Neal Draws Comics: Reading in the dark

21 December 2012 by 28 Comments

I'll be rich!

The theater lights go out, and I smile to myself as latecomers scramble to find seats and run into each other, spilling their popcorn and bruising their shins. Suckers. Of course, this could have been me on any number of other occasions. But not today. Today is different. Today is the fourth screening of Brave with my toddler at the dollar theater, and we’ve finally gotten it right. Fourth time’s the charm.

Addison sits on my lap, her head leaning back against my chest. She holds one of my fingers in her hand and a baby carrot in the other. I’m pretty sure she’s going to forget which hand holds the edibles, but I’m feeling benevolent. Maybe this time I won’t get bit. Her hair smells faintly of soap and spaghetti sauce. It’s nice. This is a good moment.

The movie’s about to start, and I hold my daughter’s little body close as I bend and dig into the diaper bag, pulling out a book. So far, so good. I reach into my pocket, and pull out a little flashlight. Deep breath. Moment of truth, here we come.

I remove my finger from the kid’s grasp and open the book in my left hand. I flick on the flashlight with my right.

Too bright! Addison shields her eyes, and I can see the glow reflecting off of the walls nearby. I flick it off. I think for a minute, as I watch Merida and her “Mum” playing hide and seek. Maybe if I sort of cup the end of the flashlight in my fist, allowing just a tiny sliver of light to escape . . .

Alright! It . . . kind of works. As long as I’m gripping the light just the right way . . . damn. I just blinded someone. I put the book down, repositioning my fingers over the end of the light. Addison looks up at me and tries to swat my hand away.

“Shhh. It’s okay. Just watch the movie, kiddo.”

I try the light again. Okay, this could work. It takes me a minute to find my page in the book again. But Addison’s in the way. I struggle to find a way to get the light close to the page and also be able to see the thing. The light slips again. It’s like a little light show over in this corner of the theater. I wonder if I should whisper really loudly, “Sorry!” but decide against it.

I make Addison get off my lap, but strike out with the chair next to me, which keeps wanting to fold up and eat her. So I force her to stand next to me in the aisle. She’s okay with this for the moment, her attention on the screen. So I position my flashlight hand again, and make another attempt.

I manage to shield the light pretty well, which means that it comes out rather dim and unpredictably. I have to hunch forward and peer close to the page to read, but I’m going to make this work. I get through about a page and a half before my flashlight hand starts to cramp up. The exasperated pressure building up inside of me leaks out of my mouth in a strange, unpleasant sound.

“What’s wrong, daddy?”

“Nothing, just watch the movie.”

I massage my hand and have another go at it. In the movie, a bear makes an appearance, and Addison rushes back for me and I fumble the flashlight. It rolls a couple of rows, stopping with the light shining down towards the front of the theater. Damn. Nation.

I manage to get the book and flashlight packed away. I watch the rest of the movie with my daughter on my lap and thirty-thousand people staring angrily at the back of my head. I can feel them. It burns.

Since I’ve got the movie memorized, we’re at the door before the scene fades to black. As we flee, I’m making revisions in my head for our next visit. Fifth time’s the charm, maybe.

I imagine being back in the theater, holding a book in one hand, my daughter in the other, and still being able to read. Somehow. It’s close, I can feel it.

28 thoughts on “Neal Draws Comics: Reading in the dark

  1. If I may make a few suggestions?

    * Clippable booklight. I have this one. It’s awesome for reading in the dark and not disturbing those around you because you can adjust the height.

    * Reading app on your phone. You can dim your screen down so that it doesn’t disturb anyone else and still hold it in one hand without having to move your daughter.

    * An ereader case with a built in light. This is my favourite thing now (er, for the last 3 years). I don’t ever disturb anyone anymore because I can angle the light as close to the “page” as I want.


    • I do have a clip-able booklight, though I sometimes feel like it\’s too bright, that it would be distracting in the movie theater. Have you ever tried it that way? I might just have a crappy one. It\’s made with cheap white plastic, not the fancy chrome that yours displays. Also, not sure I want 200 of them.

      Phones have apps?! That must be one of those things like Twitter that all the kids are talking about these days.

      An e-reader\’s probably a good idea, but since I have so many books on my shelf that I haven\’t read, I don\’t have one. Also, they cost money? And I still have all these books? Also, you may be starting to get the idea that I am a pretty extreme cheap-skate. That assumption would be correct. But…when I have some extra to spare, an e-reader might be one of the first places I go.

      Also also, much as I like the idea of e-readers, can you imagine anything more magical than a book with glow-in-the-dark text?! That\’d be a work of art I\’d shell out for.

      Hmm. Maybe electricity coursing through an e-reader that can hold within it a thousand books is also a kind of un-explainable amazing magic…

  2. Yes! All of the above options are too bright in a movie theater – flashlights, apps, booklights, even the new lighted ereaders.

