Spilt Milk


February 2013
It’s a busy opening night and I’m in the lobby herding the animals (customers).

LADY: “Hey You!”

Obviously I’m the “you” that the demon (customer) is referring to. I turn around to face the demon (customer).

ME: “Hi, how can I help you?”
LADY: “You can start by wiping that grin off your face!”

At that moment, I wonder if shoving my head in the popper will get me workers comp. Surely the third degree burns and singed flesh is better than the encounter I’m about to have.

ME: “What can I help you with?”
I make sure to suppress any hint of a kind smile.

She sits there, her eyes burning a hole into my flesh. She says nothing, just slowly tilts her head down and stares at her brown suede moccasins. I call them moccasins because it’s the closest word I can think of to sort of describe the abysmal contraptions on her feet.
I don’t speak “angry silent glare” so I look at her quizzically.

LADY: “Well look what you did!” She points to her shoes.
ME: (confused) “I’m sorry ma’am. I don’t understand. What happened?”
LADY: “ARE YOU BLIND?! My shoes are ruined! You’ve ruined my shoes!”

Relief floods over me. Thank God, she didn’t buy them this ugly.

ME: “What happened?”
LADY: “I’ll tell ya what happened!” (She slams her tub of popcorn into my chest.) “You put butter on this popcorn and when I went to sit down on your LOW seats, I fell too quickly and spilled popcorn all over my shoes!”
ME: “Did you not want butter on the popcorn?”
LADY: “YES! Of course I wanted butter on the popcorn but NOT on my shoes!”
ME: “So you spilled popcorn on your shoes? Did you trip on something on the floor?”
LADY: “No. I didn’t trip. While I sat down the bucket tipped. Your seats are much too low. I doubt they’re up to code.”

I make a mental note to have the chair inspector come in tomorrow to measure the distance from floor to seat to make sure we are indeed, “up to code.” I look down again at her shoes. The shoes look soaked.

ME: “That’s butter on your shoes?”
LADY: “No I put water on them to clean off the butter. They’re not supposed to get wet. Now they’re ruined!”

Confused are you? Yes, well let’s recap what we’ve learned so far shall we?

This dumb biddy ordered a tub of popcorn with butter, paid for a tub of popcorn with butter and was handed a tub of popcorn with butter. She then proceeded to walk into her theatre, tripping/slipping on nothing but while going to sit, she spills her popcorn on her ugly shoes. She then proceeds to walk into the bathroom with her shoes that “can’t get wet” and soaks them in water. After water-logging those puppies, she finds me and here we are. Knowing that none of this is possibly the theatre’s fault, I act oblivious to the whole situation. She doesn’t like that. Not. One. Bit.

ME: “Oh Ok. Sorry to hear that. I can refill this for you now and we’ll get an usher into your theatre to clean up all the popcorn you spilled on the floor. Which theatre were you in?”
ME: “Huh?”
LADY: “My shoes are ruined! Get behind that counter. Open up the register and give me the $145 I paid for these shoes!!!”

Now to this day I still can’t decide which part of this story is more ridiculous. The fact that this lady wanted me to pay for the shoes she spilt popcorn on and then “ruined” with water, or the fact that she paid $145 for burlap sacks shaped as slippers.

ME: “I can’t take $145 out of the register to give you.”
LADY: “Well you get paid to work here right?”
ME: I nod yes. I’ll entertain her. I’m curious to see how far she’ll take this.
LADY: “Well then you’ll have to give me the $145! Somebody is paying for my shoes!”


ME: “Ma’am. I can’t replace the shoes you ruined with butter and water.”
HER: “But YOU put butter on the popcorn!”
ME: “Which you asked for.”
HER: “But not on my shoes!”
ME: “I can refill the tub for you but I’m not going into the register, or my wallet, to give you $145 for shoes you ruined.”
HER: “Well then, lucky for me my husband’s best friends with the police commissioner. You’ll be hearing from me soon.”

She just sits there staring at me.

ME: “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
HER: “Ya. Refill my fuckin’ popcorn.”

I take a deep breath in, my hands shaking as the adrenaline courses through my veins. I walk back to concession and refill the popcorn and place it on the counter in front of her.

HER: “You forgot the butter.”

I don’t remember what happened next because my brain exploded. It took weeks for the concessionists to scrape my cerebral cortex off the counters.




“Money is the best deodorant.” – Elizabeth Taylor Image

Imagine coming face to face with 1,500 human beings in a span of about 90 minutes with 8 employees and 2 other managers at your side. That’s 1,500 vs. 11. That’s about 136 customers per staff member, but since I was a manager no matter who the customer dealt with first…when they wanted to vent or argue or yell or complain or sometimes even cry, they weren’t content with just speaking to a 16 year old in a polo. Nope…they would utter the six words I dread more than anything in the world. The six words that still can make my insides crawl and my stomach turn…The six words, “Can I speak to a manager?!”

Now I’ve never listened to nails on a chalk board or cats being slammed against a brick wall…but i imagine those sounds are like listening to Mozart compared to those six dreadful words.

The memory is so vivid, just thinking about it now has me right there back at the theatre.

My blood pressure starts rising and I can immediately feel my heart pounding in my ears. Time stands still as I slowly find the will to turn around. “I’m a manager,” I say in a nice happy voice with a smile…a smile that will soon be ripped from my face as quickly as I faked it on.

