The Michigan Daily -Weekend etc.
There's just nothing quite like
working in a shopping mall.
Those mind-numbing churches to
the capitalist god of consumerism
can do quite a number on one's
perspective. Strapped for cash dur-
ing the dog days of summer, I found
myself in the rather dubious posi-
September 17, 199'
/ n V / Pl
dr.a. . . . . .X.N. .
tion of "Customer ServicO Re '
sentative" at a mall record store.
This potentially disastrous pre
dicament did turn out to b. quite
educational. I learned that rap mu-
sic is now the music of White ub-
urban America's Youth, ("Yo man,
you got that new MC Ren tape.
'Kizz My Black Azz' ?") and that
people really do like country music
("Oh look dear, a Garth Brooks
Christmas album. Let's get one for
the whole family!")
But the most important lesson I
learned this Summer was the true
meaning of the word "Alternative,"
thanks to the kindness of Tim and
Tamii Alternateen, a lovely couple
that found it necessary to educate
me on the subject. It wentlike this...
Me: "Hi, welcome to MusicHut,
can I help you find anything ?"
Tim Alternateen: "Like yeah,
where's your Seattle section?"
Tim: "Oh never mind, just point
me towards the alternative music."
Me: "Alternative to what?"
Tamii: (Quite exasperated) "You
know, Alternative. Cool music, like
the Cure and stuff" (gesturing
proudly at her $35 tie-dyed Cure
Me: "Well, um, the Cure is in
Rock under "C," right over..."
Tim: (Visibly aghast) "The Cure
is in Rock?! And no alternative
section? What kind of record store
is this? Let's go, Tamii."
Me: "No wait, maybe I'm just
ignorant. Could you like, explain
this alternative thing to me?"
Tamii : "You're the one that
works in a record store."
Tim: "Oh Tamii, let's help this
poor soul. He's obviously clueless
as to what's cool and what's not.
It'll be like a good deed."
Me: (feigning excitement)
"Great! Where should we start?"
Tim: "Actually, it's easy. If
you're hip, you just know what's
alternative. But there are some
simple guidelines you can follow.
Any band that's ever played at
Lollapalooza is instantly alterna-
tive, as is any band from Seattle."
Tamii: "And anyone that's on
MTV's '120 Minutes'."
Me: "So you're saying thateven
though bands like Soundgarden
sound like Black Sabbath circa
1972, and Ministry sounds like
third-rate Slayer with bad samples,
Me: "Does that mean that Black
Sabbath and Slayer are alternative?"
Tamii: (Horrified) "God no!
That stuff is heavy metal!
Tim: "Artists thatcanpoignantly
convey the hopeless futility of life
are also alternative. You know,
Morrissey, the Cure...
Me: "Oh, I get it! ThatlJoy Divi-
sion type thing!"
Tim: "Wasn't one of those guys
in New Order once?"
Me: "Yeah, something like that.
But if what you say about express-
ing hopelessness is true, then most
rappers are alternative."
Tamii: "Well, no, you've got to
he British to he trnlv nngt-ridden.
, c ,9
thought working in a movie By answering this question, I can walking up to a booth, being put on It'sjustsimpler to say, "Two for Eddie theater in Madison Ileights, Michi-
theater might be kind of really do something, I can really make the spot, and forced to recite aline that Murphy." gan that they never went anywhere
cool. After all, you get free a difference. I create that property so makes people choke under the pres- Smart-ass cashiers will then go to else. I admit, the service at our theater
movies and fresh popcorn valuable to Hollywood: word-of- sure. Not even the seemingly orga- an art film and ask for the star's name, is better than most others, but really
all the time. But only after a mouth. If all the cashiers around the nized folks who have read the news- as in "two for Judy Davis" instead of ...
summer behind the box office did I country united and resolved to tell paper and carefully planned their "two for 'Where Angels Fear to A fellow named Norm came in
realize the most interesting show on every customer to see "Stay Tuned," about three times a week. He saw
display at the movies is the parade of the movie might not have been such a every movie we had multiple times,
humanity that comes to see them. bomb. And in the case of low-budget and loved them all.
Anunwritten, but closely followed masterpieces like "The Player," ev- "Hey Norm, what did you see to-
code of behavior exists for all movie- ery ticket counts toward a potential day?"
goers. The process of seeing a movie profit. Hell, I'm partly responsible for t'"Mo' Money'"
sounds simple: go to the theater, buy Robert Altman's triumphant come-Y "Again? What is that, your third
aticket, perhaps buy some treats, then back! I matter! time? How's it hold up?"
watch the movie. Yes, it's a power trip of sorts. And "It's great. But when are you get-
Most people have no problem get- cashiers do gain a perverse pleasure 4 /ting 'A League of Their Own'?"
ting to the theater, and everyone knows from telling people a movie is sold "It's been out for two months and
the popcorn and Raisinets routine. out. It's got something to do with the we haven't gotten it, so I don't think
It's at the box office where the diffi- power to alter people's lives, just a it's coming here. Why don't you just
culties arise, little bit, just for a few hours: "Ha-ha, see it at the Mall?"
