Last night, my wife and I went to the movies. As we sat in the theater, waiting for the lights to dim, I looked around to make sure nobody was paying attention, then leaned over and whispered to her that she should hand over the M&M's she had hidden in her purse.
My wife had M&M's hidden in her purse because we had stopped by a discount store on our way to the theater, bought candy at fair and reasonable prices, and then sneaked it in past the theater ushers. (The M&M's were for me; she had a bag of Skittles for herself.) She was acting as candy mule because I have learned from hard experience that hiding M&M's in your jeans pocket ends up with a melted sticky mess. (You can, of course, rip open the side of the bag and squeeze it into your mouth like an unhealthy astronaut, but it's kind of gross.)
We have been sneaking snacks at the movies for years. With five kids, we had to. When our kids were little, my wife used to make popcorn at home, divide it up in paper lunch sacks, then hand it out to the kids to stick under their shirts before we entered the theater. It made going to the movies more exciting because the nervous kids would shake like undersized smugglers waiting in the line at airport customs. We not only saved money, but also we taught the kids personal responsibility (Anybody who got caught, we warned, would have to go without snacks). They would, of course, come home with big butter spots on their shirts, but it was worth it.
We did buy the kids a soda, but just one extra-large refillable super gulp, and they all had to share. This was not only very unhygienic, but also it led to problems, as kids aren't really the best at sharing. The kid who ended up with the last gulp of super gulp would always pitch a fit, even though we had already established that we could get unlimited refills. We'd pass the super gulp cup up and down the McKay family aisle, each person relegated to a single sip. Because you have to be quiet in a theater, everyone can hear how long you slurp at the big gulp, and if any one kid spent too long at the trough, there would be howls of protest in the dark.
We had tried letting the kids sneak in their own soda cans, but they never mastered the art of coughing to cover up the sound of a can being opened. And somebody always ended up kicking over a soda, and we'd have to endure the agony of a can rolling slowly toward the front of the theater, a process that can take almost a minute if you sit toward the back. There was no escaping guilt because the usher would be able to follow the trail of spilled soda back to the source.
If you're a theater owner and this confession bothers you, then get in your car and go jump in a lake. If you don't want people to sneak candy into the theater, then you have a number of options. First, you could charge reasonable prices for candy and popcorn instead of figuring out what the item costs, then multiplying it by 32. You could sell normal-size portions instead of mega boxes clearly meant for giants. Finally, you could employ theater ushers who aren't meek little high school sophomores who seem almost too shy to ask for your ticket, let alone stop a full-grown adult because his shirt is bulging and he smells like Orville Redenbacher. (They may scare my kids, but they don't scare me.)
Our kids are basically either grown and seeing their movies in other cities or teenagers who wouldn't be caught dead in the same movie, or even theater, as their parents. But out of habit, my wife and I still make sure that we're loaded up with snacks well before we pass the concession counter, just to keep in the game. We've perfected the art of coughing just enough to cover the sound of our soda cans popping open, but not so loud as to attract attention, and if someone happens to kick over a soda can, we're sharp enough to slip out of our seats and move to another aisle before the usher comes.
And if we come home with greasy spots on our shirts, well, that's just show business.
Homemaking is a column about the people, projects and pride that make a house a home. Peter McKay, a Ben Avon resident, is a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. To see past columns, go to www.post-gazette.com. Contact him at www.peter-mckay.com.