I thought I’d tell you the story of two idiots and their incredible (and stupid) journey to see a movie. One idiot is me, and one idiot, to protect his identity from those who may know him, shall be henceforth referred to as…Larry.
I’m sharing this story with you all in the “gettin’ to know ya'” spirit of this month’s introductory posts. We’ve been discussing all month some of the things we like most about the movies – what genres we love, which actors we adore, etc. But, a-la Aaron’s Stardust solo entry, the circumstances under which we see movies, on occasion, make the movie going experience that much more unforgettable. A sentiment left out of many of our movie-going recollections that, in some cases and under the proper direction, might just make a good scene in the movie-story-picture-show of our own lives.
Once upon a winter’s eve, while we were still in high school, Larry and I wanted to go to a movie at Wings Cinema in Rantoul, IL. Remember that place, Central Illinoisans? It was most definitely a school night, and the forecast was for heavy snow that wasn’t supposed to start until much later in the evening. Why did my folks let me travel and take the risk? Because Larry lived on a farm and was coming with me and they trusted him a lot more than they trusted me to get out of a jam on the road should we find ourselves in one. In other words, they thought he was more skilled behind the wheel than I was. I’m pretty sure they liked him more than me, too. Anyway, the hole in their logic was that Larry didn’t have a license at the time (that’s another story, and also, the parental units didn’t need to know that when we begged to go to the theater).
We get halfway to the theater, which was probably twenty minutes from our homes in Gibson City, and the snow began falling. It was falling hours earlier than the weather people said it would fall, and it was heavy. Cell phones didn’t exist, except on Saved by the Bell, so our parents couldn’t call us to tell us to come home, and we were in the country, miles away from a payphone, so we decided we couldn’t ask for permission to stay out. So, the two idiots, Larry and myself, decided that clearly the best decision we could make was to forge ahead and see the movie. Mistake #1.
After having a great time together, as we usually did when we went out on an adventure (Larry and I, it seemed, couldn’t ever go anywhere together without having some sort of adventure, and they were usually dangerous), we set out for home.
In the two hours we were in that tiny little theater in Rantoul, it must’ve snowed six inches.
But the worst of it was over, and, luckily, there was little to no wind. The challenge would, therefore, be for us to navigate unplowed roads in town and REALLY unplowed roads out in the country.
We made it to where 136 turns onto the Elliot-Dewey-Fisher road. We made the turn. Mistake #2. I turned way too fast (mistake #3) and lost control and immediately ended up in the ditch at the intersection of 136 and the EDF road.
I was scared because we were stuck and the road was too high from the ditch we were in to get back onto it. But a lightbulb went off in my brain – Dad let me go out because I was with country Larry who would clearly know what to do! And he did! He said not to worry. All we needed to do was find a tractor-access point back onto the road, a culvert, drive onto it from the ditch, and everything would be fine. Now…us two idiots knew we couldn’t drive along in the ditch until we came upon one, so we decided the best, most logical decision would be to drive up into the field and then move along parallel to the ditch until we found one of these mythical culverts. So, we drove up into the field…a snowy, soybean field. Mistake #4. But country Larry offered to drive – without a license – so at least that pressure was off. Mistake #5.
Ever drive by a soybean field in the winter and notice the nice, evenly plowed rows that run perpendicular to the highway? For all you cityfolk out there, those rows are heaving humps of frozen dirt. When covered with snow, your car, should you have the misfortune of driving through one of these snow-covered fields, will sink to those plowed humps of frozen dirt and make for one bumpy ride.
As we went over the snow-covered humps of the long-since plowed bean rows, the car hopped and bopped along and us two idiots bounced higher and higher off of our seats, banging our heads into the ceiling, for almost half a mile. “We’ll find an access point in a sec. The tractors need ‘em to get in and out of the fields from the roads,” said the confident country idiot (Larry) to the shaking-with-terror city idiot (me).
What happened next went down as legendary to Larry and myself whenever we see each other and discuss the old days, and unbelievable to everyone to whom this tale was, and still is, subsequently told.
Up ahead, the country idiot saw something that made his eyes widen with fear. The rows of beans ahead seemed to be a lot “humpier,” to the tune of about six inches, than the ones we had been driving through to this point. “Oh no,” said Larry, making my stomach drop into my feet. “I think those are corn rows! If we drive through those we’re not getting out of this field!” Both of us were laughing and screaming at the same time, because we both knew that no matter what happened, we were going to die that night. Either from freezing to death in the field (nobody else was on the road, and remember: there were no cell phones, boys and girls) or at the hands of our idiot parents who would no doubt destroy us, but who also actually trusted us to go out during a snowstorm in the first place.
Larry impulsively made a massive U-turn (mistake #6), taking us fifty yards deeper into the field, clipping the edge of the corn rows, changing our bumpy ride into a car-heaving, this-must-be-what-it’s-like-to-drive-a-pimped-out-car-with-hydraulic-pumps moment of terror, while I pleaded with him to stop. He insisted that if we stopped the car, we’d would never get it going again. I knew he was right.
I was screaming and on the verge of tears, Larry was laughing hysterically, like John Candy as the devil in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and I told him as we were heaving up and down in the car that I had sandbags in the trunk to gain traction if we needed. This information served no purpose, and Larry started laughing even harder.
Now, I realize I’m not painting a very flattering picture of Larry here. But I’m the one who insisted on making this night happen in the first place, and I’m the one who landed us in this predicament. All these years later, I need someone else to blame for my own idiocy. Moving on…
Larry successfully negotiated the U-turn and we were on our way through the soybean field back towards the intersection where we first entered the field. A lone white car was suddenly spotted driving down 136, also about to make the turn onto the EDF road. We thought for sure it was a cop, and that we were officially screwed. Not only was it not a cop, but whoever it was, who by the way had to have seen us, didn’t slow down or stop to help us. But then again, did the two idiots deserve help at this point?
We were going to stop the car on the corner where we entered the field and hike to a farmhouse to face the music. We got about twenty-five feet away from our original entry point, just beyond our initial tire tracks, and we both spotted something we both clearly missed (mistake #7) when we set off to drive through a bean field in winter. There, in the middle of the ditch, very, very close to where we entered that ditch, was a culvert tractor path in the ditch that connected the field to the road. Without stopping, Larry drove us onto the EDF.
We drove back home in silence, and since Larry was sans license, we pulled over once along the way to put me back into the driver’s seat. It was understood without discussion that not a word of the incident would be mentioned to any parents, a sort of silent blood oath that held strong long after that night.
It was one hell of a night at the movies. An experience I will never forget. A journey that began with a desire to see what turned out to be a great movie and ended with a quest for survival of the elements and our parents. See what I mean? The experience of seeing a movie is sometimes as good or better than the movie itself! You gotta remember that!
Wait, what? Oh, I forgot to mention what movie we saw at Wings Cinema that fateful night? It was Dumb and Dumber.