Laura on Life: Drive-in disaster

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 14, 2008

One very good use for a minivan is going to a drive-in theater. There aren’t very many of them around anymore, but when you find one, it’s like taking a trip back in time.
My husband and I used to go to the drive-in all the time when we were dating, but now that it’s so easy to rent a movie, plus the fact that most people have a bazillion channels on their TV, drive-in theaters have become almost extinct. The next generation apparently thought you went to a drive-in to watch movies. On the contrary. For us, it was more of a…um…social event. We never saw much of the movie.
Not long ago my husband got a little nostalgic and “googled” drive-in theaters to see if any still existed. He actually found one about an hour from our town. We decided that it would be fun to revisit our youth with the added benefit of actually watching the movie. We would be taking our children with us, so it would be more of a historical event this time…Or maybe cultural…But an event nonetheless.
We packed blankets and pillow for the kids in the unlikely event that they would want to sleep during the second movie. Another nice thing about drive-ins is that you get two movies for the price of one.
On the drive there, we ran into a small rain shower, but it looked clear in the distance, so we drove on, thinking optimistically.
Just before we arrived we stopped and bought some snacks because, although the drive-ins from our youth had a snack stand, we weren’t sure about this one. My husband was certain that not having popcorn and M&M’s would ruin the whole experience.
When we pulled in, we both breathed an ecstatic sigh. It was just like we remembered it!…Except there were no poles sticking out of the ground with the speakers you were supposed to attach to your car window. I can’t tell you how many times we drove off with one of those speakers still attached to our car. But back then, we couldn’t be counted on to even know when the movie ended much less remember a trivial thing like possible damage to someone else’s speaker or the bill for a broken car window when we ripped it off the pole.
Here, we found that we didn’t need speakers, however. They project the sound through your radio now. Smart. There must’ve been a lot of irresponsible people going around ripping speakers off the poles.
After we parked our minivan backwards, ran each child to the restrooms, and settled them in with their blankets and pillows, we brought out our lounge chairs and prepared to have a relaxing evening. That was the plan, anyway.Somewhere in the middle of Horton Hears a Who, it started pouring rain. Before we could shove the kids into a corner and haul ourselves into a position which would allow everyone in the minivan to see, there was collateral damage. The popcorn got soggy, the M&M’s were damp and I sat on someone’s juice box.
When the movie and the rain stopped, almost simultaneously, we assessed the damage.
The first thing I noticed was that because I had been jammed up against a piece of metal protruding from the floor of the minivan, my butt was now completely numb. My doctor says that I may never regain full use of my butt again.
My husband had a rainbow stretching down one entire leg of his pants from sliding across a handful of wet M&M’s.
My shoes were left outside next to my lounge chair which apparently formed the perfect conduit for collecting rainwater and dumping it directly into my shoes.
My daughter used the bag of soggy popcorn as a pillow and now her hair looked like she had been the victim of a packing peanuts explosion.
The juice box that I had sat upon was apparently not empty until I had. It seems that the contents had jettisoned itself onto my youngest child’s pajamas. Having already wet himself, he was unaware that he had also been the recipient of a full box of juice…minus the box.
I used up my entire emergency supply of industrial-strength wet wipes from Joe’s Crab Shack. I keep extra ones in the car for emergencies. This definitely qualified.
When we finally packed up and the kids settled in for a long, hopefully sleep-filled ride home, my husband asked me if I could drive because he’d lost his glasses somewhere.
“Sure,” I said, trying to stay optimistic.
Then we realized that the driver’s side window had been fully open to the windward side of the storm.
Geez, this drive-in experience was nothing like I remembered it.
You can reach Laura at Or visit her website for more columns and info about her books.