Friday, June 8, 2012

KIBITZER

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!"
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