The first problem: which movie to tough luck, pal, you can't see this "Oh no, I only go here."
see? Surprisingly, most patrons of a movie after all! Guess you'll have to A nice fellow was nicknamed
movie theater simply wander in off make other plans!"Something twisted .' "Double Butter" by the employees
the street, with no idea of what's play- like that. r t because he always ordered "A small
ing. In these days of multiplex cm- After hundreds of attempts to con- cherry coke and a small popcorn with
emas with 15 screens, the choice is vince people to see "Howards End," double butter." Other people would
more difficult than ever. Though some only to receive blank looks, box-of- share their problems with us at the
people will ask a cashier for advice, fice people usually take another strat- / box.
many will just buy a ticket and hope egy in response to "What's good?" In One pathetic guy who always came
for the best. Others make the mistake the cashier's mind, the question be- to the movies alone said "It's my
of asking an opinion after they've comes: "By just looking at me, which birthday today" - on three different
paid: movie do you think I will like?" Judg- occasions last summer. A far more
"One for 'Encino Man."' ing a book by its cover can be tons o' tormented man explained to me why
1KW. , ...F.LUthit d dan iU
"That's six dollars, please."
"Six bucks ?! What a ripoff. All
right, here you go. Is that any good?"
"Oh yeah, it's great."
A gray-haired man wearing a suit:
"'Howards End' is fabulous."
A twelve-year-old boy: "What's
Man' isn't bad."
old girls: "What's
is funny ... and
'Far and Away' is
pretty good. It's
got Tom Cruise."
Once a cashier
masters this skill,
the next logical
step is to tell
they're going to
see before they
open their mouth.
"Two for ...
(taking a cigarette
out of his mouth)
ah, fuck, I can't
AEL JOHN WILSON/Daily remember the
"Yeah, man, that's it. How'd you
Another major hitch in the
evening can recall what they came to
Then again, it's not always their
fault. Many movie titles are so similar
lately that they can easily be con-
fused. The recent cardinal rule for
movie titles is that they be two words
(adjective / noun). Thus: "Deep
Cover," "Encino Man," "Unlawful
Entry," "Sister Act," "Rapid Fire,"
and "Patriot Games."
Titles that are too long are a sure
sign of a bomb: "Don't Tell Mom the
Babysitter's Dead," "The Gun in Betty
Lou's Handbag." Other names are so
stupid that people laugh, with embar-
rassment, when they ask to see it:
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
I noticed a few patterns in how
customers screw up a title:
-If the title begins with the article
"the," drop it; if not, add it. Thus "The
Player" becomes "Player"; "Boyz N
the Hood" becomes "The Boyz N the
-If the title is singular, make it
plural; and vice-versa. From "Cool
World," then, we get "The Cool
Worlds." "Patriot Games" becomes
"The Patriot Game."
One cheeseball came in and asked
for "Two for 'The Pirate Game."' I
have no idea where the hell he got
Only the blockbusters like
"Batman Returns" and "Lethal
Weapon 3" are immune from title
corruption.Even if apowerhouse like
Tread."' But even the most jaded the-
ater employee will inevitably fall into
the trap at some point:
"Two for ... oh my gosh, I can't
believe I don't remember the ... -
'Adjuster,' that's it - er, I mean
'The Adjuster.' Damn."
Enough generalizations. When I
became bored with observing the
filmic habits of our patrons, there
would always be
character to perk
up my day. These * :
are the folks who,
not, perform with
grace under pres- 0
sure when they
reach the box of-
fice. Like the guy "
who joked, "Is
there a discount . UC
Brilliant! I gave 2C m 6
him a discount discount?
just for saying D. ,yU
ne wanteu Lo see a comeuy:
"I need to see something funny.
What do you got that's funny?"
"'Stay Tuned' is pretty light."
"That's cool. I had to getout of the
house because my old lady's on the
"Um ... enjoy.your show."
But the Customer of the Year
award goes to the guy who said,
He went to see "Batman."
The patrons with true courage are
those that put themselves and their six
bucks at the mercy of a cashier's
tastes. For a bored college kid work-
Most of the
people who came
to the theater
about as much as
I did to work.
I ! _ _