Quirky Stories, The Writing Life, Travels Around the World

When a Drive-in isn’t a Drive-in…

Last month, Susan Carlisle had a wonderful post on drive-ins that took me back to my youth (you can find her post here). I remember the very first movie I saw with my family at a drive-in—it was one of the Herbie the Love Bug films. I’ll never forget the wonder of sitting in the backseat in my PJs eating popcorn as that mischievous white car zoomed across the screen. As I became a teenager, and indoor movie theaters replaced the outdoor variety, we still found ourselves pulling into one of those grassy parking spots from time to time to watch the not-so-latest release. There was nothing quite like the experience of a good, old-fashioned drive-in.

Fast forward to the present and hop to another continent.drive in 2

When my children think of a drive-in, their reactions are likely to be along the lines of turn-your-head-and-pretend-you-never-saw-it. You laugh, but I’m serious. We do have drive-ins here in Brazil. The lettering is even in English, as you can kind of see from the blurry picture I posted (we were driving by it at the time). And yes, what went on in the back seat of an American drive-in theater goes on here as well. But there are no movie projectors, no big white screens, and no concession stands. Or…maybe there are concession stands, but I wouldn’t know. Honest.

Because movies are not what these drive-ins are made for. You do “drive in.” You do park (in a private bay with a curtain that swishes closed behind your vehicle). You do stay for a while. But that’s about as much as I’m prepared to say about them on a public forum.

One of the many drive-ins in Sao Paulo
One of the many drive-ins in Sao Paulo

My husband and I had a good laugh, when we realized exactly what those mysterious drive-ins were. And heaven forbid if the front entry gates on a few of those drive-ins happen to be open as we drive by, because we all start talking really fast and try not to peer too closely at the interior (or notice how many of those curtains are closed).

When my editor asked me to write a duet featuring Brazilian brothers, I thought it might be interesting for these two to have been separated when they were very young…to grow up in two different countries. The brother who returns to Brazil as an adult finds that what he thinks he knows isn’t always the way things are. There’s a quick mention of a drive-in (and a motel—which is a post for another day) in the second book of the duet, for just that reason.

When we arrived in Brazil (and we truly love it here), our expectations were sometimes turned on their heads. Words didn’t mean what we’d come to expect them to mean. Maybe you experienced this when you traveled to other countries—or even to different regions of your own country. If so, I’d love to hear your stories!

One word of caution. If you (like me) have a nearly unpronounceable German maiden name and happen to travel to Germany, be leery of asking someone to translate it for you. You might just find out that your name means Big Head. Yeah. Not so profound. 😉

And just for fun, here’s a sneak peek at the cover of my latest release! I love the model they found for my broody doctor!

Release date: September 2013
Release date: September 2013
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35 thoughts on “When a Drive-in isn’t a Drive-in…”

  1. Oooo love the brooding doctor on your cover!

    Tina: My husband is from Portugal, so I have to share with you the meaning of his (very) last name. For the first three years we were married, I thought it meant SYPHILIS… because he told me that once (he knows I’ll believe anything and he likes to tell me whoppers when he’s explaining cultural differences and then forgets to tell me that it’s not true). Of course, this was such a terrible last name that I immediately told EVERYONE. I have no idea why that was my reaction to my married name’s ‘meaning’… it was just so horrible I had to share.

    Only it turns out it means something else. What it actually means isn’t much better. It means ‘sheep leprosy’, his father’s people were shepherds in the way back and apparently their sheep got sick. The vet(doctor? whatever) diagnosed them with this illness, then they became known as the people whose sheep have the disease, and then eventually it got shortened just to that terrible disease name. I mean, unless he’s told me another whopper because he knows I’ll believe him. That’s possible, but I’m more inclined to believe now because my father in law backed him up on this story. It could be some wily Portuguese conspiracy … but it’s been long enough now that I think someone would TELL ME if it wasn’t true.

      1. Hah! No sheep farming for me. I do live in a painfully rural area on a farm, sorta(the back-forty is mostly overgrown and we keep our garden family-sized), but I don’t think I’ve even ever seen a sheep before. Chickens, yes(we have baby chickens right now). Cows, ever-danged-day. Goats, oh yea… but no sheep.

    1. Ha ha, Amalie!!! I love it! I was amazed when we lived in Portugal by all the rabbits (Coelhos) and pine trees (Pinheiros) running around the country. It’s so funny the way last names come about. We used to travel through a teeny-tiny town that was called Casal Curtido, which we use to laugh must have been named after a “short couple.” Languages are such funny things! (You made me feel homesick for Portugal!).

      I have to admit, I would have told everyone the syphilis story too! My hubby’s real last name is Butts. So yeah…when I sold, I needed to find a pen name…fast!

      1. (Tenho saudades tambem. <– probably spelled wrong!)

        I like to speculate on how last names arose, so god I want to know the story behind your married name! In the interest of being polite in public(especially in light of my recent syphilis talk) I refuse to share my current hypothesis about this name, but I will tell you that I have Sir Mix-a-lot stuck in my head right now.

