Replay: Through a glass blankly

largest1Back in the early ’90s I’d planned on becoming a reporter, whether for print, radio or TV I hadn’t yet decided. (I like the first two more, but the jobs were all in the last one.) Towards that end I went to various professional conferences. At one of them someone screened a “soft news” piece done by a reporter I’d later get to know, Wayne Freedman of ABC7 in San Francisco. The story concerned two worlds separated by a mere pane of glass. The theme: how we’re strangers with so many people. The subtext theme: people of the same social and economic classes flock together. Wayne never says this outright. Wayne was and is a brilliant storyteller.

I’ve always been attracted to stories about people whose paths usually don’t cross but who are, for whatever reason, thrown or drawn together. That was a large part of what made me want to tackle Entertaining Welsey Shaw, and what has made me write some of the other stories I’ve scribbled. There are so many things that keep people apart, but probably one of the biggest unacknowledged ones is social class. Note in the piece below how the woman, who seems to be taking elocution lessons from Shelley Long, knows nothing about the girl selling flowers, but the girl knows a lot about and is very interested in the world of the woman.

As Wayne points out, it seems the closer we’re living to each other, the more we’re blocking each other out, existing on our own tiny island universes. Since then, this has increased even more than anyone could have dreamed possible, with the explosion of iPods, iPads, social networks (which, contrary to their name, actually tend to make our worlds smaller), cell phones and Twitter.

It’s amazing to think not only that none of that existed in 1991, but that few people had even dreamed of such a world only a generation ago, a world that is now so commonplace and mundane it seems like it’s been with us forever. The Internet “revolution,” as I’ve commented before, has turned our traditional social meeting and thinking places upside-down. Chance encounters, like the ones Daniel Ferreira and Welsey Shaw have, are becoming harder and harder, immersed as we are in our pre-defined lives. “Maybe we pass them on a freeway or share an elevator with them,” Wayne says. Or maybe they’re sitting at the next table in the coffee shop, incognito.

Wayne’s is a piece I never forgot since I first saw it at that conference long ago. It left a strangely vacant hole inside me, and I immediately thought—and still think—it would make an interesting one-act play. When I worked at ABC7 years later and met Wayne, I urged him to put it (perhaps ironically) on YouTube. I’m delighted he now has. Check out some of his other stories as well.


One response

  1. Tiny island universes. Powerful piece, John.


    November 14, 2012 at 1:41 pm

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