Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned bucket of popcorn and which bean-counting stooge first thought of replacing it with the paper bag anyway? Yes I know, in the grand cosmic scheme of things it probably seems of little consequence, but is it really?
It turns out life is not just about the big events. In between the marriages and funerals and births and unnecessary wars in oil-rich Middle Eastern countries and promotions and moon landings and American Idol results shows, there is a whole lifetime of little things. Sometimes happiness is about the balance between the little pleasures of life and the little annoyances of life that fill the spaces between the moments that make history. When that balance gets out of whack, things can all go to hell.
They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, well it didn’t fall in a day either. No single event brought an end to the empire, it was incremental – just like the steady degradation of the movie-going experience happening right now. One day you’re a blissful Roman citizen enjoying the salad days in your THX certified, freshly built multiplex with stadium seating and cup holders. Your sandals don’t even stick to the floor. The next day, they start playing commercials before the movie starts. The day after that, you realize you can hear the explosions and gunfire of the latest Bruckheimer crap-fest coming from the screen next door. Soon, the ticket prices start to climb and you find yourself eating popcorn out of a low-rent, flimsy paper bag cleverly designed to always tip over sideways by a team of halfwits and brain damaged chimpanzees. Before you know it, you’ve been sacked by Alaric the First and Germanic barbarian hordes are wandering around, wielding spears, talking in their outside voices and expecting the audience to babysit their smelly, squalling, germ incubating toddlers during R-rated movies because, even with the massive tax breaks they get from the federal government every year for each and every one of their obnoxious, mewling, disease carrying hell spawn, they’re too fucking cheap to hire some pimply high school nose picker to spare us all the horror. The horror! Suddenly, the empire has fallen around your ears and you didn’t even see it coming. You’re just sitting there in the dark with your dork in your hand wondering where it all went sour. In the immortal words of Bill Paxton as Private Hudson: “We’re in some real pretty shit now man! That’s it man. Game over man. Game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do!?”
“Come on!” you say. “What’s the big deal? It’s still popcorn, right? What difference does it make how it goes from the concession stand to your mouth? Why do you always have to make such a fuss about the dumbest things?” Why? Because popcorn bags are a pain in my ass – that’s why. You see, the time-tested bucket is a stable marvel of human ingenuity. It’s right up there with fire and the wheel and wine and the printing press and the drive-thru and porn. You can hook it under your arm and carry your watered down, corn syrup sweetened Coca-Cola in the same hand, thus leaving your other hand free to grab napkins, open doors, present your ticket stub to the usher, scratch your balls, pick your ass or any other of a number of things your hand was designed for. You can own the world with your free hand! Try this with a bag and you’ll lose half of your crunchy, salty, golden nuggets of goodness before you even find your seat; a cinematic travesty on an order of maginitude nearly equal to Leonard Part 6.
Once you’ve found a seat, try removing your coat before you sit down. Go ahead, set the bag down on the seat next to you. I dare you. No matter how carefully you balance it, it’s liable to tip over or the seat could flip up letting the bag slide through the crack to spill over. For the next two hours, every time you move your feet the crunching sound reminds you that you blew 5 bucks – 5 bucks hard earned by sucking up to The Man for 40 hours of every week – just to decorate the theatre floor. Not so the bucket. No, the bucket is a rock.
How about when the movie starts? What do you do with the bag? You could hold it of course but this is inconvenient especially if you’re trying to drink and eat Milk Duds at the same time. You’ve got 2 other options and they’re both fraught with the danger of tippage: you can squeeze the bag between your knees or wedge it between your leg and the armrest. Forget about resting it on your lap though. You’re just asking for touble.
What if you get tired of grappling with it and set it on the floor for a while? It’ll tip over either on its own or when you reach for it in the dark half way through the movie. However, endowed with some kind of crazy Weeble technology, the bucket performs like a champ: hold it, squeeze it, wedge it, set it anywhere on your lap or set it on the floor and it might wobble, but it won’t fall down. The bucket is your friend. You love the bucket. The bucket loves you.
OK sure, it’s just popcorn – and in 1939 the Nazis were just looking for a little extra living room. And that mole on your back is just a mole – right?
Or is it the beginning of something much worse? Melanoma? World War II? The fall of civilization?
I suppose it’s possible and even likely that only a small minority of people share my problem. Maybe I’m some kind of spastic or even a retard (anyone who took gym class with me in school would probably take this for granted – I even sucked at badminton). Fair enough, but if they can reserve whole parking spots for people in wheelchairs and provide listening devices for the hearing impaired, is it so much to ask that they provide popcorn containers for the coordination challenged? And don’t try to woo me with the collapsible (key word) cardboard tray either. Surely the bag/tray combination is no more cost effective than the elegantly humble bucket and far less aesthetically pleasing.
Maybe the paper bag wasn’t the first assault and it’s probably not the final blow but it’s one more indignity; one more insult to civilization right up there with Police Academy 5, the changing of the recipe for Coca-Cola, RKO slicing The Magnificent Ambersons down to 88 minutes, Fox News and the Sport Utility Vehicle. They all fall somewhere in the massive, gurgling swirl that threatens to suck the whole goddamn business right down the toilet. I’m telling you right now: it might not seem like much, but one day soon when you answer a knock at your door and it’s Alaric the First holding a paper bag full of popcorn, don’t come crying to me.