Almost according to plan

popcorn spill
Image courtesy of Flickr

Lured by the promise of unlimited popcorn and free movies, I once took a job at one of those giant megaplex movie theaters. I was only in my teens, but so were most employees, and after only a few months on the job I was promoted to Team Leader. My first assignment? Prepare the concession stand for a regular business day.

I was nervous the day I arrive. I had never led a team before, at least not through a corporate mandate, and I certainly had never “opened” a concession stand. I didn’t even know who would be there to help me as Team Leaders were expected to keep the newer hires on point but weren’t responsible for assigning shifts.

Movie theaters feel quite a bit different before patrons arrive. For one, the lights are on at full brightness illuminating all the popcorn kernels, candy wrappers, or greasy fingerprints the cleaning crew missed from the night before. It is also quiet. Almost too quiet.

Another employee entered the lobby, making me jump. It was Sean. Sean had recently been promoted to Supervisor, a rank made obvious by the maroon polyester vest he wore and was technically my superior in this organization (the rest of us wore black). Although I had never worked with Sean, I was relieved as I took his presence to mean that at least one of us had some additional experience.

“So, what do we need to do first?” I asked.

“I was hoping you knew.”

You might have heard crickets chirping had the theater’s speakers, not at that moment, begun to blast a selection of top 40 pop tunes which would repeat on a loop for the rest of the day. We stood there equally dumbfounded for a couple more minutes, but no one else showed with a checklist of opening duties. Training wasn’t the theater’s strong suit.

“Umm, I guess I’ll sweep?” I suggested.

As we finished cleaning the floors and wiping down surfaces, a manager zipped by (they do exist!) “You need to get the butter ready,” he announced before disappearing once again.

Butter package
It definitely does not look like this at the theater and yes, you can believe it is not butter. (Image from Wikipedia)

Lamont loves coating our popcorn in butter on the rare occasions that we get to enjoy going out to a movie, but I’ve seen how it is prepared. Sean and I pulled out several jugs of congealed yellow paste resembling ear wax (really gross stuff), placing them over the dispenser as we continued getting the rest of the concessions ready. Ten minutes later, the butter paste remained firmly in the jar. Examining our handiwork, we realized that we hadn’t turned the warming tray on. “Almost got it,” we joked at our mistake.

The rest of the morning was filled with several other “almost” disasters, to the point of being comical. “Almost” became our inside joke and we were cracking up over our near incompetence by the time the first patron came through the door. Our manager might have wondered what was so funny, had he bothered to check on us more than a passing second, but the important thing was the patrons never knew that their soda had been two seconds from being pure syrup, or that at one point the counter resembled a mountainside avalanche as napkins launched themselves out of their spring-loaded containers.

In the right context, “almost got it” still makes me smile. Had the morning gone as planned, I doubt I would remember it today. It would have been just another day, boring and indistinguishable from the next. Instead, the day’s imperfections made it one of my favorite teenage memories.

With that being said, I have reached the decision to launch my second book, The Fair & Foul under the imprint of Axil Hammer Publishing this Fall. Are there still tweaks I could make to the story between now and then, an adjustment to the font, or layout of the cover? Perhaps, but, there will always be things I could improve. If it had to be perfect, you’d never remember it because it would never be published. While it may prove not to be perfect, I am proud of the story as it stands and look forward to sharing it with you.