Turn of the tide

When I was a kid, I used to sneak into the movies when we went to the beach. It was a small theater with a box office window on the outside. During the off season, there was rarely anyone inside the glass doors to rip tickets. If I walked in like I belonged, no one gave me a second glance.

I did feel like I belonged. A dark movie theater has always been my favorite place to eat large quantities of small candies and cry. The crying part used to be a secret until my youngest daughter started looking over during sad parts of a movie. It gives her pleasure to see my eyes moist with tears or the betrayal of one spilling down my cheek. She tears up too during sad parts so I don’t think she’s mocking me. I think she likes to know that I cry too when I’m sad. Anyway, the joke’s on her because I also tear up during happy parts.

These are some of the movies I snuck into or begrudgingly paid to see at the beach. The Breakfast Club. Neverending Story. The Karate Kid Part II. Coming to America. Legal Eagles. Possibly St. Elmo’s Fire but either I didn’t or it was so adult and boring I don’t remember anything about it. I definitely saw About Last Night, which was adult but had enough sexy parts to keep my attention.

I saw Uncle Buck with a beautiful Hungarian boy I’d met playing volleyball on the beach. After the movie, we made out under the deck of somebody’s beach house. A View to a Kill was almost ruined by a boy who sat next to me and wouldn’t stop talking. He told me he’d walk me home afterwards. He didn’t even ask. When the movie ended, I jogged across the street and ducked behind a pharmacy to lose him. This was the same pharmacy where I bought most of the candy I ate at the movies. The beach movie theater didn’t get much money from me over the years.

I am open about this because I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations ran out and also because I would never sneak into a movie now. I’m too scared to jaywalk, which is why I made us go two blocks out of the way to cross at a light to get to the beach movie theater last week. The box office attendant asked if anyone qualified for a senior discount. I know I have silver (gray) hair, but I’m only 45 and she was old enough to know better. If I’m too timid to jaywalk or take a discount after being insulted, sneaking into a movie is out of the question.

I am pleased to announce the loud carpet of my childhood beach movie theater is still there or else was purchased (repurchased?) via time travel to the 1980s. After we bought a soda but no candy (wink wink) from concessions, my daughters and I took our seats. That’s when I realized I didn’t have my phone and thought maybe I left it on the trunk of my car when I stopped to get something.

With minutes to spare, I dashed from the theater like James Bond when he raced after the rope dangling from Zorin’s blimp. I even jaywalked, practicing in my head what I would say when I saw the flash of blue and red lights. By the time I found my phone and jaywalked again to get back to the theater, I was sweating as much from nerves as exertion. How funny would it be, I wondered, if the ticket ripper wouldn’t let me back in.

But she did, oblivious to my history or too young to care, and I took my seat just in time to tear up during a couple of trailers that were not the least bit sad. Later, my oldest daughter pointed out that I hadn’t paid to see a movie in awhile since she gets free tickets from her job at a movie theater back home. Huh, I thought. Maybe I did push her towards applying there. She will start college soon, so no freebies for awhile. I’ll have to find somewhere else to cry and eat smuggled candies in the dark or else suck it up and pay until she goes back to work during school breaks. 

12 thoughts on “Turn of the tide

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  1. As kids we used to just wait at the side exit (which only opened from the inside) for a show to let out. As people started exiting, we’d just walk right in. I ended up working as a manager for that same company many years later. Was a stickler for the rules, wouldn’t let anybody in without a ticket, not even friends (although I did let my parents in). Funny how things work out. I remember one of my coworkers used to let in anyone from the restaurant next door, and they in turn gave him free food. After hours was a different ballgame, though. I often stayed after the last show let out to watch a movie by myself. Sometimes I’d bring a friend in. Once or twice we just popped in at 3 or 4 in the morning after being out all night and fired up a show. Those were the days.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I get teary-eyed in theaters, too, but pretty sure it’s the chemicals from the carpet cleaner and the artificial butter. I think I read they both have formaldehyde or something, causes premature graying, weird craving for Swedish Fish, etc. I miss the old theater at home, you just had to accept the constant squeaking from the antique seats, I think they squeak even when nobody’s sitting in them, it’s like cicadas in the summer, just part of the background.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My brother is also prematurely gray and used to go to the movies so it must be true. I hope your old theater hasn’t changed. Around here we have an old theater where a scene from The Blob was filmed. It looks very much the same…it’s a real treasure.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I went to see A Star Is Born (I paid for my ticket, didn’t sneak in — I’ve never snuck into a movie theater, or gone from one movie to another once in. I’d be terrified.) I cried during one scene in the movie. It was a happy scene — when Lady Gaga took the stage for the first time and fulfilled her dream. The sad parts didn’t make me cry.

    It’s funny though … I’m an occasional jaywalker. You kind of have to be at times in downtown Sacramento. But again, I can’t even begin to imagine sneaking into a movie without paying. You’re a rebel.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The older I get, the likelier I am to cry while watching a movie. I hope for your sake you’ve never got into This Is Us. The first season of that show left me in tears multiple times.

        But – there is no shame in tears.


  4. You always bring a smile to my face. I love how your memory reaches a corner of my memory—a theater. This particular theater’s name, along with the building, have long been gone. Reading your post awakened a young child enlivened at the prospect of a “TV” the size of a wall. I stood at the ticket booth window, one hand secured to my mother’s sweater. I was too small to see the exchange of cash for tickets. Funny, I do not remember the movie, only that I could not see the cashier. Yes, that moment—you gave it to me—now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Again, a winner. (Sorry, I read backwards through posts.)

    It makes you stop and think, “what childhood hijinx did I get up to. I didn’t sneak into anything. I was an appallingly good girl. Though, come to think of it, I would low crawl into my parents bedroom to sneak the change out of my dad’s pockets. He always had a good fistful…and we didn’t get an allowance, so it seemed only fair.

    This is what I like—when other people’s memories trigger my own. It’s like walking side-by-side down parallel memory lanes.


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