Lines from movies are more than lines in real life

BY BOB WACHS, News + Record Staff
Posted 7/5/19

In the world of movies, there are often memorable lines that find their way into everyday life and have a pretty universal meaning.

For instance, there’s the line in “Jaws” when the police …

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Lines from movies are more than lines in real life

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In the world of movies, there are often memorable lines that find their way into everyday life and have a pretty universal meaning.

For instance, there’s the line in “Jaws” when the police chief is out on the ocean and spots the great white shark for the first time and blurts out, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” To me, that phrase has come to mean the resources at hand may not be adequate for the task to be undertaken.

There are others, of course. One of my favorites is in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” when the character Tuco is confronted, as he’s soaking in a bathtub, by a gunslinger he wounded years earlier. The fellow who would exact some revenge goes on and on about how glad he is that he has found his assailant in such a position when a shot rings out from Tuco’s gun, which he has been holding under the water. As the shot man falls to the floor, Tuco stands up and says, “If you’re gonna shoot, shoot; don’t talk.” While I have been known to delay some things, that line means don’t take forever to do what you’re going to do.

While those make all the sense in the world to me, I can see that perhaps not everyone would agree. But there is one that seems to cover a thought perfectly. It was 1939 when Hollywood produced “The Wizard of Oz.” The country was coming out of the Great Depression and its high unemployment, stagnant economy and soup lines and getting closer to becoming a player in World War II. Things could have been better.

The movie came out, folks found ways to afford tickets and a nation was hooked. Most of the people alive today weren’t then but the movie is continually broadcast these days so it’s no stranger to the rank and file population. There’s a scene in which Dorothy and her little dog Toto wake up from a tornado, look around and she speaks those forever memorable lines, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” I hope most folks know that’s what you say when you mean that what we’ve been used to isn’t what’s happening anymore and things just don’t make sense.

Case in point for me: A few days ago I had the opportunity to travel from my little corner of Paradise, a piece of Chatham that still has country ways and charm often found in the form of cattle smells and wide open spaces, to Chapel Hill, a place where I spent considerable time through the years. It was where, while in high school, I went to the movies with whichever young lady I could convince to go with me, later to be followed by pizza at the Rathskeller or some onion rings at the Oh Boy Drive-In. It was where I spent three years as a college freshman while cramming a four-year course into seven years before finally realizing there was a direct connection between studying and going to class and graduating.

I was on business, going to have some items taken care of, namely some shoe repair. So far, Chapel Hill is in a tight contest with New York City as the place which will run out of land first. I think New York is in second place. I went to my destination, only to find it gone, demolished by giant pieces of earth-moving equipment as another skyscraper goes up, the only way building can be done in that place.

Hoping that the place was still in business, I ventured into two nearby businesses, hoping someone could provide a telephone number since the mobile phone I have is neither a smart one nor even a semi-literate version that would allow me to “search” for a phone number. At the first place I went in, a coffee shop, all the folks were busily bent over their electronic devices, chatting with the people at the next table who were busy using theirs. The individuals behind the counter were busy pouring and measuring and casting spells of some kind, all the while being very careful to ignore me. Finally, one of them took off his ear buds, turned down the 14 radio receiver spikes in his ears, and cast a condescending look at my direction that said something like, “What do you want, old ancient one?”

My request was simple enough, I thought. “I don’t want 2 ounces of your special organic berry flavor of the day steamed with yak milk but do you have a Chapel Hill telephone directory?”

“A what?”

“A telephone directory. You know (maybe), it’s a paper book with listings of all the people and businesses and their telephone numbers in a town so you can call them on the phone if you want.”

At that point, his sidekick spoke up and said, “I don’t think we’ve got one of those whatchacallits.”

Going next door was somewhat of a repeat. I won’t give you the actual conversation but at least the individual in question knew what I was looking for.

Realizing that I didn’t have time to inquire at every location in town nor the nerve and patience to fight the moving parking lot that was going down every road, I did the logical next best thing. I called one of my 40-somethings who used to be a teenager who lived at my house and who “searched” for the number, found it and relayed it to me.

Turned out I was only about half a mile away from the relocated business, for which I am eternally grateful. But the entire event caught my attention. If no phone books, what’s next? I remember thinking that’s how I “searched” for a number.

I know there are people alive today, many of them, who have never seen a manual typewriter or a straight drive vehicle. There are thousands of folks around now who weren’t here on 9-11. Now I know, to a degree, that’s a generational thing for every generation. For instance, I’ve never plowed the lower 40 with a mule. And I don’t want to.

But I couldn’t help but wonder what Alexander Graham Bell would have thought. Of course, when he first picked up his phone and said, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you” I’m pretty sure he either got a wrong number or was put on hold.

To quote another well-known line from the movie “Forrest Gump,” life really can be “like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.”

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.


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