        1. Ha ha, Amalie on the Sir Mix-a-lot. Supposedly my husband’s last name used to be Butt, but they added an “s” to soften it. Yeah…that really helped a lot. Why couldn’t they change the u to an e, instead? Why? That would soften it a whole lot more in my book–and he probably would have gotten pounded on a whole lot less in school! There’s always this awkward silence when I tell someone my last name, and all I can think of is that they’re trying to figure out how to ask if they really heard what they thought they heard. 😉

          And tenho saudades tambem is perfect! Your hubby taught you well!

  2. Tina, I LOVE it! Who knew a ‘drive in’ in Brazil was a convenient place for sex. Just like in the USA and Australia but without the movie.
    You asked about words meaning different things in different countries? LOL, I wrote all my cultural confusions into Boomerang Bride and some readers said I must have made them up! But no. I did offer a 12 year-old cordial when I was living in the US because in Australia cordial is not alcoholic. It is like American lemonade and what Australians call lemonade you guys call Seven Up or Sprite…and so the list goes on!
    Great cover and hmm, teenagers in Brazil must LOVE drive-ins 🙂

    1. I loved Boomerang Bride, Fiona! Such a great book. Those cultural confusions were a great part of the story! So many funny differences, even in the English language! Here, they use the English word “drink,” but it means an alcoholic beverage. So if you ask someone if they want a drink, you’re asking if they want a cocktail.

      Those drive-ins are popular for “rapidinhos” (quickies)…or I guess if you’ve ever had a fantasy about going all the way in a car at a…well, drive-in. 😉

  3. Tina, you made me laugh- and shudder. Thank God we don’t have them here. I can only imagine my reaction if I were living in Brazil my daughters said they were going to the drive in! We had (real) drive ins in South Africa and they were very much part of my teenage years. Sigh…
    ps. I love your cover. He is gorgeous.

    1. Ha, Anne, those drive-ins *are* worthy of a shudder! What’s really awkward is going to an old-fashioned American drive-in in the States and having to explain to your kids why it’s okay to tell their American friends that we went to one–but not their Brazilian friends. 😉

      Thanks for the cover comment. I think he’s kind of dreamy.

  4. So, okay…..what I want to know is – do they charge money to use the “drive-in”??

    Love the cover – sexy man, verrrry sexy title!

    1. They do charge to use the “drive-in” strangely enough–even though everything happens within the privacy of the person’s car. Young people still tend to live with their parents until they marry here (although that’s slowly changing), so I guess it’s one way to have some privacy without the awkward explanations.

  5. Tina, I had to laugh about the “drive in” meaning something so completely different to what we’re used to! How easy a misunderstanding could happen and I’ll look forward to reading the fun that you have with this in your story!

    I love your cover, too!

    1. Thanks, Sharon! I’m just glad we found out the meaning before we tried to take our kids to one. Although with names like Drive-in Emotion, Drive-in Oasis, or Drive-in Sexy it was pretty obvious that something wasn’t quite right.

      I’m thinking now that I should have had a drive-in play a bigger role in my story. Alas, it’s just a momentary piece of introspection.

  6. Tina, great post! LOL on the goings-on in the back seat at the drive-in. Not so different, huh, except for the privacy thing. I didn’t know you were writing RS for Carina as well. Congrats!

    1. Yes, Margery!! Those private bays might have come in handy once upon a time. Not that I’m admitting to anything. 😉 I do have one RS out with Carina. I’m writing the sequel, although it’s slow going nowadays.

      Are you having fun at Nationals this year? Or are you–like me–stuck at home? I can’t believe it’s been (how long?) since we saw each other…year before last? I never did finish that afghan I started in San Francisco (although I still want to)!

      1. Tina, I didn’t go to National this year, but I should have. It’s cooler in Atlanta than it is here. You’re a year off, I think. Orlando, right? Three years ago!!! I’m already planning San Antonio next year. Any chance you’re going?

        LOL on not finishing the afghan. I think I’ve made four or five since then.

        1. Wow, Margery! Time has gone by fast. I’m planning on going to San Antonio! Maybe I can shame myself into finishing that afghan before then! Let’s meet up there, okay?

  7. Wow. You learn something new everyday. Thanks for the heads up on this one. Being the major movie fanatic I am, I might have accidentally rushed into one of these with enthusiasm someday if I ever visit Brazil. Awkward. Great post, Tina!

    1. Lol, Angie. Well, you might have gotten a show, if you went in, but it wouldn’t be the type you were expecting. You can’t tell by looking at them from the outside what they are. But if you accidentally ventured into one of them, you’d figure it out pretty quick. Then you’d either beat a hasty retreat or hide out in one of the bays for a while. 😉

  8. I guess I now have a new meaning for “quick snack” as in what I mostly think a Drive-in is these days.

    Sheep Leprosy, Amalie? I think he’s still pulling your leg. LOL

    We once looked into our last name – it’s Dutch – and it sounded something like our LAST NAME’s are weird. (er veerd or something like that) that was my interpretation, anyway, and I didn’t go any further. The thing is, I KNOW we are, don’t have to carry two extra syllables around after our last name to emphasize the point.

