So, last night my wife, my son, and I went down to the local multiplex to catch Incredibles 2. (Good film, btw…). During the film, something happened that was…well, a little unusual.
About midway through the scene–a quiet family scene–there was a sound. Could have been a knock on a door, or a slap of a hand down on the table. Only hollower. Maybe thuddy-er. As I waited for the payoff on the screen, I heard another. Another pause. And another. Sound. Pause. Sound.
There was no payoff onscreen. My wife looked at me. I looked back at the theater. The adults were all looking around, at each other. In singles and pairs, some of the parents began to head to the screening room exit. I began to as well, when Lisa grabbed my arm. “Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m just going to find out what’s happening.”
There must have been a half dozen of us just outside the door. The hallway was vacant. Eerily empty. A couple of families were heading for the multiplex exits. One dad asked the question that everyone was thinking but no one wanted to say, “Were those gunshots?”
Jack joined me at the door. “Why aren’t the other theaters emptying?” he asked. I shrugged. One dad headed for the lobby.
It was quiet. It was weird, there should be some noise, right? And if it was something bad, wouldn’t there be panic, motion, screams?
It had to be ok. Our movies was in a quiet scene, maybe that’s why we were the only theater that had a congregation in the hall. I nudged Jack. “Let’s go back inside.” I wanted to try to diffuse this. Jack said he’d meet me back inside; he was going to the restroom.
Back inside, I found Lisa in the row in front of us, with the kids of another dad who had left. She was crying. And I suddenly felt…off. Why hadn’t I gone with Jack? What if?
The adults started to return in a wave. The dad from the row in front of us came back, muttered something about firecrackers, thanked Lisa and we went back to watching the movie.
Jack came back a few minutes later with a little more info: fireworks outside the theater according to the police from a woman who had dialed 911 worried of a shooter.
This is the world in which we live. A world where we jump to the conclusion of mass shootings. A world in which lifeguards are trained in active shooter situations and triage of victims, as Jack told us afterwards. A world in which “investigate” and “shelter in place” become immediate options.
I had gone out because there had been pauses–relatively long ones–between single sounds. Had they been in bursts like an automatic weapon, I would not have left the theater.
This is a strange world. One in which death is all around, and yet one that gives the average person a pretty cavalier and unpanicked outlook about it.
And it got me thinking.
Is this what the Elizabethans felt like?
Have the last few centuries given us a false feeling of safety in the theater? Has this made the violence in the plays somehow less urgent? Should we then approach plays (the making of them, not necessarily the seeing of them) somehow differently to account for this new world?
I don’t know.