Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You Are Now in Bedford Falls

Last Monday I hurried to join a man crossing Mass. Ave. in Central Square, hoping in both safety in numbers and in the efficacy of his bright fluorescent vest to ward off evil.  We struck up a brief conversation as we warily watched the oncoming traffic come to a sudden stop.  We joked about the accident that could have been.  Laughing he made a quip about collecting on his life insurance if he was hit by a car, to which I reminded him he wouldn't be around to collect it himself.  And to this he replied, "as my wife says, I'm worth more dead than alive."  And this instantly made me think of the late, great George Bailey of It's a Wonderful Life fame.

I had never seen nor heard of this movie until I was in my mid-twenties, when all of a sudden for several years it was constantly on TV at Christmas time .  There seemed to be no escaping it.  It was a great movie, but I didn't really get it. I have to admit I didn't have a lot of sympathy for George Bailey.  Sure, he always seemed to get the bad break when he was ready to escape Bedford Falls and see the world.  Chance, luck bad or indifferent, his reasonableness and willingness to sacrifice for others ended up putting him in a tough spot time after time, even if the bank examiners decided to break for Christmas Day and let him sweat it out another day.  I have to admit that in the arrogance of my youth I made fun of the poor man.

Of course, that was before I ended up in Bedford Falls myself one day.  It was quite by accident, just like George.  But all of a sudden I was a middle-aged man like George, who had had dreams but was instead living a rather ordinary and boring life.  What happened?  What went wrong? How did I end up like George, the very man I mocked?

You are now in Bedford Falls.