Tossing a Hail Mary

Another NY Moment…

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Out of the Theater last week. We were exiting, feeling relieved that Roundabout revival Robber Bridegroom was finally over – a tedious 90 minutes of squirming through a light-weight corny musical sans intermission…if there had been one, we may not have stuck around – we see lots of theater and I can’t recall the last time we ever did that…

I’m not sure if the feeling was universal – it was hard to read the crowd. There hadn’t been the almost ubiquitous standing ovation for mediocre performance bullshit so perhaps others shared our frustration. One notable exception was the strange young dude sitting next to us who was rolling in the aisle and tapping his feet throughout. Go figure.

Anyway, as we’re getting up to leave I think I see an old friend in the aisle about 25 ft in front of us, already well on her way to the exit. “Jackie?” I call out tentatively as I only got about one second to process the information in my brain and react. No response. Was that really her or just someone who looks like her?

A co-worker told me last week he spotted a doppelgänger of mine walking back from lunch at our work cafeteria and began a conversation with him, only to realize after he got a quizzical blank stare in return that in fact, it was not me at all. If the person I thought I recognized was not Jackie, the query would have just faded into the din of multiple simultaneous conversations and gone unnoticed.

But perhaps I just didn’t impart sufficient volume in my voice to reach above the background noise and my question was simply not heard.  Did the cognitive processing half of my brain hesitate to make a definitive decision, partially overriding the instinctual half that blurts out the first thing that (literally) comes to mind?

What to do?  If I had a better vantage point or clearer access to run ahead and get a closer look I might have easily resolved the mystery, but 30 other theater goers (or in this case, theater leavers) with a different agenda put the kibosh on that strategy.  The line was moving slowly, but it was moving, so not much time for further contemplation.

OK, the rational brain reasons, you’ve already made the commitment – there’s really no sense turning back now.  Nothing to lose.  Might as well crank up the volume, let her rip and toss the Hail Mary (or in this case, Hail Jackie) of chance greetings.  If it’s not her, she wouldn’t know the shout was directed her way – it would just go as an incomplete pass and the local bystanders would scratch their heads wondering who was the intended receiver downfield.

On the other hand, there is always the very remote chance, that within earshot there is another Jackie, who could intercept the pass and start looking around for her mysterious caller, requiring either additional explaining or total awkward denial.

No, the rational brain figures, the likelihood of that is quite small – much smaller for example than the chance that a number of people in the theater share the same birthday as Jackie or anyone else for that matter. The play clock was ticking off the last few available seconds so it was now or never…

Just as I am about to launch the hopeful pass downfield my teammate is injured on the play and reaches out for my assistance as her leg gives way under a twisted ankle.  I come to her aid of course, and before I have a chance to look up, I realize the whistle has blown. The play is dead (in this case it was never really alive), the game is over and the mystery Jackie has disappeared into the nameless crowd of fans homeward bound.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. We’re too old to feel embarrassed or to regret impulses suppressed. I think we have to take those chances. This was beautifully written, Paul. And too bad about the show – I love the Eudora Welty book.

    Editor’s Response: Thanks Eileen…I’ll have to check out the novella – just found a free download. Quite possible it was lost in translation into a musical.


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