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Walking Traffic: A Vignette

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Walking Traffic: A Vignette

SETTING: 49th and Lexington, in front of the Marriott Hotel. A group of tourists is gathered. Some are checking maps. Some are taking pictures. All are in the way.

KAT is a young blonde in a suit. She has been trying, unsuccessfully, to make her way through the throngs of tourists.

TOURISTS all look and act like tourists of varying ages, heights, weights and ethnicities. There are about 25 of them.

SUITS are business people in suits of black, grey and navy.

NARRATOR is an androgynous offstage voice.

-- SCENE --

Lights go dim. In darkness, the narrator begins his or her line.

NARRATOR: Kat's Fantasy walk to work.

Lights come up on Tourists milling about, a bit of physical comedy as KAT attempts to make her way through.

KAT: (Whipping off her iPod headphones with kind authority to address the tourist group at large.) Okay, everyone. Question: How many of you drive your car to work every day back home?

(KAT scans the crowd of people wearing colors, and shorts without heels. Reluctantly, all Tourists raise a hand.)

TOURIST IN 'I LOVE NY' T-SHIRT: I drive a Prius!

KAT: Awesome, good for you. (Go green!) Now folks, when you're driving your Prius, or your Honda or whatever, and you're on the highway on your way to work, what's really annoying?

(Tourists think to themselves and mumble their commuting grievances to one another.)

MEEK TOURIST: (hesitating to speak aloud) Traffic?

KAT: YES! Traffic is annoying. You know what else really slows down your drive to work? See, I think it's two things: (1) People who drive in the fast lane when they obviously belong in the slow one; and (2) people who stop in the middle of the highway for no reason at all!

DOCKERS-CLAD DAD: Oh, that is the worst.

RED-HEAD TOURIST IN ABOMINABLE SHORTS WITHOUT HEELS: I just hate that! If you need to check directions, or answer the phone, or get something out of the back seat, pull over to the side of the road!

Tourists all echo her sentiment with "yeah," "me too," "I hate that!"

DOCKERS-CLAD DAD: It's just common driver courtesy. When people can't just go with the flow of traffic, they ruin the drive for all of us.

KAT: Yes, see, I hate that too. But in New York City, the thing is, most people don't drive to work, they walk to work. Like me. I'm actually on my way to work right now.

TOURIST 1: Oh.

TOURIST 2: Yeah.

KAT: It's kind of like I'm on the highway, and most of the people on the highway are on their way to work too, right? And we all want to get there fast.

(Tourists nod collectively, they're beginning to get it.)

KAT: So, if I need to pick up a cellphone call, or fix my shoe strap, or if I see something in a store window that I like, you know what I do?

(Tourists grapple for answers, knowing that somehow, they can get it.)

TOURIST IN "I LOVE NY" T-SHIRT: You pull over!

KAT: Yes! I pull over. I find an alcove in a building, or a tree on the corner for shade and I stand there and take care of whatever I need to take care of. Sometimes, I just need to look at a gorgeous dress I can't afford and feel sorry for myself.

(Tourists are suddenly quiet, realizing they're standing in the middle of the sidewalk, far closer to the street than the buildingsessentially, they're stopping in the middle of the fast lane. Something a little like shame comes over them.)

KAT: (with benevolence) No worries. First time offense. But now you know. It's simple to follow the rules of New York Walkers — just pretend the sidewalks are highways.

(Tourists look dejected.)

KAT: (in cajoling tone) Look, there's nothing bad about wanting to stare at the marvel that is Times Square, or the Chrysler Building — they're inspiring! Enjoy it. Live it up. Stop. Stare. Take pictures and buy hot dogs that will give you indigestion all day long.

(Tourists begin frantically clutching their stomachs and passing around Pepcid AC and Pepto Bismol.)

KAT: (interrupting their frenzy) But — there are times for ambling along in wonder and times for staying inside and eating Eggs Benedict. From now on, I want you all to think of the hours of 7-9 a.m. as 'Indoor Eggs Benedict Time.'

(Tourists nod a mass "Aha!" The light has been seen.)

KAT: You wouldn't want someone to make you late to work, would you?

(Tourists shake their heads no.)

KAT: Even if it were unintentional, wouldn't you be annoyed and maybe a little resentful? I mean, getting to work on time is how you've made the money to do the things you really love, like travel to the Big Apple.

(More Tourists nod, some even smile.)

KAT: Well, I — like you — work to support a passion. Mine is called theatre. It requires wearing suits and getting up earlier than I think is really right, and it requires getting in to my survival job on time, which I can't do when you guys clog the street talking and looking around.

Then, at my lunch hour, it requires trucking it across town with five different kinds of dance shoes and a binder full of music bigger than your suitcases, and getting back to the office by 1 p.m. on the dot. So, speed is of the essence. But I can't do those things if we don't all work together.

There's 'Indoor Eggs Benedict Time' from 7-9 a.m., and then there's 'TGI Fridays' or 'Olive Garden Time,' at, you know, lunch time. Those are the times when you guys can be in the air-conditioning, talking about which landmarks to visit, planning which Broadway show to see. These are potentially magical times for you all, with food you know and quality you can count on!

(The Tourists move progressively closer to the buildings and further from the street.)

(A steady flow of Suits passes, detour-free. The tourists watch them speed by with newfound understandingthe Brooks Brothers and Banana Republic-clad people flow seamlessly along, with nary a honk or disapproving sneer in their direction. The tourists now feel like locals, delightful cogs in the wheel of NYC commerce.)

KAT: Alright, so I feel like we've gotten somewhere special today. To Re-cap, what's 7-9 a.m. called?

TOURISTS: (together) 'Indoor Eggs Benedict Time!'

KAT: Right! And what's lunch time called?

TOURISTS: (together) 'TGI Fridays' or 'Olive Garden Time'!

KAT: Right! Way to go, New Yorkers! So, guess what that means? It means there's lots of time that is 'Be a Tourist Time!' Since it's now 8:30 a.m., you only have a half hour to wait until you get out there and see all this incredible city has to offer. Who's ready?!

TOURISTS: (together) We are! We are!!!" (Tourists head inside to grab a bagel or coffee before facing the glorious summer day and a city of exquisite possibility as Kat re-inserts her headphones and goes on her merry way to work as the lights dim to black.)

NARRATOR: You see, in the fantasy, no one is offended by Kat's incredibly condescending lesson on walking traffic. In the fantasy, Kat makes it to the office exactly on time. And somehow, in the fantasy, the message she provided on that fateful day spreads, and tourists all over Manhattan never again stop in the middle of the street for no reason, staring aghast at a building, an advertisement or nothing at all apparent to the grimy, New York eye.

Lights come back up, the scene is set back to the beginning, with the tourists clogging the sidewalk and Kat trying to get through, to no avail.

NARRATOR: Of course in reality, it's a little more like this...

(Kat makes a triangle wedge with her hands, finds a hole and shoves her way through, with her execupack clearing a path behind her and her heels clacking on the sidewalk. A few Tourists are inadvertently shoved. Kat is audibly huffing and puffing as she stomps away.)

TOURIST IN "I LOVE NY" T-SHIRT: What a bitch!

DOCKERS-CLAD DAD: New Yorkers are so rude!

And... Scene!

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