Life as Theater

Act I

Scene I

The phone rings. I answer.

"What are you doing right now?" That's one of those questions it's better not to answer.

 “Nothing. Why?” Huge mistake. But since it was my son who asked…

Scene II

I’m in the car, hightailing it to Netanya at rush hour, to retrieve an important document he misplaced a few days earlier. Ostensibly this is no big deal; Netanya is only a twenty-minute drive from my house. My son needs my help. That adds up to “All systems Go!”

But anyone who knows anything about Israel knows that the traffic can be horrific. Driving south, actually cruising, I gaze at the lanes heading North. It already looks like a parking lot. Not auspicious.

Act II

Scene I

I cut through the Netanya Central Station, which can only be described as fully-catered hell. This is one of those places I’d be happy not to have checked of on my list of places visited. It’s teeming with people tired after a long workday, eager to get home, hot and sticky from another blistering summer’s day. And they’re all, well, either running, walking, talking on their phones or eating. Since when have bus stations become mobile restaurants? I move quickly and with purpose. I focus. I am on a mission. I have a role to play.

Exit, stage left.

Scene II

I’m standing at the help window of the Kavim Bus Lines behind the station.

"Hi, I'm supposed to pick up..."

I look at my watch (or rather my phone, since I no longer wear a watch): 16:48. I know I’m supposed to get here before 17:00. So far, so good.

The man behind the desk listens intently and says, “Okay.” Minutes pass. People come and go. I begin to wonder exactly what that “okay” meant.

I clear my throat. I’m still the only one camped out at the window. I check the time. Well after 17:00. Definitely not good. I inquire after my son’s document again. We make eye contact again. He makes another phone call. I think it’s on my behalf so I wait patiently.

It’s become abundantly clear to me that this is not actually the lost and found, but instead, the dispatch office. And although the man at the desk has promised to help, has even made a few gestures at doing so, I’m the last in line. Anyone that comes in, most of them drivers awaiting their next assignment, takes precedent. The dispatcher has got quite a lot going on.

Stuck waiting there’s no option but to watch this man in action and soon enough I discover that he’s nothing less than a rock star. In fact I cannot take my eyes off him; mesmerized by the way he maneuvers buses around traffic, helps them navigate obstacles, and keeps them running on time, all with the assistance of a hand-held desk microphone and his computer screen. I’m completely entranced by the rhythm and tenor of his voice, the beautiful way he coordinates so many people and vehicles to keep things running smoothly. It suddenly dawns on me. This man, this dispatcher, is none other than Benny on the Dispatch! And just like the character in Lin-Manual Miranda's first show, In the Heights, he’s made the mundane into something extraordinary.


Spectacle aside, five o’clock has come and, save for those exasperated text messages my son continues to send, my original mission has been almost forgotten. Of course, not by my Dispatcher! At some point he takes a momentary break from the action to calmly inform me that I’ll have to come back tomorrow.

 So much for art appreciation.

I gasp, “That’s not possible. That’s outrageous. I was here on time. I fulfilled my part of the deal.”

It won’t help. Apparently the woman in charge of the Lost and Found closed up early. She took the key to the office with her. No, there isn’t another key; he’d checked. No one else can open the door. He’d checked that as well. And the pièce de resistance? She can’t be reached because she went straight to the hospital. No, not as a visitor, but as a patient. She actually went to the hospital for an operation.

I stand deflated, defeated, no longer able to be angry or annoyed. The bald facts supersede any other reaction. This whole undertaking has been for naught. I’m going to go home empty-handed; mission failed, son disappointed.

The Dispatcher and I shake our heads and declare, in unison, “Sh’t’hi’ye baree-ah.” “We wish her health.”

Act VI

I head home--or rather crawl--as by that time the traffic is heavy as expected. Instead of being furious I feel astounded.

This was it: Life as theater: Live and Technicolor. I couldn’t have made it up if I’d tried. Sometimes the story unfolds without our intervention and there’s no need to struggle for the right ending. It’s right there for the taking. Absolutely stunning.