My Neighborhood: More Entertaining than Television

3 August, 2008

I live in the city of Wilkes-Barre.  Its a small city (ca.40k), yet boasts four high schools — Grand Army of the Republic Memorial, Myers and Coughlin (all public schools) plus Holy Redeemer (a Catholic school).  The city was founded on coal and heavy manufacturing, but since the industry left (30 to 40 years ago), the city has no idea what it wants to be.  There are two excellent colleges (Kings and Wilkes), yet until recently the city actively discouraged any businesses catering to students.  New immigrants (Central America, South Asia and East Asia (plus some of the ex-Soviet republics)) are buying houses in town and opening small businesses, but the school art teachers (in the public schools) still make Christmas ornaments for art projects.  In other words, Wilkes-Barre is like many other small towns — changing, but in ways the town fathers do not expect (and may not approve).

The street I live on fits right in.  About three out of four  houses are owner-occupied which makes for a pretty good block.  Weird, but pretty good.  Our neighbosrs are Muslim, Catholic, B’ahai, and unknown Protestant.  Which brings me to the point of this post.

Last night, (((Wife))) called me to the front window.  She pointed out a family just down the street.  Actually, she pointed out the trunk of their sedan.  At first glance, I had no idea what I was looking at — the trunk was open, and there were four off-white ‘things’ piled in the opening.  Mom slapped one of the ‘things’ and it registered that I was looking at the legs of her son and her son’s friend (wearing shorts).  They hopped out of the trunk.

Okay, I thought.  Playing in the trunk of a car is odd and dangerous, but the mom is there, right?  No harm.

The two teenagers (about 13 or 14) got in and out of the trunk a couple of times.  Then dad came out with the baby (toddler) and a cooler.  He put the baby and the cooler in the back seat.  He put the teenagers in the trunk.  He closed the lid.  Mom and dad got in the front seats and drove away, heading for a drive-in theater.  A drive-in about ten miles away.

Now I know that hiding people in trunks is a long and cherished tradition.  That is, stopping a quarter mile from the drive-in and loading them in the trunk there has a long tradition.  Not ten miles away! (Honesty in blogging — I once drove twenty miles with 29 teenagers in my ’69 VW Microbus (at low speed) so I am not claiming to be perfect)

I called 911 and let them know.  (((Wife))) called Children and Youth Services to report it.  The guy at C&Y was a little slow with the idea that the kids were in a car trunk, but eventually got it.  

Oddly, this couple looks down on (((Wife))) and I.  We don’t go to church.  We don’t carry a Bible with us.  We read books other than the Bible.  Then again, (((Wife))) and I both work (niether one of them does).  We know better than to stuff two 13-year-olds into the crumple zone of a subcompact.  We know better than to put children into an area where exhaust fumes can accumulate.  We also don’t cheat theaters. 

I guess if the Bible said “Thou Shalt Not Put Children In A Car’s Trunk” they would know better.  That’t the problem with thinking all wisdom comes from a bunch of bronze-age myths.



  1. I wish this country would learn, just because you’re different, doesn’t mean you’re worse (although stuffing your kids in a trunk, is not a good idea). I wouldn’t think a family that took their kid twice a week to church was worse than me, unless their church taught that non-believers were evil and should be shunned. We can all have different ideas, but we can be tolerant, understanding and compassionate. Its like Christians completely missed the whole Jesus part of the bible and are obsessed with the old testament.

    Christian family: “I can do anything I want because I go to church, and believe in Jesus. But that family down the street, who spends their free time helping the homeless, they’re evil and wrong. Now let me stuff my kids in the trunk of my car, so I can save ten bucks at the drive in”

  2. Wow….hard to believe anyone would think that’s “okay” to do. They hypocrisy is deafening.

  3. Barbara: Welcome to my blog. I’ve seen things like that in movies, but today? Well, I guess they figure that Jesus will protect them and, if not, God just calls them home.

  4. The real question is what movie did they go to see? What would Jesus see, or what would Jesus say you had to see even if it meant cheating a theater and risking your children’s health or lives? I can’t think of anything playing right now that would qualify.

