4 Creepy Unspoken Agreements We All Make With Public Places
We enter ourselves into unspoken agreements from the moment we're born. We establish them regularly with our friends ("Let us never discuss the time our dick tips touched."), our families ("What abortion?"), and complete strangers ("Hey, everyone on the bus: let's ignore the fart I just ripped!"). We need these unspoken agreements in our lives. They're like little trades we make with each other that guarantee we can all continue being happy as we agree to ignore a certain part of life we'd rather not think about.
We do the same thing with places, too. We all agree to set aside certain faults and inconsistencies just as long as we can continue going to the places that make us happy. What kind of places do we have secret agreements with? Well, how about ...
Planetariums: "Let's All Ignore the Hedonistic Drug Den That Is Our Weekly Laser Show"
The planetarium is a place of learning. It's an educational center that distills the often overwhelming magnitude of the universe and our celestial neighbors down to terms even a child can appreciate. The planetarium encases you within a dome on which all known knowledge about things greater than our own little pockets of life are projected. The planetarium is the closest we're ever going to get to the stars.
Well, the planetarium or one of these, depending on your definition of "stars."
But then, maybe once a week, usually on a Friday, that bastion of knowledge turns on some Pink Floyd and a laser machine, and the scientists and great thinkers that run the joint turn a blind eye to all the people ripped out of their fucking minds on drugs who come to watch. It's called a laser show, and planetariums must be aware that the typical Friday-night laser show audience is so high they think they're going on a personal journey through the cosmos in a funktastical wondership fueled by Led Zeppelin.
That's the silent agreement science museums have with their city. Seven days a week, you can go there and behave, be sober, and be a proper lover of science and the stars. Hell, bring your kids! And granny! That old bag'll love celestial bodies and exhibits on gravity and shit!
See? Granny loves it!
But Friday night at 10, leave the kids at home and slingshot some Ambien into granny's head, because Radiohead has something to say to you, the only language they speak is lasers, and LSD is your translator. Show up with your brain looking like a black-light poster and feel like Star Wars is happening in your face! Stare at a wall with flashing lights until your peaceful, meditative high turns into a rollicking fucktastical hellscape of a bad high and you're huddled in a corner, crying louder than the little kids you've freaked out with your freak out.
Your local planetarium: come for the knowledge, stay because the Bob Marley laser show is about to start and you just scored a dime bag.
Mall Food Courts: "We'll Forgive Your Abuse of Our Free Sample Tray if You Eat Here"
Being the typical financially strapped teenagers we were, my high school buddies and I had to get creative when it came to grabbing a post-school bite to eat. Our desperation gave way to ingenuity. We took to the food court of our local mall and collected free samples from Chicken Kitchen, Cajun Grill, the Asian stir-fry place, and that other place that we never fully acknowledged and as far as we knew served only toothpicks topped with chicken chunks of an indiscernible cuisine. And then we did it again. And again. And again.
Chunks of chicken on platters held by mentally vacant mall food court workers would vanish as we made circle after circle, slowly dwindling their sample supplies to nothing. After three or four rotations, our bellies were satisfied.
They're happy because they just stole $17 worth of chicken on toothpicks.
Restaurants in mall food courts must be aware that broke-ass kids are filling themselves with repeated offerings of free samples, right? There's no need to grab a sample and then head to Macy's to buy a new outfit to do it all again in disguise. You can wave hello to the person holding the platter and even introduce yourself and supply a detailed family history and the results of a fingerprint analysis proving that you've recently touched that platter -- and they still won't stop you from basically stealing their food. And that's where the unspoken agreement comes into play.
Every food court restaurant is surrounded by competition. They're competing with cheap cuisines for every palate. Add to that the fact that, regardless of the restaurant's theme, most of the food served in the food court is exactly the same. Cajun Grill's dishes are the same thing you'll get from the Asian stir-fry place, which is pretty damn close to what you'd get from the Mediterranean place, which is very similar to what you'd get from the Latin place: meat on top of starch on top of vegetable. Add cumin and oregano and it's Hispanic! Add bourbon glaze and it's Cajun! It's a 10-car pile-up of food scientifically optimized to shut you the fuck up about the lack of food options at the mall.
Working hard to shut you the fuck up.
