Family: June 2009 Archives

Growing up Elvis

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My cousins surprised my Great Aunt Able with a birthday party on Saturday night. It was held in an American Legion hall, one of those delightful little faux-wood paneled rooms that remind me of my childhood growing up in the 80s with remnant 70s decor. The 70s have such a Kubrick glow.



I wanted to take a photo of every single person at the bar. They all look like they had such stories to tell. One man said that he saw me on television and I can only imagine that I had a bullhorn in my hand so I ducked my head and slipped past him on my way to the bathroom.


We all converged in a back room; table after table of family members, even one whom I've chosen to estrange myself after some drama-familia episodes. It's inconsequential considering that this was a celebration for the closest thing we have to a matriarch in our family ever since the death of my grandmother four years ago.


My Aunt Able has fire-engine red hair and is one of the most straight-forward people I know. She could have been Popeye in another life. Her husband nicknamed her "Red" early on, both for her hair color and her temper. When my mother left the country for the big city, she stayed with Great Aunt Able in her small south city home and caught the bus to the five-and-dime where she worked as a cashier. She soon got an apartment of her own but she never very far from Great Aunt Able, with whom she and the rest of my aunts and uncles have regarded as a backup parent. I've always admired how what you saw is what you got with my grandma, Aunt Able's oldest sister, and Aunt Able herself. The pair were close and made frequent pilgrimages to their own little Mecca, Graceland, as lifelong Elvis devotees, and took pictures of the same things every visit. I know those photo albums by heart: 70s-yellow Polaroids and snapshots of them standing in front of the gates with my younger aunts; Able and Grandma in front of Elvis's grave; Able and Grandma at the museum, in Elvis's living room, with various Elvis impersonators. Aunt Able shared my Grandma's obsession with Elvis, though I don't think it went to the extent where the Elvis photos in her home outnumbered the photos of her grandkids, as they did in Grandma's house. Still, when grandma died, Able inherited the bulk of Grandma's Elvis memorabilia, including the gigantic velvet Elvis painting which Grandma hung so it could be seen from the toilet with the door open.

Um, ok, are you seriously still taking photos?

An Elvis impersonator surprised her; he was fantastic and performed all the hits and I shocked myself when I did some impromptu background vocals with my mom on "In the Ghetto."


Aunt Able hasn't had the easiest life; she lost her husband and her sister irelatively close together. I remember all of my cousins and I circled around her as they lowered Grandma into the ground. She was crying and we told her that she didn't have time to cry; she just inherited 30-some-odd grandchildren. She laughed.

I love her expression

It's weird. When I was young the only thing I wanted to do was go out with my friends and turn 21 so I could get into the clubs and get my own car and every other way to get away from my family but now all I want to do is be with my family. Even the ones who did me wrong; they still look like me and they still have known me since I had pigtails down to my calves and wore little cowboy boots with all my skirts.


So we celebrated Aunt Able's birthday. These events with the old guard are few and far between anymore and I was glad that we went.

Aunt Able

Some shots I love (click to enlarge):

The pictorial representation of their relationship Elvis8

My granny would be proud Disbelief

Full photo set here.

This definitely goes into the trebuchet.

Saturday afternoon we took the boys to see the new Pixar movie, "Up," as the kids had begged to see it since the film's promotion first began. We went to the Wehrenberg Ronnie's 20 Cine, the same theater I have gone to since I was a teenager. My parents used to drop off me and my gangling friends in our tight-rolled pants at the front of the theater (when it was only eight rooms instead of 20, gawd I'm old). I've never had a problem with Wehrenberg Ronnies, until Saturday.

We bought our tickets in advance and arrived 45 minutes early and because we knew that it would be a full house as it was the film's opening weekend. We stood in the first part of the line and the boys were very well behaved, mostly because they knew that they could eat all manner of sweet in the darkness of the theater and neither Chris or I would stop them.

When we walked in the first thing I noticed was that the first several very long rows were roped off with a sigh which read "RESERVED BIRTHDAY PARTY." The rows were the best seats in the house, front and center. It wouldn't have been a huge issue except that after we scaled the steps, we found it impossible to find four seats together. People were filing in, saving seats, and the largest number of seats together that we saw were three all the way up at the top and to the left. That meant that either Chris or I had to sit alone and let the other manage both children. It wasn't just us: other families were also struggling to find seats. One man was audibly angry, he remarked that he didn't spend the amount of money he did on five tickets to discover after purchase that a good portion of the theater was reserved. We looked to one of the ushers who sort of shrugged his shoulders and pointed to the seats in the very first row. The seats that would require my four-year-old to practically break his neck just to see the blurry screen. We did not spend $50 on tickets for that. Liam started to get upset.

"There isn't any place to sit!" He said. "I can't sit there, mom. I won't be able to see the movie. Maybe they'll let me sit on their stairs?"

No one was helpful. I finally asked to see the manager. I could instantly tell that she had no interest in actually hearing our concerns; we explained the seating problem, how we did not pay such high prices to be separated, how we were unhappy that we were not told that so many rows were reserved, how Wehrenberg did not give us the courtesy of informing us that immediately we would not have access to the center middle rows in the theater.

