Dara Strickland is a leading expert on sneaking food and drink into the movies. She reports on her exploits for Gut Check (from an undisclosed location) every Monday.
Though the typical variability of St. Louis weather decided to spit disdainful snow on last week's declaration that spring had finally arrived, those flakes carried as much weight as a solitary, unruly teenager throwing popcorn from the balcony because he doesn't understand why Burn After Reading is funny
. Spring is here, and it's shining its majestic flashlight in our eyes and determining that we all have tickets; that we are all committed to being here in the flicker of lightning under clouds as heavy as draping velvet, seamed across with gold ropes of slashing sunlight; that we are all intimately brushing buttery finger pads in the popcorn and yawning theatrically to disguise the impending embrace.
I've had an outrageously made-up number of requests from people who don't consider themselves transgressive enough to slink into the inky depths of their own Sneakiness but would particularly enjoy going out with a Sneak. I have many theories on why one would want to date a Sneak. Some people want partners whose sneaky ways are tangible, enjoyable, contained within two hours plus previews. Others, particularly engineers, have too high a regard for the rules to break them but war with their love for efficiency, that sonorous internal voice that intones: "Dinner and a movie...dinner and then a movie...dinner in a movie...".
So how does one go about finding a Sneaky partner? Is there a tactful way to ask your friends to set you up only with those who brought their own naan to Slumdog Millionaire
? Is there a dating service that rents out a theater and installs a giant vat of spaghetti, allowing lips to inch ever closer to sympathetic lips along a shared, sauced semolina strand while La Dolce Vita
glows in grace upon them? Alas, no. But here are some helpful hints for those hungry for love and illicit burritos on looking in all the usual places.
At the Grocery Store
Look for an attractive person with the following things in his or her cart: tortillas, baguettes, bananas and spring roll wrappers. While this is not a total guarantee, it does show a certain natural propensity towards tubular foods, the most versatile and easily snuck of all geometrically-shaped foods. Also look for individually packaged snacks and drinks without any outside indications that the person is getting them to feed a child (like, say, a shrieking three-foot-tall person clinging to your intended target's leg).
This is not to say that people with kids can't be sneaks -- quite the contrary, they often have greatest latitude for bringing backpapacks and strollers (see "Sneak of Nature"
) into otherwise hostile sneaking environs. I just don't want to be responsible for every mom from here to Ballwin getting leered at in front of the Dr. Pepper and asked if she's a sneaky girl. Also look for anyone with more than one roll of aluminum foil and no charcoal or lighter fluid. That guy's not grilling, he's repackaging (see "Souplicity"
).At a Coffee Shop
Coffee shops are the crucible of your Bag-Sneak spotting skills. Look for the caffeinated client who does an arcane ritual of squeezing and twisting the lid to make certain it is properly secured. Always take note of someone asking for additional cardboard sleeves or repacking an order into a more secure container immediately upon hand over.
Where did that brunette get a scone? This place doesn't have scones. Strike up a conversation about how she reminds you of an actress from something you saw at the St. Louis International Film Festival (but not, under any conditions, Let The Right One In
or whatever you saw that was like being beaten with a stick of pure sadness) and remember to smile.
Look at that guy with the tight fade and the laptop. No, don't be distracted by the guy.
Look at his laptop bag. Is it far larger and more pocket-riddled than necessary? Does it look like the computers, books, papers, etc. on the table in front of him would never fit inside that one bag? Signs point to Sneak.
Meeting a Sneak at your chosen house of worship is truly a blessing. Not only will you sate your hunger for hors d'oeuvre during the coming attractions, but never again will you fear that the rumbling of your empty stomach is drowning out a brunch-delaying sermon again. Look for someone who palms during the Psalms; if he can get 3 of those tiny plastic communion cups at one pass, he's a keeper.
Look for other signs of concealed transgression. Cuban seam stockings under the Easter frock? Standing up primly with everyone else for "Amazing Grace" but actually mouthing the words to "Baby Got Back"? That's not just a woman who will bring a sandwich into a matinee, she probably keeps a fifth of Jack in her hollowed-out Bible.
The only place that is absolutely verboten to sound your mating call for Sneaks is the movie theater itself. Sneaks are territorial and secretive in this most comfortable yet most perilous place. When you call attention to the fact that you believe they are secreting snacks around, you have introduced yourself as direct competition for food and a suitable location in which to eat it, and are likely to be torn limb-from-limb faster than you can say "Marlin Perkins' ill-fated assistant."
The only exception to this caveat is when two Sneaks meet, their gazes locking in the lobby. Then you're not competition, but rather a potential partner with the capacity to share, and, evolutionarily speaking, it makes you popular
I will personally set up on a date, with the Sneak of your preferred gender, the first person who can confirm a story I heard a few years back about the door to Marlin Perkins' office at the St. Louis Zoo being destroyed in a mishap with a nervous security guard and a refrigerated cobra.