IN DARKNESS

When I was young, there were two options for seeing a movie on the big screen. You could go to a drive in theatre or go to a theatre where you actually had your own seat. I don’t care if you are a child or adult, there is no denying the magical experience of seeing a movie on the big screen.

When you went to the drive in, you could pack enough stuff to look like the family was going on a camping trip. Families would make their own popcorn and put it in brown grocery bags. Everyone had their own can of soda. There were pillows, blankets and the children were usually in their pajamas. If it was a warm night, you could be in a deck chair outside the car or you could lay on the top of the car’s hood. As long as you had the speaker on high, so everyone could hear the movie.

One of the fun things about going to the drive in as a kid, was the playground that was underneath the screen. There, before the movie started, you could play and scream and use up a lot of energy, which made the parents very happy. But when the time was right, it was everyone back to their theatres or bedrooms on wheels. It was time for the dancing hot dog and singing box of popcorn. For the parents, it was a cheap way to get out of the house and not have to hire a babysitter. You could load up the car and pay by the car load, sometimes it was $5.00 per car, and if you brought your own snacks and if the kids fell asleep quickly, you could kinda, sorta have a romantic evening under the stars.

I remember actually being pretty savvy at a young age about the prices at the refreshment stand. We would go to the store and get candy and we always wanted the one that would last us the longest. So the best choice was Sugar Babies or Bit O Honey. Those gave us the biggest bang for our buck and kept our dentist in his comfortable lifestyle.

When I was 16 years old, I got my first “real job”. That meant that I had a payroll slip and got paid by check. Before then I had a booming business as a babysitter…I was booked every week and was making a whopping 50 cents an hour. But when I turned 16, I could legally work at a real job and I had my driver’s license. This was the time for me to upgrade my income, I would now be making $1.60 an hour. I heard that the Drive-in was hiring and I thought it would be perfect for me. My first clue that this was not going to be a glamorous job in the movies? The job interview took place in the bathroom as that was the only place for privacy in the building. I had a light blue uniform and it was a DRESS, for god’s sake. My job was to work the counter serving popcorn, hot dogs, and pouring sodas. We were invaded during the intermission (remember, there were two movies) with mobs of desperate people looking for nourishment. After the rush and the second feature had started I had to clean the bathrooms, which was as close to disgusting as can be. I remember holding my breath as I walked in so that I could not breathe in the fumes. And then my job got a lot more interesting, I was given a new assignment.

Instead of doing the bathrooms, they had a task for me that they thought I would do well at. I was given a flashlight and was told to go out to the cars and see if there was any hanky panky going on. If I did see anything, I was to knock on the window and tell them to stop. I was a 16 year old high school girl who did not really know how to define hanky panky, but I had a general idea of what they were talking about. Needless to say, I was horrified and I tried to give back the flashlight. But the manager really wanted me to do it, so I went out into the night. I walked between cars and kept my eyes focused in front of me. I did not see anything or hear anything. As I was getting towards the back of the lot, where there was a good chance some shenanigans would take place, I walked faster and kept looking straight forward. I then heard my name being called and stopped because I thought the manager was calling me back to home base. But instead there was a head leaning out of the back seat window of a car that I had just passed, a friend from school who was with her boyfriend, and she was wondering what I was doing. She said it looked like I had lost something, which made sense as I looked like I was from CSI searching for clues. I knew her well enough to tell her the truth and she laughed and laughed. She said that I would have to do a lot of knocking if I was really going to do my job, and I told her that I had no intention of looking into any windows. It was at that moment that I made up my mind, so I went back to the snack bar and told the manager that I would rather clean bathrooms then do the patrol. I told her that she was sending a 16 year old into dangerous territory and that my parents would not want me peeking into car windows. The manager just sighed and agreed to take back the flashlight and muttered “this was a stupid idea anyway.”

So I stayed safely at the counter and in the bathrooms, until I realized that working at the drive in was putting a damper on my social life, as I had to work every Friday night and I wanted to go to the football games. So I quit and gave up that big paycheck and happily turned in my blue dress.

From then on, I went to the drive in as a customer. I remember it was the summer of JAWS and we figured that the shark was the same size as the car we were sitting in. As much as I was into the movie, I kept looking for a flashlight walking among the cars. But alas, no one knocked.

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