Action at the Arbor

Milquetoast manager misjudges Michael Moore militants.

We’ve been trying to see “Sicko” for some time. Tried to see it at the Alamo when it first came out, but it was sold out an hour ahead of show time. Tried again today at the 4 pm matinee showing at the Arbor, the only remaining venue for it in town. This required, of course, leaving the distant burb in which we live to journey to another somewhat distant one, the Arbor theater on Jollyville Road, a distance of at least 10 miles – probably 12 – or about $3 worth of gas plus our time.

Arriving at the ticket window at exactly 4 pm, we were informed by the teenage functionary that the matinee showing of “Sicko” had been cancelled, supplanted by a showing of “Beverly Hills Cop”, reputedly in honor of the screenwriter who happened to be present. Problem was that there had been no prior notification in any public media that this switch was to take place. It was obvious that the management felt that they could get away with just telling everyone who showed up to see “Sicko”, “Sorry folks, now see ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ or shut up and go home like good sheep.” But this was not to be.

When Sally and I arrived, there were already about 15 disappointed customers, who somehow had decided they were due free tickets for their trouble. They had come all this way to find the rug pulled from under “Sicko” in order to show a movie starring a guy who just today was reported in the newspaper for having been declared a negligent parent to the child he has been unsuccessfully trying to deny being the parent of for the past couple of years. These frustrated customers included about a dozen Indians – middle aged women in sarongs and their husbands. They were being encouraged to stay and demand a complementary ticket by a fired up young woman, backed up somewhat timidly by her boyfriend. Sally and I immediately joined this impromptu demonstration with our usual gusto.

Initially, the manager called the ticket booth to say he would be out when he got “Beverly Hills Cop” running. A few minutes later when called again to see how much longer it would be, he informed us that he had a lot to do. One of our group responded by telling the teenage managerial surrogate, “Of course, we have nothing to do.” The young woman, her boyfriend and I, decided we’d wait inside the cool lobby instead. Once there we had the people at the candy counter call the manager again. More evasion, but we let him know we weren’t going anywhere until he came out with tickets for everyone.

Eventually, the little slime emerged – with 2 tickets which he used to try to buy off the young white couple leading the charge, saying all the while that such unannounced cancellations are standard operating procedure. They wouldn’t take them. I told him that SOP rap was b.s. and that he was going to compensate me and all the others for our trouble or we wouldn’t leave. He said I’d have to take it up with the district manager who wouldn’t come in until after 6 pm. I more or less put a finger under his nose and said, “That’s b.s. You’re in charge and you’re going to deal with this now.” He recoiled and literally ran inside the ticket booth. By this point the Indian folks were inside too and they began beating on the door he had just fled behind. A few minutes later, he suddenly burst through the door and headed off toward a darkened theater entrance at a near run saying over his shoulder that he would “take care of us”. I thought the cops might be on the way. I also thought that he would probably lose his job if they were. Sally said we should all sit down on the floor.

We never saw him again. After another delay of a few minutes, another underling emerged with free tickets for all. We all left smiling and slapping palms. The people had seized this little bit of power.

Maybe this manager guy had just moved here from Dallas. It was amazing that he thought he could get away with dismissing us with impunity and maybe he could have in most cases. But this was Austin and this was “Sicko” and the folks who showed up to see it were not going to be ignored or pushed around by corporate flunkies.

David Hamilton

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2 Responses to Action at the Arbor

  1. LOVE IT — you go, David & Sally!!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Comment from Leslie Cunningham:
    I learned tonight that the “fired up young woman” was none other than Caroline O’Connor, Legislative Director of the Texas State Employees Union. With a young union activist and an old SDSer, how could they go wrong?

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