A week deep into my occupation of the foreign land of Taiwan and I decided to take a walk. Jason has put up with me being his shadow graciously, but I thought I would give him a few hours respite from my company. (As pleasant as it is.)
I walked to the downtown district and caught a quick dinner from a street vendor peddling barbecue chicken and grilled veggies and washed it down with a Heineken from one of the inescapable 7/11s.
After taking a post-dinner constitutional, I was really starting to feel like I was getting my bearings on the neighborhood I’d been haunting. People seem to either stare at me or completely ignore me. But I’ve been pretty self-conscious lately, so that might be tipping the scale with too heavy a weight.
I approached the massive mall in which Jason, Forty (new friend) and I had caught a movie in the previous week and I decided to see what was playing. Feeling full of pep and wanting to work off the beer calories I had recently acquired, I decided to walk the 18 stories to the floor in which the movie theater sat.
I walked up to the ticket counter, sweating profusely and quite out of breath, sinking that self-conscience scale further than I had anticipated. The new Lars Von Trier movie was playing so I decided what the hell, why not get uncomfortable for a couple of hours.
The young girl at the counter was having trouble understanding me (my mandarin is still nonexistent) and failing to find anything to point at to indicate what I wanted, I fell into that annoying foreigner pattern of speaking louder and hoping that that will somehow get the point across. So around my fifth time trying to convey what movie I wanted to see, I was practically yelling “Nymphomaniac” at this poor girl and my self-consciousness scale had sunk to levels I hadn’t experienced since puberty. A coworker came around who spoke some English and figured out what it was I needed and asked me if there was anything else I wanted. On the counter between us stood a cardboard advertisement for gin and tonics and it hit my eyes like a mirage in a desert. Drinks at a movie theater? What kind of Austin/Chicago hipster twilight zone had I walked into? I ordered one, more like a question than a command, and was relieved when they smiled and indicated that what I had just done was acceptable.
The theater is pretty small and the chairs are more like La-Z-Boys and love seats. I take my (assigned) seat next to an elderly couple and sit in waiting. A young kid came up to me and asked for my ticket, then told me he would bring me my drink, which I had walked away from the counter without because I was tired of sitting there waiting for it like a grinning idiot. He came back with two large cups full of gin and told me it was 2 for 1. So I’m double fisting G&T’s, about to watch a very provocative movie next to someone's grandparents and I’m grateful that at least the chair I’m sitting in is comfortable. One of us should be.
I summarily sink both drinks and settle in for the show. Halfway through the film those drinks demand to be released and I get up to head to the restroom. As I walk in front of the audience in the small room my silhouette shuffles behind me on the movie screen and I make my way to the door. The door. That damn door. It looked like it belonged in a bank instead of a theater. Its giant stainless steel columns could have held Mordor behind them. (possible hyperbole)
I read “PUSH” in English above the handle and complied posthaste.
The door didn’t budge an inch.
I start rattling it and it groaned and clanged and refused to open and I got the impulse to admit defeat.
“Just go sit back down, Jay. Clearly this inanimate object possesses a far superior intellect."
But my full bladder stood defiant.
I sunk the plunger of the handle, but the catch mechanism refused to release. Every time I pressed it down I imagined the sound was akin to that of a brick being hurled through a plate glass window.
I imagined every set of eyes on my back. I imagined the little old lady leaning over to the little old man. “Maybe it’s an American custom to go berserk when you reach a door?"
The crowd was getting restless. They were ready to burn me in effigy.
Finally I felt it give and pushed my way through with relief. When I came back in, I made sure not to shut it all the way. Just in case.
After another gratuitous hour the film ended with stark shots of genitalia and loud German industrial metal being blasted through the speakers. I made my way quickly down the aisle and out that damn door and was greeted by an employee of the theater. He looked me square in the eye and enthusiastically declared “GOOD MORNING!”
It was 10:30 PM.
I grabbed another beer from the 7/11 and drank it on the walk home.