LIGHTS DOWN AND UP
Confusion Reigns Supreme
Confusion Reigns Supreme
NARRATOR: On our first Saturday morning Ms. Peaksbury asked me…
LIGHTS UP ON DESK WHERE MS. PEAKSBURY SITS
MS. PEAKSBURY: How did you feel when you were smashing those computers?
NARRATOR: [TO AUDIENCE, GAINING SPEED] In my mind I scanned a word list: audacious, blissful, bodacious, courageous, exhilarated, ecstatic, fearless, glowing, heroic, indomitable, inviolable, justified, noble, resolute, righteous, stalwart, strong, sublime, unafraid, unassailable, undaunted, valiant, vindicated, warm, wonderful, and… human.
[TO MS. PEAKSBURY] Confused.
[TO AUDIENCE] And so it was that “confused” became the angry person’s mantra. It wasn’t plucked from the defiant word list that threatened one’s graduation – which is to say, it was not the truth.
It was not “angry” or “mad” which, for some reason, were considered unacceptable answers. Nor was it an obvious uncloaked word of submission that had dominated since it became clear that the truth would, under no condition, set us free. It was not “wrong” or “immoral” or “bad.”
MS. PEAKSBURY: But Robert, if you felt it was wrong and immoral, why did you continue to drive into the other cars until the police shot your car?
WHEN THE LIGHTS RETURN THE NARRATOR IS AT DESK STAGE RIGHT
ANGRY BOB IS IN DESK A ROW IN AND TOWARD CENTER
AS THE NARRATOR SPEAKS TO THE AUDIENCE ANGRY BOB IS LOOKING TOWARD MS. PEAKSBURY’S DESK
NARRATOR: Angry Bob is thirty-nine years old, married with three angry kids and a house on the city’s west side. For the past seven years every day Angry Bob drove through the rush hour traffic that slowly made its way toward his downtown office.
Every city believes it has the worst drivers in the world and this city is no different. But Angry Bob actually found the perfect way to express the attitude at the very heart of the city’s motorists.
ANGRY BOB: People here drive as if their families were being held hostage and, if they allow any of the cars behind them to get ahead of them… their families will die.
NARRATOR: Angry Bob’s car was some maroon late-model Ford with 130,000 miles on it and a bit of a knock in the engine. While the interior bore the tell-tale signs of parenthood, the body was in excellent shape with no rust and almost no dings or dents.
Everyday the traffic backs up to a crawl, and everyday people weave their way in and out of the lanes as if they really believed chaos theory was bunk and it was actually possible to anticipate the random flow of traffic.
In the process Angry Bob’s bumper would be bumped and an occasional fender scraped, horns would blare, fists would wave. Taken as whole, it was like some post-modern opera by John Adams or Phillip Glass; Angry Bob On the Beach.
ANGRY BOB SPEAKS….
ANGRY BOB: What annoyed me the most was the attitude of entitlement on the part of the drivers who cut in and out of my lane. They all cross over with a certain confidence, as if they know I’ll hit the brakes rather than hit them.
[ALMOST IN MONOTONE, RAPID] Every morning. Every evening. Coming and going. Squinting into the rising sun in the morning. Squinting into the setting sun in the evening. Breathing in the exhaust. Sweating in the summer heat.
All the time moving so slowly that what was left of my air conditioner threatened to overheat the engine that knocked and sputtered [MIMICS THE KNOCKS AND SPUTTERS HITTING DESK AND STUTTERING]
Day in day out. Week after week. Month after month. Coming and going to a job I don’t like…
PAUSES AND LOOKS AWAY
…to a family that didn’t seem to like me anymore.
Thirsty. Hungry. Tired. Hot. Cold.
And then there’s that one afternoon when a young kid in a shiny sports car cut in front of me, and I hit the brake hard enough to smack my forehead on the wheel as the car behind me tapped my bumper and leaned on its horn.
I looked at the sports car in front of me and, reflected in the tiny rear view mirror, the kid’s eyes meet mine and I watched as the kid mouthed the word…
BECOMING MORE AGITATED, ANIMATED
I didn’t smash the sports car, not at first, not like the newspaper and TV said. No, I eased on the gas and gently made contact with the bumper. I saw the kid react and saw the brake lights come on. I slowly pressed on the accelerator and began pushing the sports car.
Now, the sports car could beat my car in zero-to-sixty, no contest. But the sports car was no contest for a full-sized Ford slowly crunching it into the delivery truck ahead of it.
I saw that smug entitlement on the kid’s face downshift into panic.
OBVIOUSLY RELISHING THE MEMORY AS HE RELIVES IT
THROUGHOUT, HE USES HIS DESK AS IF IT WERE HIS CAR PUSHING IT SLOWLY INTO THE DESK IN FRONT OF HIM
The back bumper of the truck was just high enough, and the front of the sports car just low enough, so that the car was slowly being shoved under the truck.
