You Win Sum, You Lose Sum



It was the opening night for the long awaited screen adaptation of The U.S. Constitution and the megaplex was packed. The lead role, that of the Constitution, was played surprisingly by a non-American, the great Sean Connery. Of his performance as the yellow and withered document, the critics raved. Renee could care less about the former James Bond. "With that shilly accent, you can't even tell what he's shaying," she once remarked to herself. Still, it was an unbearably temperate Friday afternoon, and "what would be better", she thought, "than a few hours spent in the frigid junk-food covered anti-hell of a movie theater?"

Upon entering Renee proceeded directly to the ticket counter, so directly and automatically, in fact, that she cut in front of a dozen moviegoers without even intending to. Backtracking, half-driven by a dozen cold stares and half by her own desire to wait, she found the queue's point of entry. By the time of her arrival four bodies had been appended to the line. Sean Connery and his bloody queues. She tried to chastise herself for the absurd thought by knocking the side of her head with her fist, but the myriad eyes she imagined were focused on her made her stop.

Ten minutes later, she was astonished to find herself finally at the middle of the line poised to wait another ten minutes. Maybe, everyone's paying in nickels. Gosh, I'd hate to be the only weirdo who forgot to bring her purse full of nickels. What if all the movies are sold out, but they're making everyone ask about each movie instead of giving them the straight dope. What Jerks! By the time Renee finally reached the ticket counter she was exhausted.

"I-I'd like one for-um, is the Constitution one any good?" "Ma'am, I aint never heard of the movie 'Um, is the Constitution one any good'"

She couldn't believe her ears. Had the ticket vendor actually uttered the most ridiculous remark in the world or was she hearing things? She recalled Abbott and Costello's Who's on First bit and felt a sudden kinship with Abbott.

"Mister, is the movie called 'The U.S. Constitution’ any good?"

"How should I know lady?"

"Okay, I'm guessing you haven't seen it and don't form opinions based on what you hear from other people. That's fine. I understand. Just give me a ticket, please."

"Sure thing. I'll need a proof of existence, of course."

Not paying attention to what he said, she produced her driver's license.

"I had no idea this was an R-rated movie,” Renee casually remarked as she handed it to the man.

"It isn't. And I don't see nothin’ on here about you existing."

“Since when does a girl need a proof of existence to watch a movie?”

“New theater policy, for everyone: boys, girls, men, women. You name ‘em, they need it.”

“And what do you expect me to do to prove my existence?”

“I don’t expect you to do nothin’; you can pack your purse and go back home for all I care.”

“But, But…”

“Time’s a wasting.”

Gradually, she mustered up some courage and then resolved to see the movie no matter what. “This is ridiculous! Of course, I exist. Did someone stuff popcorn kernels up your nose and stick your head in a microwave? For God’s sake just give me a ticket already!”

“We don’t ask for much here, Lady. We’re not asking for a proof of God’s existence. All we need is a proof of your existence. That’s it. We’ve been havin’ problems lately with phantoms payin’ for one movie and never leavin’. We’re losin’ a lot of money here. We’re really not askin’ for much.

Everything began to sound very reasonable to Renee. It now seemed to her that it was she who was being unreasonable in not complying with the theater’s new policy. They were protecting their own interests. How could she blame them?

“Okay, Okay, I understand. I’ve got it. I think, therefore I am.”

“That’s nice, lady.”

“No, you don’t understand. I think, therefore I am. There’s your POE.”

“Look, you might’ve convinced yourself in case you were doubtin’, but that doesn’t do nothin’ for us.”

“I’m standing here talking to you; isn’t that proof enough?”

“Last night, I had a dream. Marilyn Monroe was talkin’ to me. Me, a guy who sells movie tickets for a living. Was that proof enough?”

Renee tried to think hard. It wasn’t easy. She had prepared herself to passively watch a historical docudrama and was now being forced-“No, I’m not being forced to do anything. I can leave if I want”-to prove her very existence.

“I don’t have to prove my existence to you!” she shouted after a pause.

“Suit yourself.”

“Let me see the manager.”

“Jeez, what do you wanna see the manager for?”

“Let me see the manager!”

“Look, the manager refuses to talk to phantom’s. So you’re going to have to prove your-“

“Ahhhhhhhh! Shut up! Shut up!”

“Easy, there.”

“You have to prove you’re real to see the movie; you have to prove you’re real to talk to the manager; next he’ll tell me I have to prove I’m real to have my parking stub validated!”

“Lady, I don’t have the time for this. If you wanna go, I’d be glad to stamp the stub. If you plan on watchin’ a movie, you’re gonna need a you-know-what.”

“Sheesh. Just, out of curiosity, how did the people in front of me prove their you-know-whats?”

“Well, that’s awful clever of you to ask. But you won’t trick me that easy. Phantoms are wily, that much I know from workin’ here all these years.”

“Aha!”

“What are you aha-ing about?”

“You let people in right?”

“Huh? Yeah, sure. What about it?”

“Well, they did something or showed you something to prove their existence, right?

“I’m not obliged to say.”

“Anyway, you don’t know that they were real, whatever they had or did could have been had or done by what you call a phantom.”

“Well, I guess-“

“And so whether or not I demonstrate my reality to you I could still be an illusion.”

“Um, I don’t know-“

“So, you might as well let me in, since I can’t do anymore damage than any the people before me.”

“I’m confused, lady.”

“Okay, I’ll make it real simple. Any given person is either real or not, so that’s a fifty-fifty probability, right?”

“I think that’s right.”

“So, if you let me in, and didn’t let the next person in, and then let the next person after them in, and so on you would end up letting in at most half of the phantoms here. As it is, you might let all of them in, if they have the right credentials. So, you might as well let me in.” “You know, I think you’re right.”

Renee was right. Not only that, but she felt good. In fact she felt great.

“Shame though, miss, the movie's sold out.”

No matter, Renee was happy. She’d come back another day. She was on top of the world. She knew that she had a fifty percent chance of being a bona fide human being, and she liked the odds.

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