My husband and I braved the 112 degree heat and entered the Valley streets. Our destination, the Promenade Mall's AMC theater in Woodland Hills to see Superbad. We bought our tickets a little early. We had some time, so we went downstairs to the Barnes and Noble Bookstore.
After moseying around, my husband elbowed me. He spotted a kid, about fourteen - a swath of hair hanging over one eye, bony body jangling inside baggy clothes - shuffling beside an older woman who looked to be his mother. She - in beige stretch pants, short blonde-grey hair, shoulders slumped forward and skin the same tone as her polyester pants - looked defeated. Her son grasped the latest edition of Weed World in his hand.
Oh, and I saw a woman grab a copy of Pasadena Magazine off the shelf and head to the register. Even I am not so geeky as to say, "Hey, I wrote two articles in that." But, feeling some little bit of pride, I wondered what authors of books must feel when they see people buying what they've written.
In the theater, I settle in with my candy corn as my husband goes to get popcorn. When, suddenly, even the granular-sugary-salty orange, yellow and white striped triangular candies in my hand (a handful of tasty childhood memories) don't seem edible. There's a stench among us.
Oh, humanity is stinky. It's a wretched, putrid, unbreathable fume... has someone not showered? Is it that woman behind me? I noticed her earlier in the mall. From the back she looked like a bony preteen - long blond hair topped by a knit cap (ala Ali McGraw in Love Story), bare legs in short-shorts, feet in chunky platforms and wearing a little T-shirt. But when she turned around, I saw the face belonged to a woman in her 70s. Was it her?
If not - Who, what, how did this stench squelch my enjoyment of candy corn? I dabbed some of my healthstore Egyptian musk body oil (I keep it in my purse) on my wrist to mask the odor.
I was sitting, not in the very first row, but in the first row that people see when they enter the theater from the darkened hallway. As soon as they rounded the handrail, I could see their faces. And every face that entered made a similar expression. Mouth turned down, eyebrows knit into concern, nose sniffing - and everyone... every one of them said, "I smell fish." Yes, that's what it was. Rotten fish. Not fresh cooked salmon. But the stentch that wafts at you when standing near a section of a pier where fish have been gutted for months, years and the skin and guts have rotted and infused into the planks. That's it!
My seat neighbors made comments. We made eye contact. "Someone's eating fish in the theater," the woman said.
"Oh... that's not right," I said. "Nachos with jalapenos are bad enough. But fish..."
More people came in. "I smell fish." Some would walk into the theater hesitantly. Others turned around and left. Soon, a posse - led by an angry bald man in khakis - formed and circled near the entrance. They were strangers united for a cause.
"Look," He advised the concerned citizens. "This same movie's playing in Calabasas a half hour later. We can make it if we leave now."
Yeah..alright...let's go...(rumble, rumble, rumble) the crowd growled. People were getting up and following behind the angry group.
Then a young theater employee peaked in.
"You better do something about that smell," I suggested. "People are getting angry."
He nodded and looked over the seats to see who the suspected fish-eater was. People pointed toward the center.
He nodded, and made his way upward.
I guess he got them to throw away their take-out container, because eventually the smell dissipated.
And the people - the strong, the brave, the too lazy to leave - who remained forgot all about it... and laughed as one.
*P.S. Hey, maybe we were being tested for Smellovision. That would make sense. We were there to see Superbad... and the smell was super bad.