Amir and I went to see the final installment of the Matrix trilogy the other night. Going to the movies is one of the things Amir and I do, and I have to say it’s really a pleasure to have a child old enough to see the kind of movies my wife wouldn’t go near: you know the shoot-em-up action, sci-fi, and fantasy flicks my aging adolescent mind still craves.
Now, when I go to the movies, it’s for the experience: the big screen, the Dolby surround sound system. Otherwise, I’d be just as happy popping a DVD into my laptop.
The experience Amir and I had at the movies the other night, though, was pure torture.
If I had to call it, I’d say this was quite possibly the worst audience I had ever been in. And as an avid movie buff, I’ve been in some bad ones.
It didn’t help that I was without a question the oldest person in the auditorium. The crowd of mostly pre-teenage boys talked –no, shouted – through nearly the entire film. I’m glad they were enjoying themselves, but…
And then there were the cellphones. Constantly ringing. Followed by more loud talking. The kid next to me must have answered some caller five times in a row, each time belting out in Hebrew “I’m in the middle of a movie.”
Did it occur to him to not answer? Or turn the phone off? Never.
Did it occur to his parents not to buy him a phone?
There were times during the film that I literally could not hear what was being said.
I know this kind of thing is not unique to Israel, although I think we have it worse here than some places around the world. In California I once saw an usher actually escort a pair of incessant movie-talkers out of the theater. Now that's service!
And in North America, you can always change seats. In Israel, however, your place is reserved and Israelis take their seat assignments seriously. They’ll blab away for two hours on the cellphone, but they wouldn’t think of disobeying the seat rule. Go figure.
OK, I admit I’m what you might call an overly-sensitive new age guy. I don’t allow talking when we’re watching a TV show at home either. But that’s all in the family. And I can usually press the rewind button.
When it’s strangers, though, in a public place, I have to weigh my response much more carefully. Because you never know when the way you react to something is going to leave an indelible stain on your kids.
And herein lies the problem: what does a parent do when he is being driven to distraction…but doesn’t want to pass that bad trait down to an impressionable child?
If Amir picked up on my agitation, or if I flew off the handle and started screaming at some pre-teen to shut up (in my bad Hebrew no less), Amir could develop his own low tolerance for movie noise when he gets older.
What kind of role model would I be?
It’s not just in the movies, of course. The parent’s dilemma is constant. We are human. We just don’t want our children to know that.
Well we do, of course, but only the good stuff. Not our nutty, neurotic bad habits. You know, the things we do and know we shouldn’t.
Like drinking straight out of the bottle. The soda just tastes better that way. Come on, you know it does.
Or sneaking chocolate when no one’s looking. We tell the kids it’s for special occasions. So how come Abba gets to have sweets whenever he wants to?
How about arriving at synagogue late again because the bed is just so darn comfortable?
Or saying “just a minute” when I know with near certainty that I won’t be done with whatever it is I'm doing for at least another half an hour?
Then there’s remembering to turn lights off and should I even mention washing hands every time after using… no, better not go there.
You get the picture.
Not knowing which will be the behaviors that may send our kids to years of psychotherapy can, well, send their parents to years of psychotherapy.
And so I sat there at the Matrix and I took it. I didn’t call the theater staff, or wave my fist, or yell out “Quiet please!” into the cinematic darkness.
But afterwards, I blurted out my frustrations and the resulting parental quandry to Jody while Amir was in earshot.
“Really, Abba?” was his comment from the other side of the room. “I didn’t even notice.”
Should I brave the movies again? This week, the final installment of Lord of the Rings opens around the world…including Israel. Should we go the as soon as we can? Wait until the crowds thin out? Or hold out for the DVD? Click the comments button on the website or send me an email. I’ll abide by your votes!