When it comes to movie theater popcorn, you have to get your money's worth in refills.
I normally don’t buy popcorn at the movie theater. But every now and then, on an extra special occasion, I will check my principles at the door, close my eyes and grit my teeth while part of my bank account is amputated at the refreshments line.
And if there is such a thing as an extra special occasion, it’s “Star Wars.”
“OK,” I said to my wife, Hailey, and my son Jackson. “If we’re going to spend $8.75 on popcorn, we’re going to have to get our money’s worth on refills.”
The plan was, they save me a seat while I buy the popcorn. When I join them in the theater, we eat as fast as we can. Then, I’ll run back out, get a refill, and we can enjoy popcorn throughout the movie.
But when I got to my seat, Hailey and Jackson both left to go the bathroom.
“No!” I said, stuffing my face like the Cookie Monster, popcorn flying everywhere. “Don’t leave me!”
They must not have been able to understand me with my mouth full, because they kept on walking.
By the time they returned, I knew my plan was ruined. Hailey sat down, took one look at the popcorn bucket and assessed my progress this way, “You guys better get started.”
My younger son, Grant, wasn’t allowed to come with us to the movie until we had screened it first (he’s 9 years old), but we decided afterward that he could see it. Before he had a chance to do so, however, the unthinkable happened.
We were all eating dinner as a family when Jackson said:
“At least in the next movie, they won’t have to xxxxxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx.”
A hush descended on the room, as if from long ago, from a galaxy far, far away. No one wanted to be the first one to speak after a spoiler of that magnitude.
“Jackson,” I whispered. “What have you done?”
Then my eyes turned to Grant, offering my condolences. His eyes, wide in shock, were wiser now, but sadder.
On Saturday, I took Grant to see “Star Wars” in 3D. We arrived early. We stood in line for popcorn.
“OK, Grant, here’s the plan,” I said. “We eat this bucket before the movie starts. Then, we must get a refill. There is no room for failure. Capiche?”
We took our seats and dominated the collectible tin full of popcorn. I ran out, got a refill and sat back down in plenty of time to see the previews.
We had succeeded! Grant and I exchanged high-fives.
I was mostly full at this point and had a bit of salt-and-butter headache, so I only nibbled at the popcorn after that. Until, in a dramatic twist of fate worthy of “Star Wars” itself, about halfway through the movie, my hand hit the bottom of the tin.
“Grant!” I said. “You ate all the popcorn!”
He gave me a goofy excuse-me grin, his eyes obscured by his 3D glasses.
A moment later, he leaned over to me and whispered, “Dad, can you get another refill?”
He knew he had me. After all, I had been the one to explain how important it was to finish the popcorn. If I refused, I would be a tremendous hypocrite.
The transformation was now complete: The pupil had become the master.
As I returned with the refill, I couldn’t decide whether this made me the Dad of the Year, for making the sacrifice of leaving the theater in the middle of “Star Wars,” or possibly the Worst Dad of the Year, for letting my son eat his weight in popcorn.
But one thing was clear: Jedi mind tricks do, in fact, work on me.