Fourth Week:

Fathom Events. I’d never heard of them before, but they’re a nationwide cinema-event coordinator. Monday night, they were in a bunch of Raleigh theaters celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation with a making-of documentary and two remastered episodes.

Now, I don’t consider myself a diehard fan of ST:TNG (although, it is my favorite of the various incarnations, and, as you can see, I’m on an acronym basis with it). I mean, sure, I watched it on Spike TV during that long and awkward month I spent glued to my couch in between jobs, and sure, I bought the box set of Q episodes the day it came out, but…but shut up.

In any case, I’ve seen a total of maybe 25 episodes of the show, and ST:TNG aired a total of 178, so I’m definitely not one of those guys; you know the guys I’m talking about: nerds who can just recite off the top of their heads how many episodes ST:TNG aired f…for shut up. SO, I mostly went because I’ve never been to a special one-night-only cinematic presentation before. (Also, one of the episodes was the introduction of Data’s evil twin, which I’ve wanted to see sincenevermindshutUP!

And I didn’t know I was going when I got dressed that morning,
so my maroon shirt was just a coincidence.

First thing to know about the evening: it was approximately 55% advertising. Now, I appreciate the need for quality advertising, but let me just say this: if you are advertising how awesome a job you did remastering a show for its blu-ray release the next day, and you have to fill a 30-second spot, 3 60-second spots, a 2-minute spot and a half-hour documentary…you should commission more than five remastered scenes. I mean, yeah, those space jellyfish look really cool now that you’ve blu-ray-ed them, but there’s a reason Roddenberry didn’t make them recurring characters.

Let’s actually take a step back: I arrived about 45 minutes early because I’d expected traffic to be much worse than it was. Arriving 45 minutes early for a movie is what I imagine purgatory to be like; it’s too early to get into the theater, but it’s not enough time to go window-shopping around the strip mall, so you’re just sitting there, waiting. But there was a short line, and I hadn’t ordered my ticket ahead of time, so I headed for the window. As the man in front of me (who was wearing a regulation Starfleet uniform) got to the only ticket clerk, he half-turned, pointed at me, and said to the teller, “And I’ve got his ticket too. Whatever he’s seeing.”

Wait. What?

I thanked him, retrieved my ticket, and was so pleasantly surprised by what had just happened, I paid it forward and bought tickets for the couple behind me. (They, in turn, thanked me and immediately walked inside; they weren’t seeing the Star Trek event, and the good will chain apparently stopped there. Sorry, guy behind them.)

It was another first: I’ve never had a stranger buy my ticket for anything, and I’ve never bought a ticket for a stranger. I operate almost exclusively on the friendship barter system: you get me lunch, I’ll get you dinner, because we are friends, and that’s what friendship is**. But there’s an unspoken awkwardness about doing the same to/with people you don’t know at the movies.

But that guy wearing a maroon uniform changed that (if only for an evening). I walked into the theater (20 long minutes later), and was still mulling it over as the seats filled up. The place was fairly packed, and, as I sat in my otherwise full row, two members of a trio sitting one row forward got up to get more popcorn. For demonstration purposes, I’ll provide a diagram:

The maroon dots are diehard ST:TNG fans.
The dotted lines are the guests gone for popcorn.
The ‘ME’ is who you’d expect***.

A few minutes later, a father and his 3-year-old walked up and asked the solitary dot (woman) if there were two empty seats next to each other in her row. “These seats are taken,” she said, indicating her friends’ chairs, and the father and son looked a bit crestfallen and walked down to literally the second row in front of the screen (aka ‘the don’t-do-this-during-a-nosebleed seats’). The dot looked torn as she watched them go; she had just realized that there were, in fact, two seats open in her row. If she had only volunteered to move, everyone would have been happy. But the puppy-dog eyes were no longer looking at her, so she sat back and put it out of her mind…

…Until I, still riding the high of my Pay It Forward moment from earlier, leaned down and said, “Excuse me. If you wouldn’t mind shifting your three seats over, I’ll go tell that dad they can sit up here.” She looked surprised and confused for a second, but agreed.

And so the dad got to introduce his son to Star Trek on the big screen from the center of the audience.

A happy ending! (Although the kid seriously thought the answer was C.)

What did I learn this week? Well, first of all, I learned that Fathom Events is showing a Frankenstein/Bride-of-Frankenstein double feature in October, so I’ll apparently be driving back out to Raleigh for that. Second, I was reminded that it takes almost no effort to do something really nice for someone else, and that good turns are contagious.

…Also, that the actresses who played Troi and Tasha Yar almost had the opposite roles! How crazy would that have beenSHUTUP!

** A relationship built on mooch-ual respect.
*** Either Dr. Crusher or Dr. Pulaski, to preference.