Random Ephemera

I Went Outside the Beltway and Messed With the Space-time Continuum

The offer was somewhat enticing: A brand new Cineplex, the Santikos Palladium AVX, opening May 16, was offering a sneak peek into their wonderful world of entertainment. The theater was not only letting folks immerse themselves into free bowling and snacks, but this new theater would be one of the first in the area to offer D-Box Motion Seats. These motion-activated chairs are the newest way for movie theaters to milk more money out of moviegoers, promising a more interactive experience with seats that "jerk, vibrate and sway" alongside the action of the film.

While the rewards seemed great, the costs were equally aligned. Well, actually there was really only one cost and that was that this theater's public "ribbon-cutting" was in Richmond, TX and that is really, really far away. But alas, I fell for the idea of sitting in a seat that could potentially massage my back while I watched trailers for Iron Man 3 and The Great Gatsby while eating free Twizzlers.

But more than that, I felt a need to go outside the beltway. As someone who reports on culture in Houston, I know that I am all too loop-centric, and that needed to change. This week.

But I made a huge mistake.

The first telltale sign that the universe did not want me to exit its protective barrier that is the Beltway 8 was something that can only be described as a shit-ton of traffic. I should have you know that I work off hours, and on my favorite days of the week my morning commute involves putting on slippers and walking to my desk. So 610 to 59 to the Westpark Tollway at 5:30 p.m. was something I have never experienced before. It was psychotic to say the least, and I feel deeply for anyone that must do this everyday. I am sorry for you.

Right as traffic started moving, my gaslight turned on. For fear that I would run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, I pulled off at the first gas station I could. This particular Mobil station falls easily into the category of "where the hell am I and please don't die." As I quietly pumped gas, I noticed two gentlemen, out of the corner of my eye, whom I'm quite sure just stepped out of the backwoods of Kentucky; they also shared a 40 out of a plastic bag.

"Siri, where am I?" "I wish I knew, Awesome." (Siri calls me Awesome)

An hour later, I was within close proximity to my destination. "Keep thinking about moving chairs and free popcorn, keep thinking..." but I must have missed a turn somewhere as when I reached a traffic light, all four of the roads that I could potentially turn on had the same name, TC Jester 1, 2, 3 and 4.

And just when I was sure I was back on track, I was in the middle of a farm whose name was literally "Plantation." Had I driven back in time? Or was there a mystical ether trying to tell me something really important like, "turn around right now and go home?"

Obviously I had taken a wrong turn but within ten minutes was rerouted to the Cineplex. However, as my GPS told me I was getting closer and closer, the number of buildings became fewer and farther in between. The area where the movie theater is located is completely undeveloped with "coming soon" signs littered about atop mounds of bulldozed dirt.

All of a sudden it struck me: I was in Hill Valley circa 1955.

I had defied the laws of the space-time continuum because of crappy mobile chairs and I would get my comeuppance; I sort of already had.

The movie theater is gigantic and still under some construction. The enormous parking lot was filled to the brim primarily with trucks and by the looks of it I may have accidentally stumbled into a Humvee convention; they were everywhere. Didn't we collectively decide that these cars suck the life out of the planet? Perhaps Richmond had not gotten the memo yet.

A line that can only be described, as "ridiculous and I am not waiting on that" wrapped around the complex. I walked up to an usher, who looked exactly like the pimple-faced movie usher on The Simpsons, red bowtie and all, and politely asked him if there was a media list and explained my situation. He told me there was no such list.

"The line is moving really slow because they are only letting in a few people at a time" he told me, "you should just come back tomorrow when we are open for real."

Hmm... no, I won't do that because I live in the future and once you go back to 1985 you can only go forward, or really far back to the Old West. I'm sure I could have made a big stink, but that's obnoxious and by that point I just wanted to get back to the familiarity of the 610 loop where only every other car is a truck and grocery stores aren't all called Walmart.

As I wandered back to my car, which I couldn't find for a good ten minutes, it dawned on me that I may have really come from a different time and space, and perhaps I was put there to tell the people of this distant past how wonderful things were where I came from.

In the future, we have small cars that don't require Iraq amounts of gasoline. We don't wait on line for an hour to get into a movie theater that will open its doors again the following day. And we don't ignore the media because they may write snarky blog posts about your company.

I had learned a valuable lesson and in a sense, I was grateful for my misadventure into the past because the takeaway was paramount: don't go outside the Beltway.

I should mention that after complaining via email, which they do have in Richmond, I got an incredibly nice, apologetic email back and an invitation to return. I can't go back because as you now know it will mess up the entire 2013 timeline, but if you go, please let me know how those moving chairs are.

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Abby Koenig
Contact: Abby Koenig