Written by Lee
Standing on the side of a freeway.
Yesterday, I left my dude and my kids and my extended family at Lake Arrowhead, a couple hours away from LA and a world away all at the same time, while I sped down the mountain and then headed west on the 10 freeway towards home. I had to leave early because I'm doing this show, you see, and I had to get back for the Saturday night performance.
I smelled rubber burning right before it happened. The left front tire blew as I sped along at 70 mph along a crowded fast freeway filled with way too semis. I remembered my mom telling me rather recently that the key to a blow-out is just to stay driving straight even though the car will want to veer.
Thump, thump, thump, thmp, thump, thmp, thmp, thmp....
My heart was racing as the car started to vibrate and pull but I was able to slow down and get off the freeway and onto the shoulder. I didn't like the place we were (I was fortunately with a family member who was trying to get to the Ontario airport) but I knew we had to be there. And it was better than being on the freeway.
As the uncle I was with struggled to change the front tire kneeling only feet away from speeding cars, trucks, and semis, I stood towards the back of the car and watched the oncoming traffic. We were parked just as the freeway started to bend so as the cars approached they looked like they were coming straight at us and then they would turn slightly to the left and zoom on past.
I stood there in the hot sun on the pavement and watched every. single. vehicle and prayed that nothing bad would happen. Please drivers, watch where you are going, don't be distracted for a moment, don't be an idiot, don't have a story that will be that story where something awful happens, and oh, how unfortunate that this mother of three got hit while standing at the edge of a crowded bustling freeway.
I felt so exposed. So vulnerable. So out there at the mercy of everyone else. Relying now on everyone else to make sure this all turned out okay. My heart pounded and I thanked God I didn't have the kids with me.
The freeway was loud and the semis speeding past seemed violent to me, and I kept yelling to my uncle to "Be careful! Maybe we should just wait for AAA and stop trying to change the tire!" I wanted him to be a few feet further away from the traffic like I was. As if a few feet would matter if something horrible happened.
After a broken jack and some trouble with these plastic caps on the hubcaps (I was driving my brother-in-law's Audi), we ended up indeed having to wait for AAA to save us from the freeway shoulder. Even the AAA dude didn't dig our location as he kept looking up to the approaching traffic as he quickly changed the tire.
Forty-five endless minutes later, I was driving off of that shoulder. To safety. To control. To a big deep sigh of relief.
Later that night, I stood backstage with my heart pounding, my stomach in knots as I listened and waited for the performers before me to finish their piece. I held a bottle of water in my hand and took a few small sips to try and combat the dry mouth that nerves cause for me.
The audience was laughing. The piece before me is funny and relatable. I tried not to listen and instead remain focused on what I was about to say. The story I was going to tell. As their sketch came to an end, the audience clapped and I watched from behind the black curtain as they took their props and exited the stage.
With the lights dimmed and the music playing, I emerged from behind the backstage black cloth and took my place center stage. It was a packed house, a sold-out show. And in the dim lights, I took a deep breath and waited to begin.
The music softened and ended, the bright lights came up and the audience was pitch black. Here I was. Standing in the middle of the stage. About to tell a story that was me. All me.
And I felt exposed.
Standing on a stage.
It feels weirdly similar to standing on the side of a freeway.