Monday, January 2, 2012

Larry The Toll Booth Guy

Since I've returned to work,. I've had to adjust to sitting in traffic on the way to work and on the way home.  most days it's not too bad and I manage a half hour commute.  But sometimes it gets heavy and I get stuck in an hour to an hour and a half of traffic.  But I recently found a remedy to make the traffic bearable.  I have an iPhone so I'll pull up my Netflix app and listen to stand up comedy routines while I sit in traffic.  Yes, I'm that crazy lady alone in her car laughing her ass off.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a comedian who had a piano brought out on stage so he could read some of his poetry.  He didn't play piano so he asked if anyone in the audience did.  Several people responded with raised hands and drunken hoots and hollers.  Ultimately Larry was chosen. 

Larry walked on stage slowly and at his own pace.  He was a heavy set gentleman in a T-shirt and hoodie, shorts, and tennis shoes.  He had a dopey look on his face and an even dopier laugh.  Some would say that he may have been enjoying a treat of the green leafy variety before the show.  He sat down at the piano.  The comedian asked his name and what he did for a living.  He answered that his name was Larry and that he was a toll booth collector.  Classic comedy fodder.  The comedian and Larry exchanged a few jokes and chuckles back and forth.  Easy money for the comedian as Larry just sat and giggled at every witty comment with no retort.  Just a stupid look on his face.  God love him.

Then it was time for the poetry.  This comedian's shtick was to read funny and obscure "poems" while someone played different songs in the back ground.  All of it was unrehearsed since he pulled his piano player from the audience each time.  Whether the player was good or bad, this was a classic comedy formula.  There is no way this wouldn't end up funny!

So he asked Larry to play something smooth.  And no one saw what came next.  Larry the toll booth guy was a classically trained pianist!  He played beautifully.  Exquisite even.  I was blown away!

It's been weeks since I listened to this show.  And I keep thinking about Larry the toll booth guy.  I, just as everyone else in that crowd, took one look at this guy and expected that we were in for a performance of chopsticks or Twinkle Twinkle.  But we judged too quickly.  Who knew this portly fellow with the stupid grin and the blue collar job was sitting on this amazing talent.  And why wasn't he using this gift?  It made me wonder how many of us stop using our talents.  What happened that made us abandon our dreams and stop using our gifts.  Why aren't we the things we wanted to be when we were little.  Didn't they tell us that we could be anything we wanted to be?  Did Larry really dream of being a toll booth guy?  Methinks that he didn't spend hours practicing with a coach to be a toll booth worker.  Methinks those hours were spent at a piano. 

I know my current profession wasn't my childhood dream.  I also know what took me off course.  I became a mom at an early age.  Dream chasing stopped and paycheck chasing began.  While I'm good at what I do and it definitely takes care of my family, it's not what I dreamed and it's not what I feel I was born to do.  So where do we go from here?  How do I get back to the place where I chase my dreams?  Are we all Larry?  Are we all sitting on our gifts?  Are we all hiding such incredible talent that no one can see?

This comedy show I listened to on my way to work one morning left me with many questions.  It also reminded me not to judge people by their appearance or even what they do for a living.  We are more than our clothing and we are more than the title on our business cards.  Let us not ever forget that.

Thank you for the unexpected lesson Larry the Toll Booth Guy.


  1. I think his new moniker should be "Larry the AWESOME Toll Booth Guy"!

  2. Oh, I love moments like that, though the cynic in me would, likely, be convinced that the whole thing was a setup.

    However, well, I often wonder at what the heck I'm doing - I mean, I have a job, and I provide for my family, but I know I could be doing more, be that playing in front of crowds or, you know, actually helping people. I'm half convinced that, sometime soon, I'll be going back to school to become either a nurse of a physical therapist. That just seems like a better way to spend my day.

    Have you read the Gene Weingarten article, where he got Joshua Bell to play violin in a Metro station, and interviewed passers-by that chose not to listen?

  3. good god, what truth. you just never know. one of my favorite musicians is chuck ragan, lead singer of famous punk-group hot water music. chuck was doing his own thing, and met a dishwasher at a local restaurant. this dishwasher turned out to be one of the most talented fiddle players in the universe. now they make beautiful music.

    i once worked at an elite cancer treatment center. the lesson and phrase i took away from there was "you never know what's underneath somebody's clothes". these beautiful women, dressed to the nine and smelling like a cloud of mary k heaven would float in, all smiles. once in that exam gown, their bodies were ravaged by cancer. some from the treatment, some from the exposed tumors themselves.

    judgment is over. love is the new everything.

  4. Jeff Ross revealed in the dvd commentary that Larry was a plant.

  5. Jeff Ross revealed in the dvd commentary that Larry was a plant.

  6. Larry was a character played by professional comedian Stephen Kramer Glickman