Quality Time with My Father
Ever see a movie where the characters are on the run from the cops? Usually explosions abound, people dodge bullets with choreographic ease, and tires constantly screech under the force of a muscle car with a spoiler. More amazingly, the driver is usually able to navigate the tightest of alleys, sometimes even completing part of the escape driving backwards, all without any formal training. And it’s always for some outrageous reason, too. Jim’s a drug mule who’s been set up to take the fall, or maybe he’s just some loveable pot-head who never hurt anybody and is now being hassled by the Man. Then of course when the cops catch up with the outlaws they always exchange quippy dialogue full of manly threats and expletives. In the end, the driver and passengers usually escape, and it’s generally agreed they are free to wreak havoc another day.
I wouldn’t exactly say Hollywood is full of unrealistic movie plots, but my experience with the genre was only similar in the sense that there were cops involved. My father was my accomplice, and our hot ride was a four-cylinder minivan. Since my parents’ divorce, my dad was always worried that we never got to spend any quality time together, so he’d engineer father/daughter nights. We’re just very different—he wears Polos; I wear skuzzy tank tops with Indie band names on them. He wakes up in the morning; I sleep till the crack of noon. We’re a regular Odd Couple.
Quality time with my dad usually consists of the same activities; it’s almost a ritual: walk the dogs, get food, go see a movie. The movie I wanted to see that night was an evening show, so after food we had plenty of time to kill. My dad suggested we hit the liquor store near the theatre for a bottle of wine he wanted to find. Diabetes is a fickle disease which at the time my father decided to treat with red wine. As we were rummaging through the aisles looking for a particular brand, I picked up a cutesy little wine bottle opener key chain. “Oh, this is nifty,” I said, disassembling and then reassembling it into a wine opener. “It’s a dollar. Let’s get it,” he grinned and wagged his eyebrows. “But we have a few at home,” I informed his back as we walked to the counter. When I caught up with him at the register, he just gave me a knowing wink while he handed the clerk the cork screw.
Standing by the register made my 19-year-old, slightly shy self a little nervous. I wasn’t even legally allowed in the store so I didn’t want to push my luck by hanging out by the register. I moseyed back to the minivan and crawled into the driver’s seat to wait.
When my dad finally hopped back in the car, I started the engine and headed for home. “Darcy, where are you going?” he asked as he tore at the wine packaging. “Uh, home?” I replied uncertainly.
“No we’re not. Why do you think I bought the wine opener?”
“We’re gonna drink in the van?”
“No, that’s illegal. We’re going to drink in the parking lot at the movie theatre.”
“Oh, right. And that’s not illegal,” I muttered as I turned the minivan around and headed back.
At my dad’s suggestion, I drove around to the side of the theatre and parked. He said if we’re going to break the law, we should at least not bait the cops by doing it in plain view. Apparently he’s had practice. In the shadow of the building, Dad threw back the first swig. It looked easy, so I tried the same thing. Smoking Loon wine tastes the way grapes would if they were on fire. It burned my throat as I forced it down and not a few times did I have to catch my breath. Coughing, I passed the bottle back. Several chugs later, I couldn’t seem to stop giggling. The absurdity of drinking cheap wine in a movie theatre parking lot finally got to me. So did the heat. Opening the door for cross ventilation I remembered the reason we were there.
“How much longer before the movie?”
“I don’t know. Wanna just skip the movie and finish the bittle lottle?” he joked.
“No no, Team America is supposed to be really funny, and it’ll only be funnier drunk.”
He shrugged. “Boy I’m sure glad there aren’t any cops around,” he began. “If we got caught, we’d be in—OH, SHIT THE COPS!” he blurted. I panicked.
“Darcy, we gotta get outta here. Let’s go!” he punctuated by slamming the door.
I’ve never claimed to be a good get-away driver, especially at 19; I slammed the minivan into gear, stomped the pedal, and began a leisurely four-cylinder speedup. Of course my parking job assured that we were pinned in a corner—the only escape was directly by the cop. I’m sure he appreciated the easy display of the license plate. I didn’t have to wonder what he was saying into his shoulder radio.
