Today, I found a hero.
I promise this story has the life-is-beautiful perfect-ending twist you could only hope for and never expect. I know I didn’t. But there it was, and it was pure gold – and worth every second and every step. And one solid lesson. I promise. Just keep reading.
I always leave early.
You never know what life will bring.
For this reason, I say I don’t trust plans, but I do trust preparation. I believe in creating an itinerary then preparing to meet each checkpoint before needed, bracing myself for what may come – be it train delays, diaper bombs, zombies, whatever, at least I will have a buffer to defeat it and still arrive on time. Why? Because life is unpredictable for me. I love it. I feel it’s an opportunity to live ever-creatively. Some people do not have this experience and instead have the midas touch on clocks. My husband is one of these people. He is always early and rarely encounters an unpredictable element. It’s reached the point of absurdity that even his planes (literally) land early (unless he’s with me. Then my luck and his luck cancel each other out, and the plane lands simply “on time”). These midas touch people are freaks. Do not expect them to understand the preparation process. They will blink in confusion as their shoes self-tie and they step through the door at 10:32 AM and arrive at work on the same day at 10:15 AM. IT JUST MAKES NO SENSE. If you are one of these people, you may struggle through this story, and I pity you for never knowing the exhileration of defeating the elements in this video game called LIFE: Leave Early Because BATTERYSTAIRSWALKINGTODDLERSNOWBABYWHOLEFOODSBATHROOMTAPE! Allow me to explain…
Anyone who went to grad school with me knows I was mechanical about showing up. I had to get there before I had to get there. When I worked in DC and encountered too many train delays that prevented my control over my arrival time, I committed to walking – rain, snow, sleet, didn’t matter. I walked the hour+ from my housing to the theater and showered there, getting my workout, warmup, fresh air, sight seeing, shower, and settle in the space before half hour all in on the same journey. Efficiency. I loved it. I loved problem solving to get to each location according to the resources at hand. Exciting stuff!
Having kid and then kids elevated the need to create the early-arrival buffer while elevating the playing field. Early arrival mode operating at a high-skill level. Secretly, a delight. If I’m honest, I’d say I have a mini-stage-manager in me that occasionally comes out to squeal at spreadsheets and calendars, color-coded. Mom-math working backwards from the audition time to determine how to spend the seconds now.
Congratulations, me. But what about the reality-bites element to all this schedule whoopdey-doo? The parts when I get my face kicked by the elements? Enter TODAY’S LINEUP, brought to you by 5:35 PM Email the day before with “Next Day Appointment” in the subject line (Yaaaaa! Raising the roof like the proud lame-o I am! DANCEDANCEDANCE weeerrrrrk!!! #notashamed)
After last-minute scheduling babysitter, learning lines, researching character medical conditions, getting three bodies bathed, dressed, fed, packed for a trip to mom’s audition, work meetings re-scheduled for the afternoon, laundry-folding postponed, and makeup applied, thats when the morning shoots into real hyperspeed – how it changes on me is in red:
11:15 AM – Babysitter arrives at house while children are bundled in multiple layers, baby loaded in carseat, toddler negotiated out of bringing doll-stroller along while mom grabs diaper bag, backpack, snack bag, water bottle, script, toddler, and toddler baby doll, and babysitter grabs infant carseat with baby down stairs to parking lot outside.
11:30 AM – Car starts, toddler in carseat, baby seat snapped in, babysitter and mom all in car and drive to grocery store across the street from audition location.11:30 AM – CAR DOES NOT START. There is snow on the ground, and thank God it’s sunny, because Chicago is COLD.
Plan B: Battery booster! Portable battery charger for car. Lift hood. Covered in snow, will not stay up. Passing superintendent offers to hold hood. Hook up battery booster. Turn key. Car does not start even though battery booster worked three times before. Reset booster. Car does not start. Reset booster while calling out to babysitter to check time to destination by train. Try again: car starts!!! CAR DIES. Car needs new battery. Toddler eating snow by handfuls. Babysitter takes baby back inside.
11:40 AM – Babysitter reports GPS says 25 min. From experience, with kids the travel will be 30 min. minimum. Buffer time eaten. Everything needs to go well to make it on time.
Stroller set up, baby clicked in, toddler picked up, entourage bolts toward train stop. Train stop has no elevator. Mom picks up toddler, diaper bag, backpack, stroller back while babysitter picks up baby car seat and stroller to head up the stairs carefully. Cannot rush on snow.
11:50 AM – On train. Laughing hysterically with babysitter about preferring warm weather and wondering if she knew she was going to get her workout in by force. Consider charging her for personal training excursion via lifting stroller and children. Send text to husband about insanity while seconds tick loudly. Include jimmy fallon freakout thank you gif, multiple prayer-emojis and one cry-laugh emoji because hahahahahahalifeamiright?
11:55 AM – Free parking. Full-size stroller out of trunk, baby in stroller, babysitter, toddler, and mom bolt into grocery store, buy lunch for babysitter and toddler, breastfeed baby, set entourage at table to enjoy a delicious lunch. 12:10 PM – Mom walks casually across the street to audition site, signs in a healthy 15+ minutes beforehand. Changes out of breastmilk-splatter top to #wokeupthisway fresh audition top. Studies lines, sips water, fantasizes about world peace.
12:10 PM – Train flies, so no delays: arrives on schedule. Everything needs to go well to make it on time. Exit with toddler, stroller, babysitter, bags, and head toward
elevator. THERE IS ALSO NO ELEVATOR AT THIS STOP. WONDERFUL. HA! Oh man, I’ve got to get the name of this film, because FUNNY THINGS.
