47 miles of barbed wire
Ryan Summerlin October 5, 2012
Background: Sometime ago, I set a professional goal of watching the approximately 480 vampire films made in the 90 years between 1922 and 2012.
Foreground: On the screen in front of me, a kohl-eyed, busty vampire was hovering just above the exposed neck of a semi-clad, sleeping blonde. The vampire’s cleavage is inspiring although the fangs are a bit off-putting.
Mid-ground: What’s that chattering noise? Is it Ben and Jerry calling from the refrigerator? If get up to answer them, the Basset hound will steal my chair. Wait, it’s getting louder. It sounds like . . . it’s coming from inside this room!
I look up. Egad, it’s my wife! She’s scowling. Why does she hate my freedom? I scrambled for the mute button, the one for the TV; I don’t think my wife has one. I couldn’t remember if the Stepford Wives had mute buttons. Mental note to self: re-watch Stepford Wives . . . Yikes! Things were overheating in front of me. I pulled off the earphones, “What?”
Her voice was steady but hissing like steam around a tight lid, “You’re watching another vampire movie, aren’t you?” She looked at me, lips tightly pursed. I looked back and thought, “Gee, this must be what HD TV looks like. I should see if LED prices come down after the Superbowl!”
Her fearsome scowl brought me back into the present tense or, more accurately, the tense present. I tried to lob it back into her court, “It’s not like I actually enjoy this, you know, it was a solemn pledge to my loyal readers.” I was craning my neck, trying to see around her but she moved, vampire-quick, blocking my view.
Hands-on-hips, she was relentless, “How long does a movie last? Would you say about two hours?”
“Hmm,” I took a reflective breath, “lots of early movies were short, sometimes simply because celluloid film was so expensive. Other times they only had short stories to tell and it took producers and directors decades to decide upon general conventions about how to present the new medium to the audien . . . wait, you don’t care about any of this, do you?”
“Hmm,” she hummed back at me, “throw in popcorn and potty breaks, that’s over a thousand hours of wear and tear on the sofa. Does that sound reasonable? Have you thought this through? Who will dust you?”
“But I’ve already seen a third of them.”
“Yeah,” she said, “that cuts it down to 700 hours. Seventy, 10-hour days, right?”
I was still checking her math several minutes later but I forgot if the fingers on my right hand stood for hours or movies, ” But what if I were willing to put in a lot of overtime?”
“Overtime?” she said, “This is not some labor dispute, unless you want to wind up like Jimmy Hoffa,” she said, “if you’re so concerned about your ‘Loyal Readers,’ call both of them up and explain that you meant 20 movies or some reasonable number that will avoid bedsores.”
I’m light-years ahead of her. The new Hammacher-Schlemmer catalog has a DVD player that projects onto special eyeglasses that allow you the freedom of watching movies discretely and comfortably while driving down the freeway or chatting with the boss about your department’s recent decline in productivity.
Just when it all seems hopeless, technology saves us again!