  5. Philly: Probably Batman. Or some other tripe.

  6. I got 21 people into a ford thunderbird once. I was in high school and pretty stupid.

  7. Poodles: At least the T-Bird had a real engine. The 29 teens in a Microbus meant we had plenty of room, but the 1.1 litre engine (which put out all of 55 horsepower) put out just enough power to get us up to 35 mph. I could never even get out of third gear. I think we all did stupid stuff, but kids in a trunk to save a few bucks at a drive-in? By adults?

  8. Was that the drive-in on route 309?

  9. I had an experience today that kind of sums up what my neighbor hood is like here in scenic Altoona.

    We inherited my wife’s parent’s house, and when I started dating her the community was a very nice blue collar area. The railroad died, so did it’s pensioners, and the people who had bought up the properties started renting out to section 8 cases and dividing them into apartments.

    Now, for about the past eight years, gentrification has started in, and it’s somewhat quieter and less dangerous than it was. Most of these people work in some communications field or medicine, and they lucked out and didn’t buy the McMansions which sprung up all over.

    They really dislike the section 8 people, and they are rather ambivelant abiut my wife and me. We don’t fit the mold or into the boxes they seem to think we should be in and it really bothers some of them.

    It’s been rather cool lately, and one of the folks Up The Hill stopped my wife and actually asked, “Do you know anything about fire”? Wife said, she did.
    It turned out that the fire place they installed “wouldn’t work”. Could she or I look at it?

    A fire place that won’t work??!!

    I went up this afternoon and asked what was wrong.
    They couldn’t get the fire to burn.
    Was it gas operated?
    No, it “used wood”, but it wouldn’t burn.

    I looked and saw three logs about eight inches across in the log basket, and the remains of much newspaper which had been sacrificed for this fire, but had done nothing except scortch some bark.

    Explained about proper kindling, collected some, split down the wood, relaid the fire, and sure enough, once these things were done we had a nice fire. Oh, yes, I made sure the damper was open, too.

    I was asked if it was really NECESSARY to do all this just to have a fire? I mean, they just didn’t have the TIME to do this stuff, surely there was something easier to make this happen?

    My suggestion that they call the gas company and have a system installed which would come on at the flick of a switch.

    No, they argued that they wanted WOOD. No, they didn’t want to buy it pre split or spend all that time with kindling and blowing…blah blah blah.

    Something even a cave man could do and they hadn’t a clue. Do you laugh or cry?

  10. “The secret is to hit the rocks together.” Douglas Adams.

  11. Chappie: That drive-in is now under the Wyoming Valley Mall (and sundry other stores and restaurants). This one is down US 11 in (we think) Hunlock Creek on the Susquehanna River floodplain.

  12. I wouldn’t even put my dogs in a trunk. Idiots.

  13. Poodles: Only if the trunk had windows out of which the dogs could hang their heads. I think they call that a station wagon.

  14. A drive in? You still have those – how quaint! What does it mean that its under the mall? You have to drive under ground to see a movie?
    Good article too. Any chance of a follow up? I guess not.

  15. Bruce: There are at least four drive-in theaters within fifty miles of here. Very popular (not during the winter, though).

    By ‘under a mall,’ I mean that a development company removed the drive-in theater and put in a shopping mall, complete with KFC, Chilis, Barnes and Nobles, etc.

    Unfortunately, it looks like the cops did not catch them ‘in the act’ so to say, so there most likely will not be a follow up. I will still mention idiocy rampant upon our street, just as I will idiocy rampant within our nation.

  16. I was having a lot of trouble trying to work out what an under a mall drive in was – I couldn’t work out why you’d want to watch a movie in an underground car park!

  17. Bruce: Sorry ’bout the misunderstanding. Its a little bit of shorthand (((Wife))) and I use — my Dad’s childhood home is under an I-270 exit ramp; part of the battlefield is under a housing development; there was a nice house on that corner but now its under a WaWa.

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