(Editor’s note: What follows is Doug Brendel’s 200th “Outsidah” column, if you can call this a column. He wanted to “make this one special” — if you can call this special.)
Lord’s Square: The Opera
[translated from the Italian by Christopher J. Florio]
[Overture: We hear what qualifies as rush hour in small-town New England: an orchestra of innumerable vehicle engines, but without a single horn.]
[The curtain rises on Lord’s Square. Traffic is flowing in both directions.]
[Red PT Cruiser enters from Linebrook Road, stage left, stops at the stop sign, waiting for a break in Traffic in order to enter the stream of vehicles. Additional Vehicles back up on Linebrook behind PT Cruiser.]
[Almost simultaneously, Dented Gray Honda Accord enters on Liberty Street, stage right, stops at the stop sign, also waiting for Traffic.]
[Chorus of Vehicles sings while continuing to stream in both directions:] Another day in old M.A.! Without delay, we drive 1-A! The right-of-way, we all obey! Sing we, Hooray! [Echo:] Here on 1-A, sing we Hooray! Hooray! Hoo-raaaaay!
[PT Cruiser, solo:] I know it seems a long delay, to find an op-en-ing. But really it’s a minute, maybe less!
[Honda and Cruiser, duet:] So we will wait with patience. We will not begin our day, with anger and unnecessary stress!
[Chorus of Streaming Vehicles:] Needless stress! [flourish of drums] Needless stress! [flourish of drums] Obey the law, and circumvent the stress!
[Suddenly, Blue SUV, in stream of Traffic from High Street, arrives at intersection and halts.]
[SUV, solo:] Oh, waaaaait! A-laaaaas! I see a fellow motorist marooned! To any grounded driver, hark! my sympathetic heart is much attuned! [Traffic immediately halts behind SUV.] What pain to see such trag-e-dy, from here in my big S-U-V! A Honda there, on Liberty, but sadly not at liberty, to join the flooooow … as we all gooooo … down old 1-A, here in M.A., on this fine daaaaay!
[Chorus of Halted Traffic from both directions:] Forsooth! Why should this stream of moving ve-hi-cles have slooooowed? There is no traffic signal on this roooooad!
[Honda, in a sweet, melodic solo, as SUV makes frantic hand signals:] I see your great compassion, friendly S-U-V! But traffic goes both ways here — can you fail to see? If I pull out, according to your will, who knows how many drivers’ blood I’d spill?
[Gold Camaro, in stream of Traffic from Central Street, sees SUV stopped and hits the brakes. Traffic halts behind Camaro.]
[Camaro, solo, urgently:] Not one, but two! Two cars are waiting! What a dilemma it’s cre-a-ting! How could a conscience fail to let them innnnn?
[Cruiser, solo, as Camaro makes frantic hand signals:] But it’s a sinnnnn!
[Cruiser, gesturing “No,” as Camaro continues gesturing “Go ahead,” both singing overlapping phrases:] “You must go ahead!” “I can’t; I’ll be dead!” “Your wait’s been so long!” “It’s le-gal-ly wrong!”
[Chorus of Halted Traffic:] Will someone not take action here, to make this traffic disappear? Will anybody hit the gas, and put an end to this impasse? Will someone shift from “P” to “D”? Or will we spend e-ter-ni-ty on old 1-A, in old M.A., and nevermore be on our way?
[The voice of a single Battered White Pickup Truck, several vehicles up Central Street, cuts through the chorus with a haunting, plaintive aria:] From all of this, shall we be late for work, and all be fired? Or will the diggers find us here someday, and wonder how we all ex-piiiiired?
[The Four Cars make tentative, jerking motions into the intersection, singing in sequence:] “OK!” “OK!” “OK!” “OK!” “But wait!” “Too late!” “Don’t hes-i-tate!” “I’m just halfway!” “No more delay!” “Dear God, don’t let me die today!”
[Chorus of Vehicles, voices raised in a rousing final anthem, as Traffic begins streaming again:]
To drive through Ipswich is a special bless-ing,
no matter if the traffic’s not pro-gress-ing!
The rules of right-of-way are too de-press-ing.
Instead, our drivers keep alert — and guess-ing!
Sing Glor-i-a! Sing praise! Sing Hal-le-lu-jah!
Do something kind, and someone will out-do ya!
(And we reserve our coldest scorn,
for anyone who honks his horn!)
There’s not a kindness we won’t offer to ya!
Do un-to others as you’d have them do ya!
Let Ipswich friend-li-ness seep through and through ya!
[The Drivers wave, smiling. The curtain falls.]