Nine years ago, my current roommate and good pal, John, and I spent our first week of summer vacation at Driver’s Ed. We sat for eight hours each day, cramped in a stuffy, window-less classroom, listening to our misogynistic, hungover instructor, Mr. McPherson, babble on about his driving escapades. Once, he described the exact motorcycle chase scene from the movie, The Terminator—full of its explosions and high speeds and lethal weapons. Only, he claimed it was autobiographical. He was one of those guys.
By about hour three of day two, we’d had enough. John, our friend Patrick, and I took a very leisurely lunch break and played whiffle ball in the parking lot next door. Singles were grounders past the infielders (first row of parking). Doubles were line-drives past the infielders, off the warehouse building next door. Eventually, we came back to class—not because Mr. McPherson noticed our absence but because the construction workers needed to park their cars.
While we’d been gone, Mr. McPherson had written his name and phone number on the classroom’s white board. Without hesitation, John improbably and stealthfully changed the first few letters, so that it read MR. SANDERSON (his name) instead. (John also changed the phone number to his own and winked at the cute girls doing gimp in the back row. No luck.) It took Mr. McPherson a few hours to even notice the change. We thought it was hilarious. It was.
I love this story because Driver’s Ed is an awful, lifeless place. It’s the perfect setting for a dramedy starring Bill Murray and Michael Cera. It’s not the perfect setting for rambunctious 16-year-old dudes. John saw the absurdity, felt the suffocating blandness, and acted.
Creativity saves us. It draws light to the ludicrous, highlights the mundane, and repositions arbitrary NO TRESPASSING signs that insult our soul. It gives us a small, light voice in anonymous, dark places.
The first thing we notice in a creative act is that it is an encounter. Artists encounter the landscape they propose to paint—they look at it, observe it from this angle and that. They are as we say, absorbed in it.—Rollo May
To me, it’s imagination multiplied by emotion—that’s the whole job.—Colin Farrell