It takes about four or five bites to fully distinguish one chicken from another, so these restaurants turn a blind eye to slackers like teenage me. Give him all the toothpick chicken he wants as long as he chooses us in the end. At least, that's probably how they rationalize the complete lack of effort shown by the employee holding the platter of samples who has the work ethic of a cowardly castle guard confronting an invading army.
Movie Theaters: "Let's All Agree to Ignore the People Fucking in the Back Row"
Movie theaters are cathedrals erected to honor the high-water mark of pop culture: films. The theater darkens and our excitement heightens. An event is about to occur. We are about to be engulfed by the larger-than-life sights and sounds of the cinema. The only sounds we allow are laughter, screams of terror, the munching and crunching of our snacks, and the muffled moans of a chick getting finger-blasted in the back row. The back row of any movie theater is unofficially home to all the public sexual exploits of teenagers who can't get privacy at home and adults who hate all the privacy they have at home.
Even the backs of heads can be judgy.
Movie theaters don't turn a blind eye to people squirting their sex fluids on the seats. If people can't wait for a better time to fiddle with each other's genitals than the 3 p.m. showing of Transformers, theater ushers will grab them by the thick stench of sex emanating from their heaving loins and toss them out. It's the common theatergoer who seems to have an unspoken agreement with the fornicators. People are aware that once the theater darkens the back row starts to gush, because a lot of those theatergoers were themselves once horny teenagers trying to bust a nut in the back row of a movie theater. When the sexy stuff commences and the couple does little to hide it, I find that most people just ignore it, hoping the movie is louder than the slurps of pleasure and that the couple reaches orgasm quickly so all parties can get back to enjoying the film.
Finger-banging can actually make sitting through some movies much easier.
No one ever enters a movie theater expecting to see a tangled mass of limbs and spraying fluids off in the distance when they turn the corner of the hall leading to the vast expanse of seats, but it's not surprising, either. I've overheard people blame themselves for sitting in the back row beside a couple elbow-deep in each other. Why? Because in the same way the line "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown" from the movie Chinatown reminds Jack Nicholson's character that trying to make the world a better place is futile, we're reminded that it's futile to fight against the sticky tide of people going nuts on each other's junk in the back row of movie theaters.
Just turn your eyes.
Just look away from the fucking and sucking.
Forget it, Jake. It's the back row of the movie theater.
Brookstone and Sharper Image: "Let's All Agree to Ignore That You're Only Here for the Massage Chairs"
When I worked in retail, my fellow sales associates and I always found the customers who browse and leave without buying anything to be the most obnoxious. Their need to feel like they were doing something productive with their time killed our desire to do nothing productive with our time. They forced us to stand alert and pretend we gave a shit. Luckily, I never worked at a Brookstone or a Sharper Image or any of those stores that feel like the SkyMall catalog was granted a wish and it wished to be a real store.
If SkyMall wished to be a boy.
People walk in and out without buying a thing, all day, every day, at those places because they're basically novelty stores, like Hot Topic or Spencer's for people with jobs -- a lot of useless, high-end gizmos, gadgets, and trinkets. The thing is, no one actually wants to spend the money to get what they sell, but they wouldn't mind if the vibrating eye mask with cooling gel that plays new-age covers of Phil Collins songs magically showed up at their house.
People want massage chairs, but very few can justify sacrificing four months of paychecks to get one. So the Brookstones and Sharper Images of the world see nothing but an endless stream of browsers who pretend to care about the glass case of die-cast models of vintage cars that sell for whatever your soul is worth as they wait for their chance to sit in the massage chairs.
And that is the unspoken agreement high-end novelty store employees, and maybe even the executives at the corporate offices, try their best to ignore: a vast majority of people walking through their doors will never, ever buy a damn thing, yet most of the time those people spend in massage chairs over the course of their entire lives will have been tallied in those stores.
About eight minutes total.
If it weren't for those chairs, no one would know what those stores sell. People would walk by and see a bunch of useless items that caught their eye only because they were shiny and expensive-looking, then they'd ignore it all and go back to licking clean their toothpicks of chicken samples.
For more from Luis, check out 4 Things That TV Commercials Will Never Show You and 4 Things That Would Make Meeting New People Less Awkward.
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