Nelson: You get what you pay for
Our sweltering weather reminds us that summertime has officially arrived and that a person shouldn’t venture outdoors unless they are slathered, like a greased pig, with sunscreen that has an SPF of 10,000.
Clouds of mosquitoes patrol our yards, their razor proboscises eager to harpoon any warm-blooded creatures foolish enough to venture outdoors. These airborne pests seem to have an affinity for those who, like me, have especially yummy blood.
When I was a teenager, summertime brought a peculiar outdoor activity called the all-nighter.
Held on holiday weekends, an all-nighter was a bargain hunter’s dream. For a nominal admission fee at our local drive-in theater, you could enjoy an entire night of feature films! The world hasn’t seen such a deal since Manhattan was purchased for a pile of old Mardi Gras beads and an empty Pez dispenser.
But it doesn’t matter how great the bargain might be if you’re broke. This can lead to the implementation of “creative” solutions.
One Fourth of July when I was a teenager, my buddy Steve and I decided to take in the all-nighter at our local drive-in theater. Like many teens, we were strapped for cash. We looked at ways to stretch our funds via creative accounting techniques.
For example, it was estimated that we could halve our admission expenses if one of us were snuck in. This would free up capital for purchasing snacks at the concession stand. The way we saw it, the drive-in was still getting all our money so we needn’t feel bad about a little fiduciary fudging.
Being the scrawnier one, I was selected to be the sneakee. Steve, the sneaker, drove his car up to the admission gate while I huddled under an old blanket on the floor of the backseat and tried to make myself look like a pile of old blankets. I used the opportunity to study the carpet’s many mysterious stains and embedded wads of fossilized bubblegum.
I felt the car slow to a halt and heard Steve say, “Just one, please.” He forked over the two buck admission fee and I was in!
Steve parked and I slipped out of my blanket prison. We were deeply relieved when we didn’t see any flashing red lights or sirens pursuing us.
Finding the right place to park is crucial when you’re a teenaged guy at a drive-in theater. You don’t want to be up front where everyone can see you. But neither do you want to be way out back, which is somewhat of a danger zone much in the same way that Afghanistan is somewhat of a troubled country.
We located a Goldilocks parking spot and set up the speaker. In that era, the sound system in drive-in theaters consisted of individual metal speakers that you hung on the window of your car. The speakers, which weighed approximately ten pounds, were connected to a steel post via a cable. Their sound quality ranked somewhere between “awful” and “better than nothing.”
Once we got situated, we began to conduct our main mission for the evening which was meeting girls. We certainly weren’t there to simply watch movies with strangers in a gravel parking lot!
We meandered over to the concession stand to procure vital supplies of popcorn and soda and to scope out the drive-in crowd. Most interesting to us were the small groups of teenaged girls who were talking and laughing beside their cars. Armed with this valuable intel, we strolled back to Steve’s car and waited for the first feature to start.
And waited. And waited some more. The sun sets incredibly late at midsummer, so the show didn’t begin until nearly 10:00. That was my normal bedtime!
The first reel finally began. The car was an oven, so all of its windows were rolled down. The ability to afford automotive air conditioning was years in our futures.
A horde of mosquitoes set upon us, their ravenous buzzing nearly drowning out the tinny drive-in speaker. There was little we could do other than swat and swear.
I got out of the car and wandered the theater. Scattered knots of teenaged females were standing beside their vehicles, chatting and acting bored. Lacking the courage to actually speak to any of them, I returned to Steve’s car and resumed watching the movie. The flick was so unmemorable that I don’t recall any of it.
The rumble of car engines starting and the crunch of tires on gravel jarred me awake. I nudged Steve and told him that the all-nighter was over.
Yawning and stretching, Steve said, “Those movies weren’t anything to write home about.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “I guess you get what you pay for.”
If you’d like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at email@example.com. His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at Workman.com and at booksellers everywhere.