DO I HAVE A MENTAL DEFICIENCY?

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Grocery stores in America have a lovely tradition of employing mentally challenged people in various labor-intensive positions such as bagging and stocking. In most grocery stores I’ve been to so far in The Bay Area and in Portland, chances are I’ll come across a mentally challenged kid bagging my or people at the next register’s groceries. Most of the time my interactions with them don’t go beyond a simple “Hello” and “Have a nice day.”

But on the rare occasions they engage me in a conversation, we usually end up talking about movies in great detail. Now mind you, they have no idea who I am and that I’m actually a giant movie nerd. To this kid, I’m just another customer but they talk about specific details in films they’ve seen with the kind of intensity I see from people who know me very well as a movie nerd and therefore feel comfortable to let out their inner dork as well. But any random person they talk to, these kids dive straight into their vast knowledge of film.

I remember about five years ago a mentally challenged guy who was stocking groceries approached me out of the blue and started talking about this 80s war movie he watched the night before. He went into much detail until I realized which film he was talking about, not that I can remember it right now. We then started carrying on a conversation ranking our favorite war movies from the 80s. He looked like he was surprised I could keep up with him in terms of movie knowledge. After a while, a supervisor walked up to him and told him “What did we talk about? If the customer’s not interested…” The guy nodded and apologized. I said “No it’s okay, I enjoy it.” The supervisor looked at me like I was the asshole.

I remember watching a documentary years back that stated a majority of mentally-challenged people are obsessed with The Beatles. This study was also reflected in the movie I Am Sam, where the soundtrack was full of Beatles covers. I watched face after face as they recounted from memory these tiny little details regarding Beatles history. I remember thinking “I know everything they said by heart too.”

The other day I was at the grocery store and at the register next to me a mentally-challenged kid was packing a middle-aged lady’s groceries. While packing, he kept talking about how much he loves Pixar movies and went into great detail regarding Pixar’s history, including naming all of their films in chronological order off the top of his head. The lady looked annoyed but played along in order to not appear rude and hurt the kid’s feelings. As I was walking out, I thought to myself “I know everything he regurgitated off the top of my head too. In fact, I could probably teach him a thing or two.”

This experience made me think about the first time I went to Bodrum, a coastal party town in Turkey, with my friends from film school. Our female friends had no trouble hooking up with foreign guys, of course, but me and my male friend who was obsessed with action movies were having some trouble meeting girls. “No matter what we do”, my friend said, “We’re not going to talk about movies the entire time we’re in Bodrum.” He was so terrified that girls might find out he’s a movie nerd and get turned off that he put an embargo on the very thing we otherwise talked about for hours on end.

One night near the end of the vacation and when our hopes were dwindling to a point of non-existence, we carried on a long conversation about Robocop or some other action movie while we were at the bar, looking around for a girl, any girl, who would talk to us. Before going to sleep that night, he mumbled “Damn it, we talked about movies tonight. Oh well, whatever.” It made me think, I could recite so much Star Wars trivia back then, but I lacked the most natural mate-seeking skills of simply walking up to a girl and saying “Hello”?

A couple of years ago another friend, who’s also a big movie nerd, was driving me home when a red light came on. Neither of us had any idea what the light meant. Later on we found out it was meant to signify that the radiator was overheating. My friend opened the hood and stared blankly at the engine. He called his dad and told him that the “Red light that looks like funnel-looking thing with a drop of water leaking out of it just came on. What do I do?” His dad told him it might be the radiator. He then called the service station and described the light in the exact same way. Here we were, two grown man nearing 30, and none of us knew what this sign meant. While he was talking on the phone, I was Googling “Funnel shaped warning sign”.

I still don’t know about a lot of practical things that might save my life some day, but I carry around in my head an insurmountable amount of bullshit regarding movies. I’ll prove it to you. I’m going to list all of Kubrick’s film as fast as I can in chronological order, without looking once at the internet. Here we go: Fear and Desire, Killer’s Kiss, The Killing, Paths of Glory, Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut. How did I do? You can check on IMDB.

I could also list all 30 of Kurosawa’s films but I know you don’t have the time or energy for that. So my point is, is this some kind of an illness? Sometimes it scares me to find out how much I have in common with the nice kid who has down syndrome, bagging my groceries. I could also talk that lady’s ears off with endless details on Pixar, I just didn’t because she’s a stranger and I’d figure it would bore her to death. Yet I always bore my wife to death with shit she doesn’t remotely care about. Is that the only difference between us, that I don’t bother strangers with my encyclopedic knowledge of useless crap? Who knows? All I know is that 2001 was shot in 2:00:1 ratio, which incidentally spells out the movie’s… Aw, fuck it!

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