I was in Rome filming “Arena” and of course, because the director and the actors were all American and the crew was all Italian, we had interpreters standing by to help with everything. For the most part that was a super fun shoot, but one day the director got so frustrated with the producer trying to tell him what to do that when I asked him a question he spun to me and started waving his arms and shouting in English, “I don’t know! What do I know? I’m just the director, go ask Irwin!” He was so wound up that he kept on spewing his frustration and rage so loudly and clearly that no one, not even the crew working high in the rigging could miss it. When he finally stopped, the entire set, maybe a hundred people, all stood stock still, shocked and unsure of what to do. I waited a few seconds then I turned to the set interpreter and asked, “What did he say?”

Everyone laughed, the director apologized and the day went on.

I’ve always been ready to take a chance, to put my head on the chopping block. Busy, creating, working, hiking, traveling, trying new things. I seldom sat down, talked and expressed myself constantly, (to the consternation of some of my quieter friends) and had earned the nickname ‘Shari Action.’ Other friends threatened to create a Shari Action doll that would do just about anything, First one to jump off a cliff into a lake? Shari will do it! Start a game of twister at a kid’s party? First one with her left foot on green. Eat chicken feet at dim sum? It’s one of my favorites now.

I know people thought I did it for attention, and maybe that was true somewhat, but I didn’t need to to do that. I had always gotten attention, often too much. What I was good at was playing the fool to make others comfortable, to take the pressure off. Maybe it was my experiences of falling on my ass in front of thousands of people in a skating competition right when the music ended and finishing my routine with an arm flourish while I was still on my ass and getting a big laugh. Maybe it’s that I can’t stand to see people uncomfortable or left out, but I’m always glad to take the chance for a smile or be a buffoon to draw a bully away from someone more vulnerable than myself.

I wasn’t much better when the baby came, I would take her to the grocery store, and we would dance with the grocery cart. I would push to the beat, spin her around and do ‘running man’ right there in the store just to hear her precious laugh. I got smiles, head shakes of sympathy, startled gazes and the occasional fellow spirit joining in. The fact is, once you realize not everyone will get your joke, like your dance, or approve of your energy, you have to decide if you will let that define you.

At fifteen, when my boyfriend’s roommate helped me climb out a bed room window to avoid my parents and I got caught, I apologized to him. He shrugged and said, “I just figured it’s one of those times in my life I’m going to be embarrassed.”

Wow. I took that to heart. Everybody gets embarrassed, just say, “This is one of those times” and move on.

The point, for me, was always to add a sparkle to the day. Maybe it was for others, maybe it was just for me. But being ‘ordinary’ so often means conforming to what people expect and I have never been that. I mean, what is that anyway? This is my life and I deserve to live it out loud.

I live in a place where in the thirty minute drive to the grocery store there isn’t one light and only two stop signs. I drive through flower covered fields and forests, past snow capped mountains. But there’s been construction going on and occasionally the road is down to one lane. So we have to stop and wait. I found myself getting impatient and fast. What else is there to do but sit staring at the flag person, I don’t know the right name, but you know, the men and women who hold the double sided  ‘STOP’ and ‘SLOW’ sign. They communicate with walkie talkies and wave you through when it’s your time. Most of them look so bored and I’m certain they get a great deal of dirty looks and impatient hands thrown in the air. Some of them smile, some of them nod and wave, and some of them studiously avoid any eye-contact. It can’t be an easy job, standing all day in all weather, hoping to hell a lumber truck doesn’t have a brake fail.

But this day, which wasn’t a particularly good one for me, as I sat there, vaguely annoyed and bored, staring at the big red sign that hindered my motion, restricted my flow, interrupted my day, I saw something amazing.

As the woman responded into her walkie-talked and flipped the sign to ‘SLOW’ with her left hand she made a motion with her right hand. Pulling it in toward her waist with the palm down, she then spun it, palm up, flipped it in a wave up and down a couple of times, then with a jaunty smile, presented the road ahead with a slight bow and a courtly flourish as though she had just performed a miraculous magic trick. A stylish jester.  I wish I had a video of it.

“TA DA,” she seemed to say, “I present to you…open road. You’re welcome.”

And just like that, I was smiling, I was happy, hell, I was exalted! Such a little thing, so silly and so fun, and, just like magic, she had turned the mundane into poetry, my impatience into a moment well-spent, and boredom to a memory.

Sure, she took the chance that people would think her a fool, and that’s why I loved it. When Ellen asks the blind Temerity in “Invisible Ellen”, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll look stupid?” the unseeing woman, who cannot see people’s reactions, responds with a loud, “Who cares?” Ellen is struck with the thought that maybe that’s a super power, that maybe it was better to be blind than invisible.

So, if you are being kind or stupid for fun, be blind.

Remember it might be your moment to be embarrassed.

But it might be a chance to shine.

Most people won’t get it.

Do it anyway.

Do it for you.

Shari, June 30, 2024