“WhatdoIdo? WhatdoIdo? ” I shrilled.
“We just have to go and hide. If they’re not chasing you, the best thing to do is just hide. Boy, I sure am glad you’re driving” he chuckled.
Frantically, I pulled behind some hedges surrounding a Mexican restaurant just out of the theatre’s view. We sat quietly for a few minutes just trying to absorb the enormity of what had happened.
“Now what?” I uttered softly.
“I don’t think we have too much to worry about. I think he was just a rent-a-cop. But we should probably get rid of the evidence,” he peered around.
“Well there’s a trash can right there,” I said, pointing to the restaurant’s large green dumpster.
He jumped out, ducked behind the dumpster for a few minutes, then returned.
“You were supposed to throw it away, not hide it for later!”
“What? And throw away a perfectly good bottle of wine? I’m going to come back and finish it.”
“Don’t you think we have enough problems as it is without worrying about finishing a cheap bottle?” I whined.
His answered with a half eaten tin of mints and an “EAT!” We gorged ourselves on mints to get rid of the alcohol breath. By this time, our movie was starting. We cautiously crept around the hedge and peered across the parking lot. The coast was clear. Suspiciously clear. We bought our tickets, ducked inside and handed the passes to the bored usher. He directed us to one of the theaters, and we hustled in. After the credits started to roll, I realized we’d gone into a horror movie, the wrong movie, on accident. I tried to convince Dad to leave with me, but he decided to stay. I trudged down the hall annoyed that he’d decided to abandon our quality time for a horror movie. With more force than necessary I flung open the door to the correct movie theater and a sheriff promptly tumbled onto me. He’d been leaning against the door, and I’d just thrown him off balance. I froze. He froze. Sound froze. I’ve never gone into medical shock, but I imagine this moment couldn’t have been much different. Numb to everything around me, my panicked brain could only process a few bits of information at a time. All I could think was that my breath must reek and that he was surely there to arrest me. He looked at me, looked down at my chest and smiled. I’d never been so happy to have the words “Sloppy Meateaters” suggestively scrawled across my chest before. He appreciated the dirty band reference and said something to me. What he said I’m sure I’ll never know. His lips moved but nothing registered. I rudely turned and hustled into the theatre to hide among the other patrons. About fifteen minutes later my dad found me.
“Darcy,” he leaned over.
“What,” I whispered, still annoyed and unnerved.
“I counted about ten Sheriff’s deputies and at least nine city cops in the lobby. It’s packed. Whadya wanna bet they’re looking for us?”
By now the combination of cheap wine, stress and panic soured my stomach. And at any moment the contents of my stomach were going to become intimately acquainted with the back of the seat in front of me. Eyes closed I tried to breathe slowly. How did I let my dad drag me into this? I thought. I’m a fugitive hiding out in a movie theater. What’s wrong with me? The situation just kept getting more realistic. Hollywood could shove it.
When the movie finally ended, we blended with the crowd and shuffled through the lobby full of cops. Standing by the car we tried to figure out our next move. I figured the best thing to do would be to call a cab, abandon the van, and hitch a ride home. Neither of us owned a cell phone, but we figured the restaurant would have one we could use. At the front counter I tried to ask, as politely as I could, to borrow the phone when Dad interrupted me.
“Hey Seen-yore” he started jubilantly. Loudly.
“Oh God,” I moaned, dropping my head into my hands. I’d been privy to his mocking Mexican accent before and knew where this was going.
“We ahr ban-DEE-toes on de run from deh law. Can we use your tel-lay-fone-o?”
Mortified, I slunk out front to wait. “Ok,” my dad said coming up to me. “I called a cab. He should be here in no time. I’m going to see if the bottle is still by the van.”
At this point there really wasn’t anything else he could have done to surprise me. He finished his bottle of wine as the cab was pulling up, and we left the scene of our crime without flourish or fanfare. Safely. Quietly. Life ain’t like Hollywood.