A few years ago, I spent the summer in Carlsbad, New Mexico.  My father had moved down there for work, and I had just gotten – more likely, he had gotten me – an internship at his company.  On the surface, Carlsbad isn’t that different than my hometown in western New York.  Sure, it’s hotter (much hotter).  And the insects are bigger (much much bigger…like Starship Troopers big).  But that quintessential, somewhat suffocating “small-town” vibe was equally present in both locales.

Just some of the local wildlife.

Just some of the local wildlife.

It wasn’t the greatest summer of my life.  Workdays ran together into a bleary, months-long blur.  Not to mention that any attempts at making friends were altogether stymied by my Yankee (read: obstinate) personality.

But every weekend I was able to escape the office and the heat and the loneliness (*sob*) at the local drive-in.  Carlsbad has a great three-screen set-up that’s open eight months out of the year, and I saw a movie there nearly every week that summer.  Sometimes my dad would join me, but more often than not I just drove over alone.

Up until this point, I’d assumed that seeing a movie without a friend meant you didn’t have friends.  And okay, sure.  Maybe in this instance, that would be true.  But even in Pittsburgh (where I have plenty of friends, thank you very much), I prefer to see movies by myself.  Because let’s face it: if you try talking to me during the movie, I’m just going to shush you.

Or sometimes I just bring Obama along and he shushes people for me.

Or sometimes I just bring Obama along and he shushes people for me.

So, anyways. Here I am.  At the drive-in some Friday night.  (Alone.)  And I’m watching one of the Transformer movies.  Maybe the first one, maybe the sequel.  Doesn’t make much difference.  Giant primary-colored robots are battling it out on the big screen and I’m leaning back into the driver’s seat of my dad’s Ford pickup.  My windows are down, and there's a cool breeze funneling in and out of the truck.  Nice, really.

And then I feel it – something stings my cheek.  I put my hand up but there’s nothing there.  A second later and there’s another sting.  Then a few more, and I realize it’s sand.  Sand?  Then my radio starts acting up and the movie soundtrack becomes punctuated by burps of static.  On the screen, the robots are fighting near Hoover Dam, somewhere in the Arizona desert, and I wonder if perhaps this is some new form of 3D entertainment?  Like, weather conditions to match the movie?  If it is, I’m not enjoying it.

Now the sand is starting to accumulate inside the car and I’m finally – BUT WHY THE HELL DID IT TAKE ME SO LONG? – rolling up the windows.  I think this must be a sandstorm.  I’m not really sure what the protocol is here, but the locals don’t seem the least bit anxious; they continue to watch the movie until the sand becomes to thick to see, and then they calmly turn their cars on and start to file out of the lot.  I reluctantly follow.

I’m a terrible driver on the best of days, so I’m really not looking forward to the drive home.  Sandstorm?  SANDSTORM?!  I feel like I’m in Aladdin or something.  I guess sandstorms are just the New Mexican equivalent of blizzards, and maybe if this was a blizzard, then I wouldn’t feel so alarmed; I’ve driven through a blizzard but never a sandstorm.  Will the sand go up inside the car’s engine and force it all to explode?  How do cars work?  I wish I knew.  All I know is I’m too young to die, and I definitely don’t want to die at a Transformers movie.

And then a giant tiger's head reared up out of the desert sands!!! Just kidding.

And then a giant tiger's head reared up out of the desert sands!!! Just kidding.

In the end, I got home okay (I know – boring!).  The drive took a little longer than usual but it wasn’t all that different than driving through an actual blizzard: I wouldn’t recommend it, but you’ll most likely survive the experience.  I guess the worst part of that whole ordeal is that I never found out what happened to the robots in that movie…

The reason I’m sharing this story is because June 6th marks the anniversary of the very first drive-in movie theatre in New Jersey in 1933.  At their height, nearly 5,000 drive-ins were in operation across the country, but now less than 500 remain.  Drive-ins are great because they’re cheaper than regular movie theaters, you can watch movies in the comfort and privacy of your own car, and the snack bars usually have ridiculous items like fried hamburgers.  Fried hamburgers?!  YES.

Btw fried hamburgers look something like this, just in case you weren't drawn in by the name alone.

Btw fried hamburgers look something like this, just in case you weren't drawn in by the name alone.

But there aren’t any drive-ins near me, right? you may ask.  WRONG.  Dependable Drive-in is located just outside of Pittsburgh, in Moon Township.  I've been there a few times myself, and I highly recommend planning a trip out there with your friends sometime!

 

 

 

 

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So, what do you think?