First off, I'd like to thank family and friends for your warm offers to send us new sheets and pillows. Kind of makes me wish I had complained about our lack of vehicle instead. Anyhoo, lest you worry about our sleeping hygiene, I should let you know that the cleaning elves come and change the entire comforter cover each week, along with the pillow cases. So we appear to be clean. I'm still uncertain about the contents of our pillows, but we're working through that like the hearty, rugged survivors that we are.
Wanted to share one of my latest "Europe is so much cooler than the U.S." experiences (don't worry, it does swing the other way sometimes). Jason had a client dinner last week, so I found myself with an evening alone. Decided to check out the movie theaters here, and walked the half mile from our apartment to the Tennispalatsi—a recreation center built for the 1940 Olympics, and former home to four large tennis courts, hence the name. Today it's maybe the coolest movie theater ever created. Sorry tennis ... but it's true.
First off, they show something like 47 movies at one time, from all over the world. I would love to check out some of the foreign films that may not make it to the states, such as Toinen jalka haudasta, starring Tobias Zilliacus and Helena Vierikko. I have no clue what it's about, but it's a komedia, and it's rated "S," so I'm thinking I would like it. Besides, I loved Helena Vierikko in that other movie. Sadly, even movies from Russia, India, etc. are all subtitled in Finnish and Swedish, so I'm out of luck for now.
I was surprised by the number of American movies they offer, almost all in English. And for the most part, their roster is quite current. I was planning on catching first runs of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and The Santa Claus 2 (they're into Santa here), but I saw listings for movies so new, I hadn't even seen previews for them yet. Since I'm generally limited by the movies that someone (ahem) will see with me, I was happy to finally buy a ticket for Gran Torino.
I might also mention, I think this is the first time I've ever gone to the movies alone, so I'm already feeling a little lost and awkward. At least all of the signs are in Finnish too.
First cool thing: I go to buy my ticket (9 euros) and the woman shows me a seating chart. The green seats are taken, the red seats are available. Acting like I always get to pick my own seat at the movie theater (yes, I know ... I just said "pick my own seat"), I touch the screen multiple times to indicate my chosen throne. Here the woman rolls her eyes and informs me that she has to select the seats on her computer. Oops.
Next cool thing: The entire downstairs area is one sprawling carnival of concessions. There's a bulk candy store roughly the size of Missouri in there. I had no idea we've made so much progress, as a people, in the field of gummy foods. Clearly we need to allot our scientific resources elsewhere. We have gummy covered now. If you're not in the mood for candy, you can also buy the usual popcorn and hotdogs, or pizza, coffee, panini sandwiches, ice cream, pastries, gin and tonic ...
Completely overwhelmed, I ran upstairs. My movie was starting at 20:00, and I really had no idea what time that was. I found my theater, and pulled on the door. It wouldn't open. I tried again. No luck. I leaned my ear toward the door and heard movie noises from inside. I was locked out of my own movie. Panic began to sink in. Clearly they don't let people in once the show has started. A great idea, I thought, except when I was caught outside.
I noticed what looked like a doorbell with a red light on it outside the door. It occurred to me that this might be some sort of fancy European scanner, so I waved my ticket stub in front of it. Denied again. Thought about pushing the button, but I pictured setting off a series of complex alarms, or at least alerting everyone inside the theater that the stupid American was caught outside.
So instead, I went to ask for help. Found a nice gentleman, armed with popcorn and a soda, who spoke minimal english. Still, we managed, probably because I spoke a little louder than usual.
"Excuse me, sir?"
(He looks somewhat awkward, eyebrows raised. He'll try to play this game if I will.)
"How do I (point to self) get in there (point to theater door ... then to my ticket, so he knows I'm legit). I've tried using my ticket (I reenact my brilliant door scanner move) but it won't work."
"Ah, yes ... I think (he searches for the words) ... you have to wait ... for the movie to start."
"Oh ... it's too early? Are you going to this movie too?"
"You are welcome."
To his credit, he didn't laugh in my face. The Finns are a very polite people. I take this moment to excuse myself and use the facilities. Hoping I don't have to run into this gentleman again. As he foretold, the doors did indeed open about 10 minutes before start time.
Last cool thing (for now): The seats inside the theater are huge, red and plush. I walk over to seat H10 and wait for the show to start. I feel like a little girl sitting on a giant, overgrown chair. The previews are mostly in English, disproportionately skewed toward hair care and cell phones. I love this place.