“Well you’re obviously not a very good one!” And there it is. The beginning of the end. Of course I can’t respond the way I want to, the way I was hard-wired to respond when another human being treats me like a worthless cretan and pokes me while screaming an inch away from my face. God forbid I yell back at a customer to kiss my ass…something I longed to say every day for the 7 years I worked in customer service hell, heavens to betsy no!

“Well sir, I’m sorry to hear you’re unhappy. What’s wrong?” That’s what I say on the outside. But in my mind I’m reaching over the counter and slamming his head against the glass candy display case watching the blood drip into the Goobers (I do miss the Goobers).

“Oh you wanna know what’s wrong? I’ll tell you what’s wrong!! You’re concessionist charged my son $4.25 for a bottle of water! Don’t you dipshits know how to count back change?!” (Now please keep in mind these words were screamed at me with a generous amount of spit flying from the gaping hole in this asshole’s face.)

I brace myself. Because as always, I forsee the next few minutes of my life happening before they actually do. The guy’s pissed…obviously. But I know he’s going to be even MORE pissed when he hears my response. So I stay silent for a brief second…taking a breath and enjoying the second of silence before the storm clouds burst and set the world on fire.

“Well sir. (Yes I called the douche sir.) My concessionist did give the right amount of change. A 20 oz. bottle of Dasani water is $4.75. If you’d like, I can take the bottle back and issue you a refund.”

Yes my blood was flowing with adrenaline and my face a bit red…a casualty of being Irish. But I swear to Cher that how I responded to this guy was nothing short of nice and understanding.

How dare you.” The disgust in his voice sends a shiver down my spine. I start to wonder, have I killed a member of this man’s family? I must have to be looked at with the hatred that was in this fella’s eyes.

“Well sir, I apologize fo–” Nope, Marge. Good effort, great effort actually. But we both know you’re not getting another word in during this conversation.

HOW DARE YOU!!! Who the HELL do you think you are?! What the fuck gives you the right to charge that kind of money for a God damn water bottle?! A water bottle!!! Water is free! How do you sleep at night knowing you are charging good, hard-working Americans that much for WATER! It’s a disgrace! You’re a fuckin disgrace!!!”

He catches his breath and wipes the sweat from his brow. A little bit of an audience starts to gather around him. I retreat to that little place in my brain where I go to hide from douches like this and I play out the scenario how I want it to go —

As the man sucks in a mouthful of air to continue his tirade I hold my hand up to silence him. “Sir. Look at this suit jacket. It was 40 bucks at WalMart…$20 more than I had wanted or intended on spending on a God damn suit jacket I’ll never wear anywhere but here. These black shoes are from Payless, and although claim to be slip-resistant…I’ve slipped on oil/soda/butter/icee and face planted enough times in concession that I’m pretty sure I have permanent brain damage. My dress pants are ripped at the bottoms and this t-shirt underneath the jacket? … $5 at Old Navy. Now I can’t say for sure where a CEO shops or what brand suit jacket a VP of Operations fancies…but I can pretty much guarantee he doesn’t have duct tape covering a hole at the bottom of his right sneaker. SO please…let me just ask you…WHAT about my entire appearance or position here at a Westchester movie theatre, makes you believe that I have ANYTHING whatsoever in any form or in any way to do with any decisions regarding this multi-billion dollar company. Please! Tell me!

I have NOTHING to do with the prices so how dare YOU scream at me like that! You wanna know how they can charge $4.75 for a water bottle? It’s quite simple and takes very little, if any, knowledge of economics to explain. BECAUSE YOU IDIOTS BUY IT.

Is $4.75 for 20 ounces of water 100% ridiculous? Absolutely. We have a water fountain right outside your auditorium that’s free. Is it absurd to sell you something you can get for free at a mark up of about 1million%? Without a doubt. But the company isn’t stupid for charging it…they’re brilliant. You guys are the dipshits who buy everything we sell at this place! Because guess what…every week we get a shipment of 20 cases of water that go in our stock room and every week I watch as that stock is depleted faster and faster. It ain’t disappearing bro…it’s being sold…to you idiots who have already spent over $50 just to take your family to see The Muppets 3D which is probably going to suck anyway!!

So sir, turn that finger around and point it at yourself and look in the mirror as you spray spit all over the place in your fit of fury because if it wasn’t for you and all the schmucks in this town like you…the water wouldn’t be so expensive. I have nothing to do with it so take your anger and unhappy life elsewhere!

Of course I say none of this. I swallow a huge gulp of my pride, dignity and happiness and feel it flow to my soul, eroding it.
I apologize. I offer to take the water bottle back for a refund and I apologize again. It has to be over right?

“It’s because YOU’RE greedy! You know what you are?!”
“No sir what?”

Yep…that’s what he said to me…word for word. Clearly half the money made on 20 oz. water bottles lines my pocket and pays for that fancy 1996 Dodge Caravan I’ve got parked out back.

I watch him walk off in a huff as steam rises from the top of his head. Notice…he didn’t return the water bottle. He kept it, therefore continuing the cycle. Little does he know prices are raising a quarter soon. Haha.

And people wonder why I drink.