Thoughts with Richard Bleil
Yesterday, as of the writing of this post (about a week ago if it is published as scheduled) the Drive-In Theater opened for its third season. I began my second season as an employee. My job is tickets. We have two entrances, one for people who purchased their tickets in advance, and one for general customers (cash, credit or advanced purchase tickets). At the general gate, we have a little building to house the computer and electronics associated with ticket sales, while in what I call the back gate, we have a stop sign. At the back gate, we’ve put the stop sign as far into the property as possible to accommodate a line as we check people’s tickets, and simply wait at the stop sign for the drivers to come up.
And I try to be friendly. My version of friendly, though, happens to include goofing around. At the front gate I usually have silly comments (like telling our clients that I was an atheist until I tried the funnel cake fries or jokes based on the movies we’re showing). At the back gate, I can be a bit more theatrical if somebody is driving in and there is no line. As they drive in, they have a line of sight for several seconds, so I’ll do things like pull them in with an invisible rope, or my imitation of one of those air wave things that you see often at car dealerships.
I don’t think much about it. I’m frankly just trying to put a friendly face on the theater and make people smile or chuckle a bit. But yesterday, we had an opening day glitch and the software that we were using was failing to connect to the server. I called it in, and the two owners, a very friendly and excessively cute couple, came out to try to work it out. As they were working with the company that runs the database and software, we struck up a conversation.
They said that, as they are out in public somewhere wearing their shirts with the drive-in theater’s logo, people often recognize the name. They’re closer to a very small town about twenty or thirty miles from where I live, so when people see the shirts, they’ll sometimes strike up a conversation with them. Of course, their shirts don’t say “owners” or anything like that, so it’s really just a “common interest” kind of conversation.
Apparently, according to them, people often talk about that guy in the ticket booth. Apparently, I’m making something of a lasting impression, and unlike my former students, these people don’t have the kind of memories of me that causes flashbacks and makes them in need of therapy. According to my bosses, I seem to actually make a good impression which, of course, translates to at least part of a good reputation for the theater.
It’s interesting hearing that you’ve made an impact on people. It was never my intention, but rather I was just trying to be nice and funny to sell some treats and make people smile. It is, though, a nice reminder that regardless of station in life, and whether or not it’s intentional, you just never know when you’re making a memory for somebody for better or worse. Either they remember the humor of the guy in the booth, or they need therapy for the rest of their life because of you.
I guess there are those who look at and remember me negatively. For example, I had a student contact me, after the term was over and grades had been reported, upset because she discovered that I had returned a point (yes, one point) on an exam (yes, one exam) to another student. That student approached me during the semester to point out my error so, yes, I corrected the grade. This student, however, never had her point returned. To put this in perspective, she had received an “A” for the course. She had the highest grade possible, and still wanted her point back. I would have, but she couldn’t tell me which test it was, or the question, or produce the exam so I could see that I graded it incorrectly, but the bottom line is that this point would have had absolutely no impact on her final grade either way. It couldn’t. When I pointed this out to her, she became infuriated, saying that it wasn’t fair that her friend got that point but she didn’t, and swore she would report me to the department head, which I’m certain that she did.
Ultimately, you cannot control how people remember you. But it does feel like a warm hug when a third party reports back something positive about you.