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Friday, October 31, 2008

He Never Did Win No Checkered Flag But He Never Did Come In Last

Well, best-laid plans and all.

I raced home from work last night, threw on my costume for the fund-raiser, hopped in The Big Red Bus, stopped to gas up, and hit the freeway headed for south Tacoma around 6:00 p.m. We'd been making the 40 mile trip in about 45 minutes, so I figured this would give me just enough time to grab a quick bite somewhere along the way, and still make my 7:00 p.m. call.

Then, about 15 miles down the road, I hit the traffic jam. Instantly, the entire southbound side of I-5 became a parking lot. At around 6:55, after having traveled the entirety of about 1 mile, I called the theatre to tell them I was running late. The person who answered the phone informed me they'd heard there was a terrible accident just south of me, and that news sources were reporting a delay of up to FOUR HOURS, because all but one lane had been shut down by fire trucks, ambulances, police, et al. Clearly, if I was going to have any chance of making the show, I was going to have to get off the freeway and make my way south via an alternate route.

Unfortunately, I was between exits, with the next one more than a mile away, and traffic moving at literally a snail's pace. All I could do was wait it out and hope for the best.

At around 7:15 I got a call from James, the director, to check on my progress - which of course, wasn't very good. I told him I'd get off at the next exit - still about half a mile away - and do my best to get there by 8:00 p.m. Fortunately, we have an automatic "10 minute hold" built into the top of the show, so I had a tiny bit of extra cushion, but things were not looking optimistic at that point.

I finally reached the next exit at around 7:35, having taken about 40 minutes to go approximately 1 1/4 miles, but at that point I was still roughly 20 miles from my destination, and because so many other people had the same idea - get off I-5 and take surface arterials - things were still pretty backed-up. But, at least I was moving, and eventually the traffic thinned out to the point that I could actually go more than four or five blocks without missing the traffic light synchronization.

By the time I worked my way down to Fife, just north of Tacoma, I was parallel to the freeway and - lo and behold! - it was clear of traffic, and the handful of cars I could see were moving at top speed. Clearly, I'd by-passed the accident scene, and so I took the first on-ramp, and - ahem! - raced toward my destination.

I have never, in 26 years of doing theatre, EVER been late for a show. I've missed rehearsals due to illness, I've had shows canceled due to weather or someone else's illness, I've even missed one or two entrances once I got there, but NEVER have I actually not made it to a scheduled performance - and I wasn't about to let this be the exception. Needless to say, I put the "petal to the metal", as the truckers say, and pushed TBRB to its top-end speed - all of 75 mph; it was quite literally as fast as it would go! Reckless, I know, but I HAD to get to the theatre!

When I finally arrived in Lakewood, I pulled into the parking lot, jumped out of the Bus, ran in to the lobby, took one, deep, calming breath, and walked onstage - with the show already in-progress. Not including the "hold", they were about five minutes into the actual performance. As I walked on, James immediately came over, took my trench coat and fedora (Yay for pre-dressing!), showed me where we were in the script (I'd missed only one live sound effect), and sat down with about 30 seconds before having to execute my next cue.

And that, as they say, was that. The rest of the show went flawlessly, they had a good turn-out, and later, when speaking with a few of the patrons after the performance, they were rather surprised to learn that the entrance hadn't been planned that way from the start - things went that smoothly.

Still, not something I would care to replicate again anytime soon.

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Posted byCOMTE on 10:53 AM

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