The hood of the sports car started to crumple; the back lights come on as the kid thought to throw it into reverse.
The car behind me was a mid sized Japanese number, silver gray, probably thirty grand. The driver was a woman who reminded me of a friend of my wife’s named Janet.
I’d never done anything to Janet. I’ve never spoken coarsely, never been rude; yet she always looks at me with the look you get when you taste something unpleasant.
The modern world seems stuffed full of women like Janet.
Forty-something, anorexic-thin, carrying water bottles with them everywhere, always in front of me at coffeeshops where all I want is a simple cup of coffee… but they order complex drinks that take a half-hour to make and require machines that looked like they’d been salvaged from old steam locomotives and fifties sci-fi films…
…and every one of them looks at me as if I remind her of the ex-husband who took her youth and then left her for the young girl in the tight uniform making the damn coffee.
PAUSES… RETURNS TO STORY
SHAKES HIS HEAD
So… faux-Janet hits her horn, though why she did is still unclear. It’s as if she needed to express her disappointment. She did this at the exact moment that I decided I wanted some more room in back of me as well.
As the sports car grrrrrinds in reverse in front of me, I throw the car into reverse and slam into the silver car behind me…
PUSHES HIS DESK BACKWARDS SLAMMING INTO DESK BEHIND HIM
…and it’s hood crumples and it rear-ends the mini-van behind it!
Now… the mini-van was driven by another soldier in the Army of Janets.
Faux-Janet had a look of confusion and despair as she looked into the eyes of Janet Three in the mini-van behind her and saw the disappointment looking back at her.
[EXCITEDLY] Disappointment and condescension smashed into each other at the speed of light and released particles of moral superiority and smugness impacting everyone within a mile of the event.
ANGRY BOB SLUMPS DOWN ONTO HIS DESK
THE LIGHT ON HIM IS KILLED AS THE LIGHT ON THE NARRATOR COMES UP
NARRATOR: But by then, Angry Bob was smashing into the sports car again, and again into Faux-Janet, back and forth, three more times. The other drivers around the commotion were now tooting their horns nervously as well. After clearing a space in front and back of him Angry Bob now decided to leave the pack; in his mind was a cartoon of a silver sardine busting through the tin walls of the can… and he smiled.
For the next fifteen minutes, just as Warhol had predicted, Angry Bob drove down the shoulder of the road, intermittently crashing into the cars on his left as he went. Some choices were obvious, cars that edged onto the shoulder to block his path. Some were less obvious. He hadn’t realized, for example, how much he hated SUVs until he found himself crashing into every one he passed.
During his rampage, Angry Bob smashed and crashed into a grand total of seventy-four vehicles. The television news footage shot from a circling helicopter showed the rows of state and local police and sheriff cars that converged on the bashed and battered maroon Ford. As I watched it all unfold live on the local news I saw the cops, guns raised, arms extended stiffly, slowly approach the car as it sat, wheels spinning. When I saw the police open fire I thought I was watching the driver die in a hail of bullets; it wasn’t till later, when I watched the footage endlessly repeat, that I realized that the police had shot the tires and the engine of Angry Bob’s weapon of mass destruction. At the end of his twenty-three minutes of fame Angry Bob’s Angry Ford had been shot over one hundred and nineteen times and had broken both axles. In one newspaper photo the Ford looked just like the car at the end of Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde.
I watched the legend of Angry Bob unfold on the communal TV in jail. It was a long room filled with orange-clothed fans of Angry Bob, cheering him on.
One of the inmates was a fifty-something black man named Lateef who reacted to every news story involving a Caucasian criminal with a recasting of the story that began “If he’d been black they’d a shot his ass.” Whenever he said that, his constant companion Byron would always add, “Yeah.”
Lateef told us, “I knew a brother in Pittsburgh back in seventy five named Louis Watson; we called him L.G. for ‘Long Gone’ after his habit of disappearin’ any time we sent him to the liquor store. L.G. was semi-famous when Jimmy Johnson up in Chicago wrote a song for him, the “Saint Louis Blues”…
SINGING 12-BAR BLUES MEDIUM TEMPO
TAPPING DESK TOP IN TIME
THE WORDS “SAINT” AND “SENT” SHOULD BE SUNG SO AS TO SLUR INTO EACH OTHER
“I got the St. Louis blues, as blue as I can get.
I got the St. Louis blues, as blue as I can get.
We sent Louis to the liquor store, and [STOPS TAPPING, IN HIGHER VOICE DELIVERED AS PUNCH LINE] Louis ain’t been back yet.”
[CONTINUES IN LATEEF VOICE] Anyway, he’s drunk, stoned, whatever, one night about four in the morning and he rear ends this cop car at a red light.
They shot the brother nineteen times!”
[IN NARRATOR’S VOICE] Lateef paused for effect and let his gaze crisscross the room.
Then he concluded, [IN LATEEF’S VOICE] “I’ll tell you what, he’s long gone now.”
“I hear that.” Byron added.