Madison London, dressed in black with a small red pin attached to her collared shirt, pushed open the doors to the AMC Theater in Winston-Salem. It was almost 5:30 pm. She hurried to the break room to clock in, waving to Lilly and Andy who were working Door, sweeping theaters and ripping tickets.
It was Tuesday, which meant it would be particularly busy. Madison stationed herself at concessions and checked to see if the popcorn warmers were full.
Jenny, one of Madison’s managers, came up as Madison’s shift officially began and handed over her cash drawer-insert, whose contents had been freshly counted.
After setting up behind the counter, Madison waved over the first premier customer in line.
“I can take you over here,” she said exchanging formalities with a formidable looking woman who had three teenaged grandchildren in tow.
“We would like to purchase four tickets to Wonder Woman in 3D.”
“Ok,” Said Madison tapping the Tickets button on her computer screen next to the only other option, Concessions. “6:00?”
“Do you want any popcorn, drink, candy, or hot food tonight?” Madison asked.
“No, that will be all.” And she swept her grandchildren away after receiving the tickets.
Much of the night passed in this way as Madison encountered a variety of characters, from a man who looked as if he had been attacked by a cat to a college student who wore a thick white sweater and spoke with an Australian accent. Madison also greeted several regular customers, laden with refillable popcorn buckets, who would occasionally ask her opinion on which movie to see tonight.
At 9:00 pm one of Madison’s managers came down from the upstairs projection rooms and offices to tell her to have a 40-minute break.
Unlike most theaters, the managers at AMC hire coworkers they know will get along with each other and, consequently, the employees and overseers worked like a family. The managers greeted all of their charges warmly at the beginning of each day and made sure their schedules were manageable, and the employees got together during breaks and for bonfires after work.
After her break, Madison was stationed at Door (the entrance to the theater hallway), ripping tickets and directing guests.
Three boys in their mid-teens offered Madison tickets to Spiderman and headed down the hall as Madison began to help the next customer. However, the police officer stationed for security in the hallway quickly redirected Madison’s attention, notifying her that the underage kids had gone into Baby Driver, rated R, instead of Spiderman.
Madison hurried into the theater after them and called them back outside. One of the kids, awkwardly sporting a man bun, hightailed it toward the exit only to be called back by a manager who had been summoned down to the ticketing area. The kids were spoken to by the officer and manager and let off with a warning.
At around 1:00 am in the morning, Madison helped the community of coworkers prepare the theater for closing time, scrupulously cleaning every concessions appliance as if a health inspector was coming the next morning. As in a mall, time in a theater stands still, and Madison exited the building faintly registering the cacophony of crickets and frogs that met her ears and the silver shine of the moon and stars that had replaced the orange glow of daylight in her absence.