Friday, March 11, 2005

Nescafe Cafe, Rosebank

Friday, March 11, 2005

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * * 1/2
Babe Count: * * *

Decaf cappuccino definitely doesn't match the rush of what's just happened. And I'm sitting here scheming about ways to maximise my experience.

What's happened is that a couple of hours ago I saw Clint Eastwood's MILLION DOLLAR BABY, which was both brilliant and somewhat disappointing at the same time. Immensely powerful performances all round, but an oddly unbelievable story. Still, it gets about 8 out of 10 on the Roy-o-metre.

But that's not what's gotten my adrenalin flowing.

I decided, after having cried for a quarter of the movie, that I wanted something more upbeat. So, having been lured by the publicity surrounding CONNIE & CARLA, I decided to make the short trek across to The Zone to see that. After all, it's loosely based on a Billie Wilder classic, SOME LIKE IT HOT.

Unfortunately, I never got to see the movie. Which is where the adrenalin kicks in.

Lofty Ledwaba... I hope you're reading this. And I hope you're preparing yourself for total onslaught.

Here's what went down.

I buy my ticket, and realise I haven't eaten supper, and that I'm rather hungry. So, I peruse the Ster Kinekor delectables counter, and realise that I don't want to spend R20 on cardboard popcorn, when what I really need is sustenance. So I trek down to Europa, and buy a Tra Firenze (excellent, by the way!).

On getting back to the cinema, I tuck the takeaway under my arm, under my jersey, and go through the ticket checkpoint. Lucky is the man on duty, and as it turns out, Lucky decides he smells a rat.

I get into the cinema. The lights dim. The adverts play. The trailers play. I eat four bites of my tramezzini. And Lucky arrives. "Excuse me," he says, "but you're not allowed to eat in the cinema. You can give that to me for safekeeping, or you can leave."

"I think I'll do neither," I say. On the spur of the moment, I decide that making a stand against this idiocy is more important than seeing the movie.

"Then you must leave," says Lucky.

"I think you should try and make me leave," I say.

"Or you can give me the food for safekeeping," he says.

"Or you can call the manager," I say.

He leaves. The trailers continue. I finish one of the four segments, and pack the food away neatly.

The manager arrives. Lofty Ledwaba.

Now something you need to know about Lofty is that he epitomises everything that customer training manuals advise against. He sneers. He looks down on one. He refuses to understand a customer's point of view. And he is a stickler for rules. What's more, I've had a run-in with him once before. A year-and-a-half ago, I brought a cup of Seattle Coffee Shop coffee into the cinema. Except I didn't know it was contraband back then. He offered to keep the coffee for me. Which he did. Except it was cold when the movie finished. And he was a dick about it. "The rules are the rules," he said.

Tonight, Lofty says, "The rules are the rules. You are not allowed to have food from outside the cinema here! You must give it to me, or you must leave."

Actually, Lofty, the rules aren't that at all. The "rule" states that food and drink purchased outside the cinema MAY NOT BE CONSUMED on the premises. A small bit of semantic wankery, sure, but if he's gonna stick to the letter of the law, at least he should know what his own law states.

I say, "Lofty, we've met before about some coffee. And I've decided that I'm NOT leaving, and you CAN'T have my food. What are you going to do about it?"

"I'm going to have to have you removed from the premises," he says.

"Excellent," I say.

"And I'm going to stop the movie until you leave," he says.

"Hmmmm," I say. "I was under the impression that you're compelled by your agreements with distributors to not interrupt a viewing. Isn't that the case?"

"It's YOUR fault that I'm stopping the movie," he says, and leaves.

The lights come up. The trailers stop.

I stand up, turn, and face the audience. (I always sit four rows from the front.) "Ladies and gentlemen," I say, "I'm afraid you're in for a little show. I apologise in advance, but Lofty, the manager, has decided that because I've brought food in from outside, he's going to be stopping the movie until I leave. I have decided not to leave, and he's going to have me physically removed. I hope it's entertaining for you, and I apologise for the interruption."

Just then, lofty arrives with two security guards. I sit down, and face the screen. Lofty says, "Remove this man!"

One of the guards leans in and says, very professionally, "Will you please leave with us?"

I say, "Thanks for asking, but I'm not going to be leaving. I've bought my ticket, and I haven't broken any laws."

"No," says Lofty, "you HAVE broken the law! You brought food in from outside!!!"

I say, "That's not a LAW, lofty. If I've broken the LAW, I'm a criminal. I haven't broken ANY law, I've brought food into your cinema."

"But that's against the rules!" he says.

"The rules are not the law," I say.

"Take him out!" he says, fuming, his voice a pitch higher.

I say to the security guard, "I just need to check. Are you allowed to ARREST me for this?"

"No," he says. His name is Karabo, and he's a picture of calm.

"Then maybe we should call the police to deal with me," I say. "If I've broken the LAW, I'll gladly be arrested."

A girl in the audience says, "Why don't you offer them some of your food? Maybe they're hungry?" People laugh.

I say, loudly, "Nah... I can't do that... they didn't buy it IN the cinema!" More laughter.

"Please come with us," says Karabo.

"I'm very sorry to make you do this, Karabo," I say, "but I'm not going to leave voluntarily. This is a petty rule, and I think Lofty is making a huge mistake in pursuing it this way. If you want me to leave, I'm afraid you're going to have to carry me out."

He looks at the other security guard. His name tag identifies him as Doctor. He's also a total pro. Doctor enters my row. "May I get past you?" he asks. I move my legs, and he passes.

I pick up a book I've been carrying with me, my jersey, and the contraband, and I raise my arms so they can get a grip under my armpits. "Is that cool?" I ask. They nod. And lift me out of my seat.

I don't help them. I let my legs drag on the carpet as they carry me up the stairs.

Some guy says, "Throw this fucker down the stairs! I wanna watch the fuckin' movie! Throw him!"

Some girl says, "Jeez. Save your protests for something worthwhile, like saving the whales or something."

Lofty says, "Take him out!"

Once outside, I write down everyone's name in my little black Moleskine. Lofty refuses to give me the phone number of the cinema. Another assistant manager arrives, and I ask him for the number. He gives it to me. It's (011) 880 4512. Write this number down. If you ever find that the movie's out of focus or the aircon is set wrong, or the sound is messed, phone this number. Tell Lofty Roy gave it to you. And tell him that if he doesn't rectify the problem, you'll be glad to get your money back, or a voucher for another movie. And he's compelled by distribution agreements to give you that voucher.

Lofty says, "We have right of admission reserved. You and your friends are no longer welcome at Ster Kinekor."

In the end, the two security guards and I go down the escalator together, and we chat merrily. Karabo and Doctor are happy that there was no physical violence. They tell me about a guy who had a gun once. Karabo had to talk the guy out of shooting a buddy. And they show me the control centre down in the basement. 60 cameras! And a truly frightening holding cell.

Sitting here sipping cappuccino at Nescafe Cafe, I'm struck by the fact that they're not complaining about me eating the remnants of the tramezzini bought from their competition across the passage.

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