Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Quarter More

Some old jokes never die. The best jokes are private jokes. Maybe it was your best friend, your mate, your sibling – whomever. It’s usually the result of some long, funny story that only the two of you were there for – the kind of story that when attempting to explain it to someone else loses all humor in the translation. Guess you had to be there. Typically, you and that special someone are the stars of your joke and between you two stars, a great, riotous belly laugh can be conjured up at a moment’s notice. Even a million years later. Even at a funeral.

My friend Jason and I both have a great sense of humor and serve as each other’s best props for a one-of-a-kind comedy show of a relationship. Twenty years ago, movie tickets were under $10, so Jason and I saw LOTS of movies. We went to nearly every weekend. You’d think I’d remember some of the movies we saw, but I couldn’t name one. What I do recall vividly - the U/A really, really wanted you to by the large sized soda and popcorn. They didn’t want you to buy a medium.

Each and every concession worker at this huge complex was robotically programmed to offer you the large even after you’d requested the medium. The gimmick? “You can have the large for a quarter more.” Yes, for a mere 25 cents you could upgrade your medium popcorn and soda to a large. But Jason and I didn’t want the large. It was simply too much. Too much to carry. Too much to hold in our laps and way too much to consume. As it was, the medium was nearly a half-gallon of soda! That didn’t stop the counter-drones, “Are you sure? It’s only a quarter more.”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Jason would say, very authoritatively with a smirk. We’d make our way into the movie and find a seat, Jason always preferring the aisle. We loved the previews. To us, the previews were the best part. The more previews, the better. There were usually only four previews. On the rare occasion there were more than four previews I would ask Jason if perhaps he had paid a quarter more. And so it began.

Any extra anything anywhere was undoubtedly a “quarter more.” If the waiter replenished the bread basket, it was a “quarter more.” Second helping at the Chinese Buffet, a “quarter more.” I once bought a new pair of shoes and the shop owner tossed in those things you stick at the back near the heel so your foot won’t slip out. You guessed it, a “quarter more.” At every mention of a “quarter more” we would laugh till we cried.

It’s been more than twenty years since those days at the U/A but some things just never leave you.

Last year, Jason and I found ourselves, quite unexpectedly, at the funeral of a mutual friend, Joe*. We each didn’t know the other would be there despite talking to each other at least a couple of times a month. The deceased had a huge family and the room was very crowded. Jason and I sat together towards the back of the viewing area. The room was rather quiet except for the muffled conversations going on at the front. We noticed the funeral director shifting some things around, fiddling with a partition.

I turned to Jason and whispered with a surprised look on my face, “Wow! He’s opening up the second room for all the people.” Jason without missing a beat flashes his brilliant smile, “Old Joe must have paid a quarter more.”

*name changed

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