Going to the cinema in our little Sussex town is a lot like going to the theatre, in no small part because our cinema is a theatre.
When we find a movie worth going to--which happens about as often as a lunar eclipse--we have the luxury of sitting in the lounge with a pint and some nibbles before the show instead of having to hang around in a lobby watching teenagers play video games and trying to avoid buying an overpriced barrel of popcorn. It's civilized, and generally peaceful.
The theatre holds two performance areas as well as two movie screens but curtain times are generally staggered enough so large crowds are avoided. Expect on our last visit, when we inexplicably found ourselves surrounded by enough nuns to fill a convent, several dozen lederhosen-clad Brits and more than a few people dressed up as bright copper kettles, warm woolen mittens or brown paper packages tied up with strings. There was also a couple decked out
as the Austrian Alps, a trio of young girls representing DO, RAY and MI (one must assume FA, SOL and LA
were held up in traffic) and one lone Nazi officer who was roundly booed as he entered the room.
This was, of course, the audience for 'Sing Along With the Sound of Music', which was showing in the main theatre. Fortunately, we already had our drinks so we were able to relax and allow ourselves to be more entertained by this unexpected and free spectacle than we would be, as it turned out, by the movie we had paid to see.
At one point, my wife turned to me and asked, "Do you do this in America?"
I had to think about that for some time, and eventually realized something I found quite startling; I didn't know.
I'm still very much an American and looked upon as the local expert in everything that happens in the US, but four years is a long time and perhaps, while I've been away, you
have developed a penchant for dressing up as Mother Teresa and belting out show tunes (or maybe you were doing it before I left and I just wasn't paying attention). My point is, I don't have any idea what you people are up to over there any more. Maybe you've all adopted those things I take for granted here by now, and maybe the things I find typically British, because I first saw them here, actually started over there.
For example: Do your cars give you directions in an irritatingly calm voice ("You've just missed your exit, turn around at the next junction.")? And is your vehicle overly concerned about the weather? Does it beep and flash lights at you (assuming it can't talk) when the outside temperature nears the freezing mark (as if you're supposed to pull over and wait until spring)?
And what about your mobile phones? My last US cell phone did nothing but make phone calls; I can't believe
these days, that anyone under 25 would be caught dead carrying something that couldn't play MP3s and video games simultaneously, take photos and movies, surf the web and,
oh yeah, make phone calls. But I don't know; I only assume it's so because everyone here does.
When you go to the corner mini-mart, can you buy pre-made sandwiches in triangular plastic containers? Do you know who Jimmy Carr, Bill
Bailey and Billy Bragg are? Do you spend all your time playing Sudoku and watching Big Brother?
Is it now in vogue to wear your motorcycle helmet even when you're queuing up to pay for your petrol or buying a pack of fags at the off-license? To my eyes, anyone who is more then three feet away from a motorcycle and still wearing a helmet looks like a complete dork. But maybe that's just me.
Has direct debit caught on in the US yet or do you still need checks and cash to pay your bills? For that matter, do you still receive a paycheck? All of this is accomplished electronically over here and has been since I arrived; have you caught up yet?
Is every move you make recorded by a security camera? And I don't mean every move you make inside of a store; I mean every move you make while strolling down the sidewalk or enjoying a picnic in the town park?
Can you get a decent Indian take-out over there yet? Do you drive Smart
Cars? And do you still use dollar bills? (You do? How quaint.)
Does preparation for marriage involve the guest of honor being trundled off to a distant city for a weekend of misbehavior so raucous and outrageous that it often ends in fistfights and/or jail time, or do you still just organize the traditional bridal shower?
All of this confuses me, and that's disconcerting. After all, much of my humor these days is based on pointing out the differences between America and Britain. I'm starting to feel like Yakov Smirnov must have felt when the Soviet Union collapsed and took his stand-up routine with it.
So I'm left wondering just what you people are up to, but maybe not for
long. I'm going back to the States for my bi-yearly visit soon, and, this time,
I'll take notes.
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