Our Planetarium Excursion

Some of my mom’s friends invited us to go with them to the planetarium at the University of Arizona last night, and taking any chance to get out of the house and see Tucson, I was all for it.
We got to the place early, so we wandered around for a bit. Outside and up some windy stairs was a large telescope through which you could look up into the heavens. Except for the fact that the telescope was focused on two twin stars over 50 light years away that I’d never heard of (being too late in the evening to see any of the planets), it was still fun to look through the telescope– if just for the sake of saying that I’ve looked through a real telescope.

After wasting time there and then going inside and wasting some more time looking at enlarged photos of the galaxy and such, it was finally time to go inside the theater. I was excited. The last time I’d been to a planetarium was in sixth grade during our end-of-the-year class field trip to Bozeman (the highlight of which was the pool party at the hot springs), and the only two things I remember about the show were loving how the stars looked so real and hoping that no one around me could smell my armpits, which by sixth grade smelled to high heaven (bahaha!) and were already sweating profusely from our galavanting around the museum.
So as I settled back comfortably into my seat last night, I was looking forward to a peaceful hour of planets and stars and bright specs of light that shimmered and showered down. All that happy stuff.
A volunteer from the university gave us a quick safety demonstration, including that the show may cause epileptic seizures. Wow, I thought to myself. Those stars must really shimmer. That should have been our first clue.

She also explained that the laser was made in the seventies and had been brought back in honor of its thirty-something-th anniversary. That should have been our second clue.
Cool laser machine — looked like a giant bug.

Then the lights turned off and the audience twittered nervously in the pitch dark. Suddenly, a loud pulsing noise came throbbing over the speakers and a long line of florescent pink laser light appeared around the perimeter of the circular ceiling. It started flashing to the beat.
That’s interesting. Annoying, but interesting.
But then, aaaah, there were the stars. That annoying pulsing pink line was still there, but at least the stars came out. I expected the loud music, far too intense for viewing the Milky Way, to start fading into something soothing and classical. But it didn’t.
In fact, is that Pink Floyd?!
A little line of blue laser light appeared now and started tracing its way across the starry sky. I expected it to start spelling “Welcome to the Galaxy” or something. But it didn’t. It just kept tracing its way across the sky in random patterns.
Then the blue line changed into lots of different things — pulsating circles, odd figures that looked like falling babies (I kid you not), horses, more funky lines. And all in these gratingly-bright laser colors.
By the time the line had changed into the outline of a large man sitting on a chair spinning around in the sky, I’d had enough. Apparently, so had the rest of my group. One of the older women, Mrs. P, actually got on her hands and knees and crawled down the entire row to ask us if we were enjoying the show or not.
To give you a little back-story, Mrs. P and the other women I was with (including my dear mother) are the kind of women who only watch movies like Ever After and You’ve Got Mail. The most syncopated music they listen to is from Mozart, and almost nothing has a beat. They are peaceful souls, having put all memories/thoughts of that psychedelic decade behind them. So for these ladies to be stuck in a Pink Floyd super-trippy laser light show was too funny.
After Mrs. P crawled down the row to ask us our opinion of the show and then crawled back, all of the group just got up and left. Except Mom and I, however, who were in the middle of the row. This seating arrangement made it much more difficult to leave without being noticed. Besides, I was still laughing too hard at Mrs. P to get up when they left.
After a little whispering debate (Sorry, people sitting behind us), Mom and I were about to give up on a sneaky exit and just accept that we’d make a scene leaving (easy to do in a tiny room where all chairs are pointed toward the center and everyone can see everything), when the auditorium suddenly got pitch black again. I’m sure there was music going on, but I was still in such a fit of hysterical silent laughter that I didn’t notice. Mom suggested moving down to the end of the row quietly while it was still dark. It was a great idea, except that the chairs were anything but quiet and we made a wonderful squeaking racket moving from chair to chair. I think the music softened then just for our benefit.
A few stray laser lights came up and the auditorium became cast in a gentle gray glow. It was still pretty dark, and I could see the exit right in front of me. Alright, now’s the time.
Steeling myself, I stood up and walked toward the exit — just in time for all the lasers to turn on in all their brilliantly-colored glory and light up the ENTIRE auditorium. Including the retreating backs of Mom and I. And to add to the effect, the instant we pulled open the exit doors, the music erupted in this huge bell/gong noise.
I could barely get out the door, I was laughing so hard. Trying to be polite, but really hardly caring, we ran past the confused college students behind the front counter and out into the open air where our friends were waiting.
Well, so much for the planetarium. We consoled ourselves with frozen yogurt, and it was great.

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