ask myself, "I wonder if it's any good," I'm going to find out how long it is. Then I'll add 20 minutes of travel, 15 minutes of previews, and the five minutes I would spend wondering if the bottom of my shoes were too sticky to wear into the house.
I will note the start time of the movie, disappear into my study and not come out until I would have made it home had I actually gone to the theater. I won't do anything that is on my normal to-do list. No writing, no paying bills, no Internet "research" — aka surfing for funny YouTube videos. It will be pure bonus time, the precious minutes I would not have gotten back had I gone to see "The Wizard's Date Night With Poodle Spies."
I'm sure the first few minutes will feel uncomfortable as I look around imagining what else I could be doing. Maybe I will say a little prayer. Maybe I will say a really long, longer-than-I've-ever-said-before prayer. Maybe I'll spend the time thinking about one thing. One memory. One challenge. One opportunity.
The more I think about it, the more exciting the idea becomes. I can take a couple of hours and tell my sound-bite-attention-span brain to get over it. I'm not going to entertain you tonight. Tonight we will sit quietly and consider the deep things of life. We're not coming out of this study until life is better — or at least better understood. Certainly life will be better than if we had gone to a cheesy movie with no redeeming value.
Perhaps you're thinking, "But I like the escape. I like the mindless entertainment that enables me to forget the stress and mess of everyday life." Well so do I, and that's often why I see these stinkers in the first place. But what good is an escape from reality if it leaves you wishing you'd picked a different place to hide?
Maybe, like many of my ideas, I'll find the experiment a complete failure. It could be I do nothing more than stare at the wall and wonder who I can blame for the wackiness. Or maybe I'll learn something about myself.
Maybe I'll hear something in the silence that moves me in a way a movie about belching dogs can't.
Will you join me? Pick a movie and showtime that suits your schedule. Then don't go to the theater. Instead, go to the library or another quiet place. Meditate. Contemplate. Muse. Brood. Cogitate. Then take a few minutes at the end to write a quick journal entry and weigh the experiment's value.
If it goes well, you might remember that experience as the best movie you'll never see.