Friday, June 8, 2012


I belong in this picture.

When my older sisters were playing cards, I wanted to join in. When they said no, I stood there and peeked over their shoulders. Maybe I smiled, or giggled a little, or made a quiet "ohh" sound.

"Don't kibitz!" said my older sister Miriam, not sweetly. Of course I listened to her -- I admired Miriam more than anyone in the world -- she had wonderful books that she let me read after I washed my hands. Also, Miriam could draw and she lent me a piece of paper from her art book and gave me one of her charcoal sticks. That's how I learned to draw.

Sometimes, when my cousins Herbie and Bobbie visited, they did crossword puzzles. They didn't mind if I kibitzed, but when Bobbie's father, my Uncle, taught Bobbie how to drive, I was banished from the car and told: "Never kibitz, never distract the person behind the wheel or tell the driver what to do."

That stayed in my mind.

When I was in the car on my way to do a TV interview in Indianapolis, before my performance at Purdue University that night, Purdue's public relations director was behind the wheel. It was snowing. We were on a four-lane highway. I saw that the snow was sticking to the ground. I wanted to tell her to slow down.

She was chatting, doing 55 mph, one hand on the wheel with her elbow on the driver's window panel.

I fastened my seat belt with an elaborate gesture, murmuring casually, "I hate seat belts. I guess this snow is making me nervous."

As the seat belt clicked, she started passing a truck. I saw the speedometer at 61. Suddenly the car felt as if it were a plane.

Bang. We hit, head on, a tree in the road's center divider.

My face slam into the dashboard. I heard her moan, "What are we going to do?"

I comforted her with reassuring words about someone noticing us, someone finding us. I don't know how many minutes passed. It felt like hours till I heard sirens, and saw men opening the car door.

Somebody said, "Don't move her." They meant me. "Put her on a board." They put me gently on a board.

Then, I was in an ambulance on my way to the hospital where they take (someone explained) drivers who crash in the Indy 500.

When somebody cut off my grey coat, I remember saying, "This is my most chic, most favorite coat. I bought it at Lord & Taylor. I have to dance tonight at Purdue University. How long is this going to take?"

Two days later I woke up in an intensive care unit. My face was bandaged. I couldn't move from the waist down. Somebody said my back was broken.

Years later, after I learned to pee, to walk, to dance again, I learned to say slow down, give orders and politely, honestly, meticulously tell people what I knew they needed to do. A leading dancer, choreographer, director is a major kibitzer.

Nowadays, I have a very hard time telling NYC taxi cab drivers to slow down. I do enjoy kibitzing with my husband. as we watch fellow actors in movies or TV shows and commercials. We direct them, scold them, tell them "you're overacting -- stop mugging -- you're stiff -- you smile too much."

I don't have a had time, when we're watching the news on TV, and the screen breaks into two or four sections and celebrity guests voice their opinions, telling the President what he ought to do.

I open my mouth, and yell at them, "Stop kibitzing, SHUT UP!"


Jonathan Gunson - Writer. Illustrator. said...

Very fine article. 'Gatsby-ish' even.

Dede said...

I will say that I used to be a major kibitzer lol. I have learned to mellow through the years and now I consider myself more of an observer and consultant than kibitzer:)

Maureen Jacobs said...

Oh my Ms. Em, I am the Grand Dame of Kibitzing! At times it can be annoying to others, but I try to sugar coat it. Those who know me well, know when I do it. Most others, have no clue....or at least they don't let on. I learned that trait from my mother. Watching my husband do it now, I am learning to stifle myself. A wee bit. But I am, and always have been a nosy Parker, a kibitzer, a giver of opinion without request, and just plain pain in the a$$.

Everyday I try to curb it. Sometime, perhaps soon, it will be a thing of headt.

Louise Sorensen said...

I kibitz, sometimes. When I'm in a car and someone is driving too fast, or missing a hazard that I can see, I speak up. I earned that right, having taught three kids to drive, and then, sitting in the passenger seat while they practiced.
However, I always keep quiet when someone is fixing something. Although I will point out if they are attaching the wrong wires, or some other deficit I may notice.
So the bottome line is, You have to know when to kibitz. : )

Ameer S. Washington said...

There are places to kibitz and there are place not to kibitz. You most certainly under most circumstances never kibitz during Call of Duty Modern Warfare in a 1v1, but sometimes you can if it's all friends. But you do kibitz when your friend is playing online against the world. You kibitz for him and against him, even if he's losing.

You try your best not to kibitz to a losing player in any game who can't hold their composure. They might get pissed and blitz you.

But under all circumstances where your life could be put into danger. Don't we all feel sort of uncomfortable when we're not behind the wheel. Since I've been a kid, I've been a comfortable kibitzer about safety. My favorite phrases are/were, "hey I haven't had sex yet," now it's, "I haven't had kids yet," then my all time favorite is, "I'm really not in a rush, we'll get there," or my 2nd most favorite which is actually priority # 1 is, "hey I'd like to get there alive." I'm not really sure if you can kibitz to an airline pilot unless you're in the cockpit with him, and once you start going down out of control, it's probably time to make your peace with whatever maker, void, or non-god who put you on the earth. :)

To kibitz or not to kibitz that is the question and most certainly always kibitz at the TV since they can't hear you any way ahahahahaha.

Peggy Bechko said...

LOL sometimes kibitzing is mandatory, sometimes it's fun - other times we just shouldn't - up to us I guess to figure out which is which.

Anonymous said...

I learned a new word today---kibitzing. I try not to meddle in other people's affairs, unless they come to me first and spell out the problem. Then I tackle it and try to help them through the issue at hand. This is also with friendship and believing in one another. Good blog today-Em.....this one hit a home run.


Carola said...

I guess you learned the hardest way possible that it's OK to tell people to slow down if their driving is reckless. But it is hard with taxi-cabs.

Linda Phillips said...

Oh Em, you SHOULD tell those cab drivers to slow down! I know of your ghastly accident. You should open your mouth with those idiots!

I once had a very bad accident, but fortunately no one was injured. Whenever I make a left hand turn, it flashes through my mind and I am super cautious.

Better to be a big mouth and not be in another accident...EVER!

Sudhin Choksey said...

There is nothing wrong in being cautious and careful; not only for slef but also for people around you. Its a natural and normal human reflex. So what if someone tells you a KIBITZER; no need to feel small or bad. What matters is the good intention; irrespective of the outcome.

Sudhin Choksey said...

I certainly love your blogs. You have a great way of picking up the topics and also communicate so well through your writings !!!! I now look forward to your blogs daily.

Anonymous said...

Julian Speed
Loved your blog Em :-). Indy drivers are still the worst btw- rain sunshine or snow doesn't matter. I live in Indy but I dont profess to be a hoosier :-).

I'm happy you pulled through.

There is a time and place to act for everything I suppose. Knowing when, where and how comes naturally to some and I think others learn in time. Then some never learn or don't care to.