Outward-Facing Life Hack #3

I worked in a movie theater for a summer right before college, and I had a blast. I love movies, I love seeing people get excited about movies, and I love popcorn. It was a good fit.

There’s one part of the job that no one at the theater enjoyed: Cleaning up a theater after a movie. It has to happen fast, there’s lots of trash, and occasionally you find evidence of sexual behavior that you just don’t want to think about.

Entertainment venues are one of the few places where it’s perfectly acceptable to simply dump trash wherever you want. Movie theaters, concert venues, sports stadiums…I’m sure there isn’t a single person out there who hasn’t left their cup in the cup holder or a crumpled napkin on the floor. We do it without thinking about it.

But when you do think about it, isn’t it a bit strange? Where else is it acceptable to toss your trash on the ground or leave it behind.?Would you do that at a friend’s house? In the park? On the street?

This blog series is about outward-facing life hacks–little things you can do that require very little effort, but they can make someone else’s job a lot easier. Because I’ve cleaned up trash in a movie theater, I know that that if I leave trash behind, someone has to pick it up. But it’s SUPER easy for me to carry my own trash to a trash can when I get up from my seat.

So I do. I’m sure I forget from time to time, but it’s become such a habit that I don’t have to think about it. And when I do think about it, it makes me happy to know that I made someone else’s job a little easier. And if you’re at a movie theater, it means that the people waiting for the next screening can get to their seats faster.

Is this something you do too?

12 thoughts on “Outward-Facing Life Hack #3”

  1. I do that too, and I can’t stand when, after a “big game,” the entire U of A campus seems covered in trash. When I lived right near campus, I regularly found that people parking in front of my house would leave their fast food trash on the ground, even when my large trash can was RIGHT THERE.

    • Totally, it’s so easy to do! I think sometimes people don’t realize it in the moment, but I bet if they saw the aftermath of so much trash (and if they had to pick up some of it), they might think twice.

  2. Yes!! I can’t leave my trash. It’s really strange that it’s ‘acceptable’ to do so. My thought was always that you weren’t supposed to, but the dark made it hard to find it (or more cynically that people do see it was you that left it, so why bother). My personal choice is to carry it out myself.

    • That’s interesting–I didn’t know that some people might think that you’re supposed to leave your trash there. It also makes me wonder how much of a difference it would make if a movie or sporting event ended with a quick announcement to ask people to put their trash in a trash can, as I think it just doesn’t occur to a lot of people.

  3. I look forward to this series.

    I guess at 34 I’m old… because my parents taught me that this is not acceptable behavior. It’s quite dirty, scummy, and selfish, actually. 🙂 (and I’m just talking about leaving trash… not about the, um, other behavior.

    • Joseph: That’s a great point–if everyone was taught as a kid to throw away their trash, we might see a lot less trash left behind in the theater!

  4. We only get a pop at the theater, but we definitely take it with us. We wouldn’t even think of leaving it there.

    We see what slobs other movie-goers can be and we’re amazed. Even though we shouldn’t be.

  5. The idea that you’d just leave rubbish anywhere is completely foreign to me. It’s bizarre that people think it’s ok to do.

    At the end of every movie I’ve seen in the last… few decades… there’s always been a staff member there holding a large garbage bag for people to throw their rubbish into once the movie finishes. That definitely seems to help with the left-overs.

  6. I love the fact that the post-credit scene for Deadpool finished with a “Oh and don’t leave your garbage all lying around. It’s a total dick move”.
    I rarely left rubbish behind anyway, but now I never do 😀

  7. I tend to just have a large drink when I go to the films, which I tend to have half of before the film starts then quickly get suffiently into the film to not touch it until the end – so I’m usually finishing off my ‘snacks’ on the way out of the film anyway rather than leaving for the ushers to deal with. (and if I have food with me, it’s usually a bag of sweets or something that I tend to pocket when I’m done with)

    Even when I was leaving the trash there, I tried to make it as easy to clean up as possible – any confectionary wrappers get put into the cup my drink was from, left in the cup holder, so it was one thing to bus away, same with cafes that don’t have self-bussing; napkin on the plate, plate on the tray if I have one, everything as easy to bus away as I can make it.

  8. Jamey,

    Great post! While I’m mildly annoyed, my daughter will verbally address the situation, especially with young kids, “Excuse me, doesn’t that go in the trash.” She has said it to a number of kids following a movie which has a two-fold effect…a.) no child wants to be reprimanded by a stranger, even if the household rules for them is completely lax and b.) no adult in their right mind is going to say anything to my daughter when their parenting skills are so apparently deficient. In short, we tend to clean up our stuff and usually around us as well.



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