When I was in high school, I got a job at the local movie theater during my junior year. It was a pretty sweet deal. They would pay me $4.25 an hour, and I would come home smelling like popcorn… ALL THE TIME!
It was a Cinemark theater, and I had to wear green fluorescent suspenders over a white dress shirt, matching green bow tie (a fake, of course), and black pants. When I worked concession, which everybody does at first, I had to wear a heavy plastic apron that felt like linoleum. Covering the apron was a bunch of Cinemark artwork featuring Front Row Joe. Follow the link… you’ll be sad you did.
I had my first girlfriend in my junior year. Our first date was to go see “Wayne’s World” (Excellent). That petered out somewhere around “the day after prom.” I was pretty down about it, but at least I was making massive bank at the Cinemark. You know, $4.25 in 1992 is about $35 in 2012 currency.
Summer is the busy season at the movies, and 1992 was no different. College folks were coming back home, and some of them would come to work at the theater. That’s when I met Julie Byars. We both worked in the concession, and, like me, she was lured to the Cinemark with the prospect of $4.25 an hour and free movie passes.
There was something about this college girl, who had just finished her first year, that struck me as awesome. To this day, I can’t tell you what it was, but I was clearly smitten. I had never blown off curfew for any reason whatsoever. That’s mostly due to how hum-drum things were back then for me. For her, though, I willingly blew off curfew three times. Sorry, mom.
On May 22, 1992, two movies opened. “Alien 3” and “Encino Man,” the movie that would make Brendan Fraser a household name. I asked her if she wanted to see “Alien 3” with me after work. “Alien 3” isn’t your typical date movie fare, but “Encino Man” was playing at the other theater across town. To my surprise, she didn’t reject me as had been the M.O. for 99.9% of the girls I had spoken to up until then.
We sat in the middle of the theater, no longer wearing the fluorescent suspenders or bow ties. It wasn’t an official date, but it sure felt like one. No kiss, but a nice long hug afterwards. I hung out with her a few times after that non-date. I never told her how I felt about her because that was my M.O. back then. My wife would dare say that’s still my M.O. today.
Some time in June, she quit the movie theater and completely disappeared never to be heard from again. Seriously, I never heard from her again, and I was a little crushed. Still, I hadn’t invested a lot of time or energy into this girl, so it just was “one of those things” as far as I was concerned. Remember, I’m making about $100k a year in 2012 dollars at this movie house, so I had more important things to worry about.
Fast forward to today. I’m sitting at the computer searching for and applying to jobs. As I’m surfing the web, I ran across the “Prometheus” trailer. This is the highly-anticipated “Alien” prequel scheduled for release this year. Out of nowhere, my mind conjures up this old, faded memory of a girl I barely knew 20 years ago and the most fantastic non-date I had ever been on in my life.
Back in 1992, there was really no way to find out what happened to people who disappeared. Today, there’s this thing called Google. It’s made mincemeat of the difficulties stalkers used to face back in the early ’90s. By running a simple Google search, I was easily able to determine who she had married and on what date that happened. On a single webpage, I was able to find out her current address complete with apartment number and a current phone number. Another search result made me pretty sure she was divorced.
If this stuff doesn’t freak you out, it should. Running my name through Google, there are a lot of search results about Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams. However, specifically excluding the terms Paisley and Williams from the search, Google turns up just about everything you ever wanted to know about me. From articles I wrote and photos I took in the Air Force, to my Amazon profile, interviews I gave while in Baghdad, nearly every social media account I have, and even my IMDb page. Yes, my life is out there, and that’s freaky.
I can barely remember what Julie looked like. It’s hard to remember people’s faces when you’ve got line of sight on bright green suspenders. Still, she made an impression on me, and I remember never wanting to be afraid to talk to girls ever again. I always approached girls with a bit of trepidation, but after the summer of 1992, I started at least making an effort. I was shot down several more times, of course, but eventually I was able to get people to go out with me. I even conned my wife into marrying me back in 2004.
So, Julie Byars (I know that’s not your name anymore), if you ever do come across this blog, I want to thank you for giving me the confidence to be myself around people. It was worth being grounded repeatedly.
That’s the end of the story. What? You didn’t click the Front Row Joe link? Let me help you out.