I tried telling her that we could not find four seats together at which point she literally held up her hand and interrupted me and said that yes, there were enough seats in that showing. That's when I began to get upset because I did not appreciate the woman's implication that I was just lying through my teeth about the entire situation and that the problem was my inability to just see.

The Wehrenberg manager nor any Wehrenberg staff offered to go into the theater at any time to help any patron find seats. The Wehrenberg staff, at no time, offered to transfer our purchased tickets to another showing of the film. I finally got huffy with them after tiring of the way in which they spoke to us, the way in which the manager held her hand up to my face, and after she and another employee seemed to roll their eyes at us. I demanded a refund and I think today or tomorrow that $50 will be back in my account, finally.

We weren't the only family that asked for a refund either and we weren't the only family that Wehrenberg refused to assist.

My boys were upset and began crying as we left the theater. Thanks, WEHRENBERG!

As it was explained to me by the manager and Wehrenberg, the rows were reserved because someone paid a premium price to reserve those seats. That's fine. My problem isn't that someone reserved rows, my problem is Wehrenberg's failure to inform their customers that they did not have access to the best seats and may not be able to sit together.

I wrote the company and informed them of the entire ordeal; they basically wrote back and said "so what." Since there is a privacy disclaimer on the correspondence I can't post it fully here and will respect their wishes on it, however, I will post my email.

Hi Lxxxx,
Thank you for the speedy response.

I understand that the theater was not "oversold," however it was impossible for us and other families to find seats together and absolutely no effort was made to assist us or the other families.

I neither asked or expected free tickets; I did expect the theater to be up front about seat availability. Patrons were not told in advance that so many seats were reserved and that we would lose out on choosing seats or the opportunity to even sit with our children. Had we known this we would have simply purchased seats for a different showing or perhaps another theater. The burden of communicating this to patrons belongs to Wehrenberg. It's unfair to
not inform patrons of such an occurrence, to allow them to waste time and purchase tickets unaware that they do not have the same chance at getting a good seat as others - especially when they arrive nearly an hour early before the crowds. If another party paid a premium price, that's fine - but you have a responsibility to inform your customers when this happens so they can decide for themselves if they would rather see another showing. That's just good business.

Those front row seats were
exactly the only seats available for larger families and it's frankly ridiculous to expect small children (such as ours) to crank their necks up to stare at a screen that their eyes will have trouble adjusting to at such close range or to have them sit alone.

Thank you for explaining Wehrenberg's policy more fully. Because I'm not sure exactly what to expect when I walk into a Wehrenberg theater, I will become a regular patron somewhere else.

Dana Loesch

I think it's amusing that any company would decline to just perform better customer service. Or that the manager at any time thought that my request for such translated into free tickets. Don't worry, Wehrenberg, I'm not asking you to go above and beyond anything.

I think its downright offensive for Wehrenberg to say well hey, snort, there are seats in the front. Yes, the seats where you have to do a backbend to even see the screen. Explain to me how this is good for small children? (To say nothing of anyone with a disability.)
I also was offended by how Wehrenberg tried to make their lack of customer service my fault. It was our fault that our family and others couldn't find seats together, it was our fault if we were dissatisfied with how they did not tell patrons about the limited seat choices - yet still charged the SAME price for their tickets.

1. If you're going to allow reserved seating, be courteous and inform your customers BEFORE THEY BUY THEIR TICKETS so they can make the informed choice as to whether or not they want to see a different showing or go to a different theater. It seems insanely rude to charge them the same high price when there is limited choice to seating. It would be considerate to offer a discount on ticket prices to patrons who purchase tickets for showings with reserved seats.

2. When you are told by a slew of customers that they are having trouble finding seats, believe them. Don't argue with them and refuse to help. They're not asking for red carpet treatment, they just want to sit with their kids.

3. This is a novel idea, but stick with me: actually HELP customers find their seats! I know, right?

4. The burden of good customer service is on YOU, the business, Wehrenberg. Don't, in a roundabout way, tell your customers to go service themselves.

So yes, I will not be going back to any Wehrenberg because I like to know what I'm getting myself into when I drop $50 on movie tickets. The reason that I'm writing about it is not to be ignorant, but because I hope to save you from the afternoon that I had with two crying children and a rude theater manager who rolled her eyes at me and stuck her hand up to interrupt me when I tried to ask for help.

This did end on a happy note! I mentioned the situation on Twitter and there were some incredibly nice people who were very generous with museum passes, pool passes, discounts on hotel rooms with pools, theme park discounts; it was very kind. Kids being kids, mine were still upset about the film and I was told about the new Great Escape theater in Fenton. I didn't even know that Fenton had a theater. So we went to see "Up," the ticket prices were a bit cheaper, the staff was courteous, and the entire place smelled like a brand new car. The seats were leather and they rocked. Like, literally, they rocked back and forth. One of their staff, when I relayed our experience at their competitor's, replied "Yeah, they should tell people when they do that."

Lastly, no spoilers, "Up" was fantastic, sad, and hysterical. The first twenty minutes made Chris sob so hard that an older lady seated nearby whispered to her friend "That man is crying."

What do you think? Wouldn't you like to know in advance if seats are reserved, especially a large number of them? Is that too much to ask? What is your worst and/or best customer service story? I'd really like to know, I want to keep a catalog of places to definitely go and places to avoid. Advance thanks!

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