Speaking of, full entourage turns corner to see TWO of THREE full flights of stairs, each flight a minimum of twenty steps with landings in between, and beside them, a barely-legal-width half-escalator that wouldn’t fit even a folded stroller. Babysitter’s jaw drops at the towering staircase that literally disappears above us, the end unseen as it reaches past our vision to the earth’s surface. The children grow heavier with the minute. Time slips. Clock ticks. The stairs will be the crushing obstacle with no cell service to phone in a notice. Mom scoops up toddler and turns to take stroller front to carry it, to persist. Everything needs to go well to make it on time. Deep hope. A prayer…And then — a voice:
“Can I help with that?”
Mom raises gaze to see gentleman asking sitter again, “Can I help get this up the stairs?” Babysitter, flooded with gratitude, says hardy “YES!” – mom nods head fervently and points out the best spot to grab on stroller, makes comment about no elevator. Man comments:
“Yeah, there’s even an additional flight of stairs around the corner before we surface,” realization slowly dawns on man’s face about extent of what he offered as all adults look up to the towering staircase, end completely out of view at this train stop called Treacherous, leaving only 8 levels of Dante’s inferno to climb with babies, stroller, bag, and HOPE. Toddler asks for snacks.
Mom, man, babysitter all lift babies, strollers, and bags up first flight, then second, turn corner, and together crush the final ascension, mom sniffs back nosebleed from sudden altitude change but presses on, sun pours over the group as they rise from the center of the earth to Chicago’s old city neighborhood with speed and agility of fresh team-member strength.
The stairs were mastered, some minutes gained because of the strength of a stranger. A hero. Game changer moment. This is where a turn happened…
With quick thanks and take care, the man takes off one way, entourage another.
12:11 PM – 9 minutes to arrive at sign-in time for a 7 minute walk in snow with two kids, three bags, a babysitter and stroller, a hope, and a prayer, but cutting through alleys for 3 blocks with a quick shortcut leaves kids and babysitter heading up to the grocery store doors on time while mom dashes with water, sides, and new top across the street.
12:22 – Mom signs in, pees like a racehorse going for gold, changes out of breastmilk-splatter top to #wokeupthisway fresh audition top. Returns to chair, studies lines, sips water, fantasizes about world pea—
“Tony?” Another audition call is being held at the same time. For no reason at all, mom glances up and sees – hands fixing his collar and nodding “yes” with the right humility-happy-to-be-here calm being lead into the next room – a man with the face, voice and demeanor of a staircase hero. Time slowed for the first time in the day as he disappeared through the doors. Glancing at his jacket proved it was indeed the one who offered help. On his audition day, too.
Overwhelmed with the realization, mom scribbles a quick thank you note.
Auditions are short, and Tony returns. Mom has to step forward.
“Thank you.” Man turns. “You helped me with my stroller.”
Suddenly recognizing her, the man laughs and says, “yes, of course! I didn’t recognize–no problem.”
“I can’t thank you enough! I can’t believe you did that when you had an audition too, and because you did, I made it here on time.”
“Oh, it was no problem – I had time. I’m glad I could help.”
He had time. He had the wealth of that resource and he chose to give it. This is the point that began to hit home as I shook his hand farewell and he wished me graciously “break a leg!” The example he set began to formulate an application I had been searching for.
As Tony leaves the building, mom returns to her seat in awe that she made her audition on time because someone used their extra audition time to share with her.
12:30 PM – Mom crushes audition. This happened.
12:40 PM – Mom returns across the street to grocery story, toddler is finishing pizza and makes hugely excited face seeing mom. Mom grabs food, breastfeeds baby again, bundles baby and toddler.
1:00 PM – Full entourage piles into car and heads home. [Everything that just happened but backwards, and no need for help because taking stroller apart and taking our time.]
The Hero, Epilogue.
I could have made it right at the time of my appointment without the help up the monstrous climb, but every actor knows the sweet spot for good arrival is at the 10 minutes before – that’s the time with the most advantage. I’m not stranger to crazy travel and adventures, so I could laugh through the whole event, but the difference is that this story had advantage, it had success, in large part because someone was generous. That is no small point to note.
In no way shortchanging the support and efforts of everyone else leading to the audition, the generous act of this actor highlights a very integral role in the artist network of healthy community.
We have the first two:
The Support System – my husband’s help with lines and kids the night before, encouraging messages to lay a foundation of confidence.
And here’s where we can identify a third element:
The Heroes – those with no obligation, connection, or reward whatsoever who share of their own resources to ensure the safe arrival of another artist.
This is key. A factor that can be crucial to forward movement for the community of parent-artists in terms of hiring, empathy, creating pathways back in, and crafting initiatives and solutions.
Tony had the extra resource of time and shared it with a parent-artist. Simple as that.Without realizing it, Tony Jose Garcia was a hero to a fellow actor whose expanded life needed an extra hand at a single, crucial moment in order to continue forward. So much of why I write is to identify a support system, praise and support advocates in terms of family-friendly artists and organizations, and to encourage and recognize those with the heart and character to see the need of the parent-artist and help in a way that makes it possible to participate. In fact, this sort of empathy and being present to the needs of others is a practice all artists can contribute and benefit from.
Tony had the time.
Tony is a hero.
Because Tony left early.
Be like Tony.
Always leave early.
You never know who you’re going to help.
You can like Tony’s actor page here and write him a thank you, too. He deserves all the bookings he can get if he’s spreading this kind of generosity.
Keep connecting, friends. Good stuff is happening.