Greetings from the road, Soluters! I’m currently on a business trip, holed up in a reasonable business accommodation enjoying an unreasonably priced Snickers from the vending machine, the price paid by an indifferent travel budget ad set by a hotel taking advantage. No supervision!
Which got me thinking about watch habits during travel. Hotel watching has changed over the years. It used to be premium channels not available at home would be the go-to move (my wife ad I laughed when we discovered each others’ first instinct at a hotel was to check HBO for something smutty). Now that streaming and streaming devices are more common, you ca take your home watch habits with you more easily. Yet if I do turn on a screen at a hotel anymore, I still tend to gravitate toward the preset cable schedule. Adult Swim, once a staple, is now a guilty pleasure. The second half of U.S. Marshalls? Why not! On family trips the kids get a kick out of watching stuff actually interrupted by commercials – and if Mom and Dad are asleep at the switch and they catch a show they shouldn’t, what can be done? The hotel TV does not judge! Except maybe if it’s Pay-per-View. I don’t know if that still exists anywhere, but it was the highest of luxuries when I was growing up so I never think of it as a option.
There’s a well-documented phenomenon of heightened emotional response when watching a movie on an airplane. Unlike the hotel, this is not a private situation away from judgement but I advise going easy on your fellow traveler. I remember watching the Mr. Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? at 30,000 feet and bawling my eyes out. My seatmate, looking from me to a shot of a hand puppet and back again, could have been more supportive. This is another area where streaming devices have changed things greatly. After all the great shifts in media over the years, it’s tough find room for nostalgia around a limited selection of heavily-edited titles. I’m probably just nostalgic for a time when flying sucked a little less than it does now. Since it’s one of the worst situations in which to experience picture and sound, airplane watching is for movies that feel a little more like an obligation, often past award nominees and documentaries that have been on my list for too long.
I enjoy seeking out movie theaters in other cities. Like restaurants, it can take some doing to move away from the stranglehold of the chains, but I’ve discovered some really great and unique spaces along the way. Many years ago I watched Thank You for Smoking at the Ragtag Cinema in Columbia, Missouri. We sat on folding chairs, about fifteen rows of eight as I remember. The projector didn’t have a platter, so there was an intermission during the 90-minute movie for a reel change. Today the Ragtag operates a gorgeous theater with two screens (and very comfy chairs). I’ve been in a literal underground theater in Washington D.C. (for Spotlight, not exactly underground fare), ordered dinner at an Alamo in Austin (before this option was everywhere), discovered “Toonie Tuesday” in Toronto (discount days adopted by many U.S. chains a few years ago), and been in many unique spaces run by dedicated staffs in major cities and small towns alike.
Time for your vacation slideshows, Soluters! What travel watch habits do you harbor? Do you watch for comfort or entertainment or not at all?