    I think we do have some of those Brazilian Drive-ins in certain parts of town here in US. They’re called alley ways and certain sections of public parks. Just no flashy sign. Lol.

    I do love your new cover, Tina!

    1. Lynne, at least those alleys/parks are free. Although I’m sure those who have to see some of those public displays wish they were a little less public!

      Last names are so interesting, aren’t they?

      My hubby’s hometown still has a drive-in eating joint. It’s fun to have the little tray put on your window. It’s only open during the summer, however–too cold in the winter! And we used to go to an A & W rootbeer stand when I was a kid. Loved those frosted mugs. I wonder if they still have those.

  9. Hmmm…makes me wonder what else they might invent a drive-in for! Our town had a drive-in movie and I’m old enough to remember seeing several there with my parents. It was gone years before I ever had the chance for the backseat romance, though. Darn it. Great post, Tina!

    1. Drive-ins were going out of style when I was a teenager, Sandi, but there was still an old one in my hometown when I was dating. And there are still one or two near my hubby’s hometown (at least they were last time we were in the States). I’d love to go to one just for nostalgia’s sake.

      When I told my hubby I wanted to take a picture of a Brazilian drive-in for my blog post, he just shook his head. I’m sure people were wondering what the heck I was doing taking pictures of one with my ipad sticking out the window of our car. Hubby drew the line at going in and taking pictures of the interior. His loss… 😉

  10. Hi Tina, we don’t have drive-ins here (either for movies or the alternative version), but I’ve been to a few in Australia and loved them, so if I get to the U.S. then a drive-in would definitely be on my list of things to do. I’d have to have the car for it though – something shiny with an open top and lots of chrome. And… I guess the right weather for it as well. I imagine the atmosphere’s a little spoilt if you have to put your windscreen wipers on to see the film 🙂

    I love your cover – and can’t wait to read about your Brazilian brothers and their misunderstandings!

    1. You know, Annie, I never thought about it before, but you made me wonder if drive-ins (the movie kind) weren’t more successful in regions that were warmer. Who wants to sit in a freezing cold car with the window down (for the speaker)? I grew up in Florida, where it’s warm most of the year. Hmmm…I wonder what they did in the colder parts of the country. Must ask hubby, who’s from chillier Ohio. There are still a couple of surviving drive-ins in that area, so they must have done something during the winter…

      1. Chiming in from Ohio, where our last local drive-in closed about three years ago: In the winter, the drive-in closed. Actually, they closed in the Fall, I never knew one to be still in operation by the time October rolled around. Opened again in late Spring. I think that’s why the local ones all eventually went out of business, really short year to see profits

        1. Ahhh…Amalie, that makes sense. Hubby is from a tiny town 30 minutes north of Dayton. There’s a family run drive-in food place (where they bring the meal out to your car and hook a tray to your window). It’s only open in the warmer months. There’s a drive-in still open in the Sidney area (at least hubby thinks there still is). I bet they do the same thing.

          1. You’ve got a point, Tina – we do have a lot of open-air theatre and music during the summer months, but most things close up during the winter. I wonder if our late summer sunsets are a factor too? I’m not sure how we compare with Florida, but in midsummer it doesn’t get dark here until around 10pm – so the films would have to start pretty late. Guess we just don’t have the climate for drive-ins 😦

  11. I just can’t leave this topic alone. Every time a comment pops up in my email, I start thinking about it again. This is mostly due to the fact that I’m fixated on the evolution of the Brazilian drive-in.

    Did they once have a big screen and then the screen broke and none of the customers noticed, so the owner just decided to put up curtains and call recycle the business?

    Or maybe a seedy motel operator…with too many full rooms.

    Or was some guy really frustrated by the lack of a good place to park when he was out with his honey, because if you think texting while driving is dangerous…

    If i ever go to Brazil, I am so going to one of those things and *asking* the owners. I need to know or I will explode!

    1. Ha ha, Amalie. Since your hubby is Portuguese, he’ll be able to translate this short article.http://www.saopaulominhacidade.com.br/list.asp?ID=3295 (or if you want me to email you with a tranlation, I can)

      Anyway, I looked up the history and it’s pretty much exactly like you’re thinking…drive-ins here started out innocently as open-air movie theaters…an import from other countries that were doing the same thing. Only the evolution went wonky somewhere along the way and the “other things” people were doing at drive-ins became more important than the film itself.

      It’s really funny how things that might work in one country don’t necessarily translate well into another culture!

  12. Tina,
    Sorry to be late to comment. I’ve be off to conference. Great fun. You were missed this year. We are certainly talking about two different types of drive ins. Too funny, and kind-of sad.

    1. Susan, I really missed all the fun of the conference this year–and most especially seeing the other medical authors! Hopefully next year.

      Definitely different types of drive-ins, and I do think it’s sad that when my kids think of a drive-in, it’s not with happy memories of Herbie the Love Bug…or the other fun movies that used to be played in theaters across the country. So yes, funny…and sad.

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