A few years ago, I had a job at a movie theatre in Southwest Ft. Worth, a place I affectionately referred to as "Murray's Theatre," as the projectionist there was, and incidentally still is, my friend Ryan Murray. In fact, he was the reason I got the job there in the first place. I was in college at the time, and still under the delusion that I would not always be employed at such low-level, low wage jobs, and so therefore took the job none too seriously. Not that I don't do the same now, it's just that back then I had less to worry about financially (i.e. no rent, no car payment, no three kids to feed, and no three d.u.i's to pay off), and I wasn't under any stress about getting fired. I took numerous days off, for various reasons, and was met with very little resistance from the general manager, a quite old for forty 5'2", balding shell of a man. Were one to look back at my schedule requests from that time (I'm sure this information is easily attainable from the corporate offices of AMC.), one would find such reasons for being off as "Building Pirate Ship," and "Going on Tour." Oddly, the former happened, but not the latter. At least, not at that point. I may someday revisit the Pirate story should anyone be interested. I digress.
The job at the theatre was not so bad. Okay, yes it was. It was horrible. Initially, I took the job because I was told that I could train to become a projectionist. That would be a sweet job. Of course, one cannot just become a projectionist, one must work behind the refreshment counter for a time, one must truly immerse oneself in the essence, the tao, of a functioning movie theatre to truly understand what it means, what it is to wind celluloid film through metal spools and past hot lightbulbs! You fucking dumb grasshopper. Regardless, I held onto hope, and put in my time as a refreshment server. "S'let me get this straight- because no one else has EVER asked for this before. I understand that you invented this brilliant technique- you want me to fill the popcorn halfway, right? Mm-hmm. Then apply butter? Then fill the rest of the bag? And then one more shot of butter? So the butter's evenly dispersed throughout the whole bag? Good sir, I am in your debt."
I got pretty good at the job, rarely stole money from the register, and even learned how to switch the bags of syrup for fountain drinks in the back so I could make the suicide drinks for the kiddies that utilized Twizzlers as straws. Why, I even worked there long enough to help train a crew of newcomers in the way of the concession stand. How long had I worked there? A month? Three? I don't remember, though I do know it was long enough for me to convince a new hiree that one of the initiation processes for working at a movie theatre is to have a drink of butter soda, a concoction I learned about from my friend Nick, who had also spent a good deal of time working for the theatre industry. Butter soda is nothing more than soda water (generally found right next to the Sprite button) with a few pumps of movie popcorn butter sprayed into it. It should be noted that hot grease instantly congeals when sprayed onto a cool beverage. It should also be noted how disgusting it tastes. Another fun thing was to have the new hirees wandering around the lobby watering the plants. The plastic plants.
But, as it usually does, humiliation of others soon grew tiresome, and I found it harder and harder to force myself out of bed on those early Saturday mornings for employee meetings that I knew were completely pointless and trivial, and I tried my hardest to find a way out of them. What could they possibly have told me? How to upsell a frankfurter? Fuck that. People buy hotdogs when they want a hotdog. Namely, when we're out of nacho cheese.
And so, it happened early one fateful Saturday that this very interior dialogue was traipsing its way through my likely cobwebbed mind, and as my unwilling eyes felt the sunlight prying at the four hours of sleep that preceded it, my ears became the catalyst that would truly be my Prince Charming, that which would fully rouse me from my slumber. I slept with my window open during that time, so I could hear the birds in the morning, so I could feel the breeze across my neck as I slept, so I could pretend that I was connecting with nature somehow. The birds in the trees directly outside my window were particularly loud that morning, and I remember being quite upset at first, until I realized that they had in fact woken me up when my alarm had failed to, and, had they not, I would surely have been late to my important movie theatre meeting! I simultaneously thanked and cursed the birds, and lay on my back in my bed with eyes closed, waiting for the sun to pierce my eyelids enough to force me onto my feet when- a louder bird than the rest. 'What was that? Oh, nothing. I have to get up. I gotta be there in 45 minutes. Goddamnit, why do I have to go to this stupid-' Wait. 'What the fuck did that bird just sa-' Wait. And right there is where my mind was made. The moment that I literally smiled to myself, agreed, pulled the sheets back over my head, and went immediately back to sleep. People, you can believe me or not, but I heard the bird directly outside my window sweetly sing, "Sc-ree-ew it! Sc-ree-ew it!" I never went back to the theatre. Except to watch free movies.
And then, for a few years, nothing happened. I did things, acquired debt, and found roommates.
Until yesterday, when I exited my room to get ready for work. I walked into the living room, and there, on the window sill, was a friendly sparrow, flapping its wings maddeningly against the glass frame in a futile effort to escape its climate controlled surroundings. I wondered what path this creature must have taken in its short life that could have put it in such a dangerous position, what with the three dogs that live herein that pride themselves on killing things in the yard and playing with said things on my couch. The dogs had already begun the hunt, and I knew it was only a matter of time before this creature's bones were crushed and its feathers strewn about my bathroom floor. I noticed the door to the backyard was opened, so I corralled it as best I could towards the kitchen, and eventually it flew out on its' own accord, with the dogs in-tow, and I quickly shut the door.
Five minutes later I came back into the living room, and there it was again, in the same spot I had found it not ten minutes earlier! This time I have no clue as to how it got in, and the dogs were more determined than ever to murder this helpless, yet by all rights, stupid, creature. I put the dogs in the backyard, and began trying to lure the bird out of the house with a broom. This was no easy task, as it became more and more clear that the bird simply did not want to leave. I must say that I would love to have a live-in bird, if I knew that I would not walk out one morning to find a beak at my feet. So, determined to save the bird from itself, I began an epic struggle with the broom to rid my house of the winged magnificence. Eventually, I did, and went about the rest of my morning with no mishaps or wacky adventures. I left for work, and about 45 minutes into an hour drive, I realized that I was missing my cell phone. Panicking, I searched my car at 75 mph to no avail. My means of communication was gone. There was nothing I could do. When I arrived at work, I talked to my girlfriend on my boss's cell phone, and asked her desperately if she could find my wayward phone by calling it with her cell phone when she got to my house. I received a call a short while later informing me that she had indeed found it by the very place that I had had my struggle with the squatting sparrow. Relieved that I didn't have to worry about trying to contact 200 people for their phone numbers, I went about the rest of my day with much less on my mind.
You see, for a while now, I have received much undeserved grief from my friends for my constant use of a cell phone that was given to me for business purposes- one that I don't even pay for. I shrugged off their annoying banter-"Sorry I have more friends than you. Fuck off." But, after just one day of being untethered to that which has, in truth, made my life much easier over the past year, my memory rushes back to the days that I never had a cell phone, and as much as I wonder now how I ever got along without it, I distinctly remember a time when I thought about how I could ever get along with it.
I shall never forget my savior sparrows, and a special place lasts in my heart unto this day for their spirits to nest, so long as they don't use the kind of trash to make the nest as their living counterparts do, like Big Mac wrappers and condoms.