Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Making all the Stops

I was thinking of a Seinfeld episode the other day, the one where Kramer tells the story of how he was on a hijacked bus and had to fight the hijacker off, ending up driving the bus himself.

(It’s interesting, by the way, how this violates the old bit of writerly advice to show, not tell.  And it’s not the only time Seinfeld does this.  What to me was their most glorious episode is the one where George tells how he saved the beached whale by removing a golf ball from its blowhole.  We don’t see this at all, except for George in rolled-up pants wading out from shore.  There’s a sort of discretion in that, a cutting away from the action, another way to write not encompassed by the old writing rules.)

But I digress.  In the episode, Kramer explains how he has to grab the steering wheel because the driver has passed out, and meanwhile he’s having to fight off the hijacker, or mugger, while steering and also preserving a severed toe that he’s trying to get to the hospital.

Eventually, he explains, he was able to kick the mugger off the bus at one of the stops, to which Jerry replies, “You kept making all the stops?”  Well, says Kramer, people kept ringing the bell.

I was thinking, well, that’s life, or maybe heroism: you’re in a life-and-death struggle, you’ve got a 20-ton vehicle to control, you’re worrying about a severed toe, and yet you keep making all the stops.  Life goes on, there are things to do, so despite your headaches or heartaches or whatever else crosses your path, there are stops to make, people who keep ringing the bell and expecting you to do your job.

It reminds me of Robert Frost’s famous poem about the woods so lovely, dark, and deep, so tempting, but not tempting enough to divert the rider from keeping his promises.  To be an honourable man, says Confucius, keep your word, do your duty.

Man’s lot?  Woman’s too, of course.  We have to keep making all the stops.  It’s hard sometimes, though.

P.S. February 12:
It occurs to me, waking up this morning, that sometimes in times of stress, making all the stops is actually a lifeline.

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