It was just a little jaunt to the movies. A Saturday night, with the back seats of my car thrown down, the whole area stuffed with sleeping bags and pillows and blankets. We fed our three dogs half aeach to turn them into the ultimate cuddle puppies, and set out for the 50-minute drive.
Along the way, we hit up the Peruvian chicken joint for a to-go box loaded with rotisserie-style, plantains, and rice and beans. We rolled down the windows and panted with the dogs into the hot sunset. At the intersection of small-town America and tobacco-field oblivion, we turned left at a faded sign.
For just $8 each, we were admitted to a double feature: Cowboys and Aliens followed by Transformers 17. (I think that’s right…) As we scouted for the ideal parking spot – our little patch of the nostalgic American dream – we turned into a row of cars, drove down a bit, and settled between a rusty white pick-up holding an elderly couple and a blue Cadillac full of teenage boys. We turned on the radio, tuned into the movie soundtrack station, and that’s when we realized…
The headlights wouldn’t turn off.
In order for the radio (and therefore soundtrack) to be on, the key had to be turned halfway. At that halfway point, the lights blinked on. We jiggled the key; we played with the headlight lever; we consulted the auto manual and it was then we were met with the awful truth: in an effort to keep me safe, my ever-watchful nanny car (who also beeps if I’m not wearing a seat belt) was not able to turn her headlights off. Not at night, not in the rain – fine – but neither in the daytime, and certainly not for the frivolous purpose of watching a movie. There was simply no button to push or flip to switch.
Around this time, the first movie queued up, and the people behind us started to complain. “Hey! We can’t see through your glare!” Since we’d been planning to watch the show through the open hatchback window of our snuggle-den, we had parked in reverse. Our stubborn headlights were now blinding the rows of people behind us. As Cowboys and Aliens began, I could almost hear Daniel Craig muttering:
In shame, with our chicken growing cold and our three dogs lolling blissfully in a sedated haze, we reversed with shouts of, “So sorry!” and hightailed it to the very back row of the field. Our hope was that we could aim our headlights into the neighboring forest, unsettling the local wildlife but easing the rage of our fellow movie-goers. No sooner did we settle in, though, than I realized I just could not make out the screen. This was back before I got Lasik surgery, and my eyesight was terrible – contacts can only do so much when your vision is comparable to Mr. Magoo‘s.
Luckily for me, my husband is never one to give up. (He has this in common with my headlights). Gritting his teeth, J pulled the chicken and sides out of the restaurant box, piled them in my hands, and ordered, “Don’t let the dogs get that!” as he barrel-rolled into the night. Next thing I knew, he’d procured duct tape from the car’s emergency tool bag, torn the to-go box into halves, and strapped the cardboard over the headlights so they were completely blacked out. He hauled himself back into the driver’s seat, shuttled us to our original parking spot, and we finally settled in for dinner, cuddling, and the realization that Cowboys and Aliens was entirely unworthy of so much effort.
…but still, as we napped, lulled by the gentle roar of spaceships and hoof beats, I think we were both already planning on coming back.