So I bit the bullet Thursday night, and returned to the GoogolPlex — BayWalk's MuviCo 20 in St. Pete, to be specific — after swearing off going to the movies after dark on any night that wasn't a Monday or Tuesday. I hemmed and hawed about it beforehand, of course. I rationalized, telling myself it was still a weeknight, albeit the weeknight most like a weekend night, and that if I really wanted to enjoy the staggering computer-generated visuals of Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire, I had to see 'em up on the big screen.
But deep inside, I knew it was going to be the same old maddening experience.
And it was.
Somewhere between the drunken woman running up and down the rows of Theater 11, feeling each seat in a search for the perfect amount of firmness (this was during the pre-trailer advertising slide-show), and the teenage girl's cell phone ringing behind me (this was perfectly timed to coincide with the movie's third-reel climax), I realized where I was.
I was in Hell.
Every time I go to the movies after sunset, I'm treated to a vision of the afterlife that awaits me, should I continue down the road to damnation. And I can prove this, because every irritating, film-ruining experience I've endured dovetails terrifyingly with the vision of Hell laid out in the Inferno section of Dante's famous poetic tour of the afterlife, The Divine Comedy.
Circle 1: Limbo
Inhabitants: Regular, considerate folks who just have the misfortune to be film fans at a time of selfish, Godless behavior.
Punishment: There is no real punishment; those in Limbo simply must live forever with the knowledge that they are never going to be rewarded with a transcendent moviegoing experience.
Circle 2: The Lustful
Inhabitants: Couples who spend the entire movie loudly making out; individuals who ply their dates with alcohol prior to the movie; individuals who tolerate or indulge their dates' asinine behavior out of fear that making waves will reduce the odds of post-movie sex.
Punishment: An eternally frustrated quest for the in-theater hand-job; embarrassing pant-front wet spots; being vomited upon during the ride home.
Circle 3: The Gluttonous
Inhabitants: Those who spend the entire movie eating so loudly they drown out the couple almost having sex; those who hold up the concession line ordering a four-course meal for everyone in the family; habitual candy-package crinklers.
Punishment: Incessant gastrointestinal distress; having to look once every 24 hours at the pants that no longer fit; never-ending status as a social pariah when everyone finds out one's favorite meal is movie-theater fried shrimp with fake-cheese nacho sauce on top.
Circle 4: The Hoarders and Spendthrifts
Inhabitants: Those for whom commenting loudly on the exorbitant price of movie tickets and theater food never gets old; those who sneak in noisy or aromatic snacks (tinned sardines, anyone?); those who bring their infant and toddler to the last cheap show of the afternoon rather than spring for a sitter.
Punishment: Stewing impotently through it all, knowing they're completely right about none of this shit being worth the money, and never being validated; waiting forever for a $7 DVD player to hit the market, because that's still $4 more than it costs to manufacture them these days, you know; not noticing one's hair is full of popcorn and Sugar Babies as one goes out into the lobby because baby had a whoopsie; having one's kids grow up hating one for making them wear last year's off-brand clothing.
Circle 5: The Wrathful
Inhabitants: Those who publicly berate earnest but woefully under-trained employees; those who stand and yell at inconsiderate patrons, creating a much larger ruckus in the process; those who angrily shout advice to the less intelligent yet obviously fictional characters on the screen.
Punishment: Ulcers; never, ever getting second dates; a permanent inability to even remotely enjoy a movie, due to the distracting anticipation of a distraction.
Circle 6: The Heretical
Inhabitants: Those who go to good movies with their friends, but complain about the language and violence, don't pay attention and obviously wish they were watching a romantic comedy.
Punishment: Spending eternity waiting to fall in love with someone met during a quirky twist of fate; quickly becoming lost in any conversation about good movies.
Circle 7: The Violent
Inhabitants: Those who think that anything that happens in a movie theater is worth fighting about.
Punishment: Having to work as a roofer or car detailer when not in prison; never finding out how a movie ends; dying young, and in agony, as a result of weaving in and out of traffic on a friend's Japanese motorcycle while wearing shorts, a wifebeater and a backwards baseball cap.
Circle 8: The Fraudulent
Inhabitants: Those who tell their friends they'll be on time, but aren't, causing their friends to miss the trailers; those who tell their friends a movie is really good, when they don't know and suspect that their friend will probably hate it anyway; those who tell their friends they're pretty sure the gift certificates are good for every showing of every movie; those who tell their friends they checked the start times again before they left the house, but really didn't.
Punishment: Being the butt of incessant criticism, complaining and mocking; eventually having no one with whom to not enjoy movies.
Circle 9: The Ultimate Betrayers
Inhabitants: That loud, stupid, self-absorbed 19-year-old mall-gangster chick who thinks her cell-phone conversations are more important than the quality of life of the 10, or 50, or 200 other people who paid to enjoy the movie, not reflect on her popularity; and myself, for thinking it was going to be any different this time.
Punishment: We're each other's dates, for a night at the movies that never ends.