Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Stuck in a Silent Movie

            Do you ever have the feeling that you’re stuck in one of those old, choppy, black and white silent movies? I don’t mean that everything is varying shades of grey; it’s what is happening that makes you suspect that at any moment Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton are going to walk through your door.

            On film, it’s funny when Harold Lloyd walks down the street, totally engrossed by his newspaper and blithely ignoring the trail of destruction that follows along behind him. Inadvertently, he has gotten in the way of piano movers who drop the baby grand, causing it to roll down the street where it will collide with a fruit vender’s cart, scattering apples on the sidewalk that passersby have to dodge, etc. and so on. It’s classic slapstick, slipping-on-a-banana-peel type of humor, and no one is ever really injured.

            It’s not so funny when it happens in real life. Yesterday, I happily jumped into my new little red car and set off to have dinner at a favorite Greek restaurant with my friend Gail. As I pulled onto the Ronald Reagan Parkway, the traffic news reported that there was a fatal accident at the exit right before the one where I got on. I breathed deeply, touched my St. Christopher medal in mute gratitude, and slowed down to the legal speed limit.

            I continued on my way, exiting onto Highway 29. I was sitting at the light at an intersection where I would have entered Highway 29 had I taken my usual back way when several fire trucks and ambulances, sirens blaring, careened past me and turned down that side street. There was an accident, and judging by the number of response vehicles, it was a bad one. That could have been me.

            Now feeling a bit shaky, I made it to the restaurant and sat down in a booth by the window. Unfortunately, firefighters were trying to put out an apartment fire a few blocks away, and all I could see from the window was billowing black smoke, curling up into the evening sky. I tucked my head between my knees and breathed deeply to keep from fainting. Obviously, I don’t have the chutzpah of Chaplin, Keaton or Lloyd.

            So what do you do when you notice that a string of ugly events has dogged your footsteps, cutting a swath of devastation as wide as an F3 tornado? I thought back to my actions, going over each movement in my mind, but I just couldn’t remember getting in the way of the piano movers. Had I been as oblivious as Harold Lloyd reading his newspaper, or is life actually as bizarre as an old silent movie? I suspect the latter.