    I totally would have been one of the angry people in the movie theater – except I probably would have complained about you to the ushers. But… I don\’t go to kid movies during matinee times, so maybe no one cares then?

    I do know that I even hate it when someone tries to check their messages during the previews because the light from the phone is too bright. Last movie – some guy was using his phone as a flashlight to find seats after the previews started and he kept blinding people. He got a few friendly shouts and then someone threw something (maybe popcorn or a Junior mint?) at him.

    I feel your pain though – I think that\’s why my sister still waits for movies to come out on video so she can read her book while my niece watches the movie at home.

    • I\’d probably not try to read a book at a packed evening show, and certainly not at a full-price theater. Unless it was as some sort of protest against crappy film-making. You know, Transformers 5 or whatever. Anybody want to sign up for that silent but literary protest?

      During the middle of a weekday at the dollar theater, it\’s mostly myself and a bunch of other moms with their kids, hitting the G and PG movies. As far as I can tell, it\’s no-ones sacred movie time. I love to go to the movie theater with Addison because she gets so excited about the \”big big screen!\” and then we play at the play area in the mall with the other kids that just got out of the movie, and score samples at the food court. But oh, if only I could enjoy my little girl on my lap, bubbling with excitement and feeling special for being able to go out with me, and also get a little me time during the movie. A win-win.

        • Ha – definitely a conumdrum! I also would imagine that all the explosions and bad acting would be too distracting to be able to properly read. Unless I also popped in my headphones.

          • At the really terrible movies, it\’s probably a difficult choice between riff trax and something literary. For the latter, you might need those noise-cancelling headphones.

        • Yeah, I wouldn\’t pay full price either. And definitely not the extra bit for 3D glasses. Maybe the answer is to find out who\’s going to see it and then text them something from Shakespeare every five minutes.

  3. But for glow in the dark stuff to glow, it needs to be exposed to light first, so that would be a problem… E-readers can be changed to white on black for reading in the dark! (Or at least iBooks can do that)


    • I actually thought about this, Pamela, and spent some time researching glow in the dark stuff, learning the difference between \”phosphorescence,\” and \”luminescence,\” for instance, and the fact that \”horseradish peroxidase produces light when acting on chemoluminescent substrates.\” I mean, I didn\’t really UNDERSTAND anything in that horseradish bit, but I READ about it. My wife thought I was just wasting time on wikipedia, and I was like, \”No, I\’m RESEARCHING a comic, WOMAN!\”

      In any event, here are three thoughts:

      First, maybe you could carry a small black light like one of those light clips? They typically produce less visible light from the bulb, but do a good job bringing out the luminescence in light-colored objects.

      Second, though I know this might by too much of a pain for some people, phosphorescent paint can give off light for up to twelve hours after exposure to light, says the old wikipedia. So, with a bright light source, you could expose pages of a book to it (for maybe just a few seconds each?), thereby \”charging\” the pages, and it might not even need to take longer than, say, five minutes to \”charge\” as many pages as you could read during a two-hour movie.

      There\’s also radioluminescent paint that\’ll give you high doses of radiation but lights up for even longer (used in dive watches). But, I\’d totally be willing to grow a third appendage in order to read a glow in the dark book.

      • Even so, when SJ mentioned e-readers, my wife and I were both reading the comments at the same time, and we turned to each other, and we were like, \”oh…right…e-readers!\” We don\’t have one, so I never even thought about how they\’re pretty obviously the high-tech solution to the problem, even if they wouldn\’t make you feel as much like a magician while using one.

        Does EVERYONE have an e-reader?

    • Yeah…I don\’t have an ipod or mp3 player either. I\’m a little ridiculous. I used to listen to Radiolab episodes on my old CD player at the gym, but then I accidentally fumbled it and ended up drop kicking the thing across the room, and now it\’s kaput.

      But the suggestion is well-received. I\’ve thought something like that might work well when we\’re at the playground, too. I could still keep my eyes on the kid, but be immersed in the gorgeous sounds of Ian McKellan or Patrick Stewart reading to me about Middle Earth.

  4. Lol, love this post Neal. On try number five just sit in the back row. Then the only people who will glare at you are the ones beside you until they move to find another seat. After all, they’ve got the whole rest of the theater. Or if you sit close to the movie screen itself, it’ll provide light for you. Your daughter might be seeing stars by the time it’s done and likely will have a headache but you’ll be able to read in peace. Just a thought for your next movie experience. :)

    • I often think of hitting the back row…but for some reason it sometimes fills up sooner than other rows. First, I think there might be nursing mothers (I try not to inspect too closely). Second, there’s a large group with Down Syndrome that often files in and takes a bunch of seats in the back. They’re actually a lot of fun to see, because they’re so excited to be at the theater.

      I always hope for a corner seat in the back, but apparently there are other people who hope for that seat, too.

  5. Oh and by the way – I had to comment on this post since you wrote it on my birthday. That kinda makes us friends. Sorta. Okay, not really but it sure made me think nicely of you for a moment. :)

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