Snowbound and Outbound

By Stan Peal


Passengers on a metro bus stuck in the snow are hesitant to talk at first, then fall into a competition about whose life is more difficult. The only one not complaining turns out to be the one with the most to lose.


AMY- teenage girl
MARK - newlywed man
CINDY - newlywed woman
CLAIRE - middle-aged woman
WILL - adolescent boy
CARL - older homeless German immigrant


(The setting is a bus, the Monday after thanksgiving. Six people sit in silence. The bus driver briefly enters).

BUS DRIVER.  Sorry folks, this bus isnít going anywhere. Even if I could get the engine started, weíre in this snow bank good. Thereís no traction. Weíve got another bus on the way. If it makes it through the snow, it should be here in five to ten minutes. Maybe. Give or take. Just sit tight and stay warm. Iím gonna go out and start digging.

WILL.  Great.

CLAIRE.  Terrific.

MARK.  Nice driving.

CINDY.  It wasnít his fault. Besides all the snow, itís solid ice underneath. We shouldnít even be out here.

AMY.  Wow. Iíve never been stuck on a bus. (Pause. She gets up and addresses everyone in the bus) Uh, hi. My name is Amy. I saw this movie onceÖwhere a bunch of people were stuck in a subway car, kind of like us. AndÖat first they didnít want to talk to each other, but after a while they started getting along like they were all friends, and they started singing together. So when they were singing, the time passed really quickly and the train started up again and they were almost sad that they werenít stuck any more. (Pause) So anyway, I thought that if we started singing, it would help pass the time. Christmas is coming up in a month, so why donít we sing some Christmas songs?  Iíll start (Sings) ďWe wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New YearÖ(pause)ÖGood tidings.. (Stops singing) Okay. I guess itís kind of hard to sing in public. I know. We just had Thanksgiving weekend, so why donít we all go around and introduce ourselves and say something weíre thankful for. Okay, Iíll start. My name is Amy  Öoh, I said that alreadyÖAnd Iím thankfulÖ

CINDY.  Um, honey, I donít think anyone really wants to talk. Why donít we all just sit and wait for the other bus.

MARK.  (To Cindy) That was a little cold, wasnít it?

CINDY.  I was just telling her what everyone was thinking, but nobody would say. Thatís all.

MARK.   How do you know what everyoneís thinking?

CINDY.   Well, I was just trying to be helpful. If you want to embarrass yourself, thatís fine.

MARK.   Hi, Amy, my name is Mark. One thing you can be thankful for is that youíre not married. (Cindy glares at him) Not that thereís anything wrong with marriage. Marriage is a wonderful thing. But right now youíve got your freedom. You donít have the pressures of bills, mortgages, property taxes, raising a familyÖ

CINDY.  Communication problems, cleaning up day after day, putting up with tantrumsÖ

MARK.  Always having to wait, never being on timeÖ

CINDY.  Having all your money spent on Nintendo, toolsÖ

CLAIRE.  Listen to you two. How long have you been married? No, wait. Let me guess. Eight months.

CINDY.  Seven.

MARK.  You make it sound like a prison sentence.

CINDY.  You donít sound like youíre having any fun either, do you.

MARK.   I have fun. JustÖnot all the time.

CINDY.   Oh, do you want me to be more fun?

MARK.   I want you to be you. Itís justÖ Itís different than when we were dating. I just need to get used to you.

CINDY.  Oh really.

MARK.  And you need to get used to me. I still love you, you know. I really do.

CINDY.  I know. I love you too.

CLAIRE.  The first year of marriage is always hard. Donít worry, thingsíll get better. You to have a lot to be thankful for. You have each other, for one thing. Thereís still time to build your marriage into something that will last. Thatís very important. Believe me.

MARK.  Did you have a bad marriage?

CINDY.  (Surprised at his tactlessness) Mark.

MARK.  Well, weíre all being so open about our lives hereÖ

CLAIRE.  Itís okay. I didnít have a bad marriage, it was a very good one. At least I didnít think there was anything wrong with it. Then one day my husband turned thirty-nine and spent all our savings on a red sports car and drove away. I havenít seen him since.

MARK.  (Laughing a little) Iím sorry. Thatís not funny. Itís kind of sad. He mustíve had some kind of serious mid-life crisis.

CLAIRE.  Herb never was a strong man. He was an artist. He was very creative, but he was never very strong.  I guess, when I think back, he was always running away from things.

CINDY.   Typical male. (Mark looks at her) Generally speaking.

WILL.  Why do girls always say that?

AMY.  Not all girls say that. Just the ones that are mad.

CINDY.  Iím not mad. Iím realistic.

CLAIRE.  I guess Iím a little mad. He left me high and dry, really. I never went to college, I had no idea how to get a job, the bills were stacking up, and our son was turning twelve, so I had to brace myself for that. Itís just been a terrible time getting my life in order.

AMY.  Are you thankful for anything?

CLAIRE.   I guess Iíd be thankful if I could catch up on my bills. Iíd be thankful if I knew where my son was half the time.

WILL.  How come you said it was bad that your son was turning twelve?

CLAIRE.  Oh, it wasnít a bad thing. It just meant more work. Kids tend to get rebellious at that age.

AMY.  (To Will ) Whatís your name?

WILL.  Will.

AMY.  What are you thankful for, Will?

WILL.  I donít know. Iím not very thankful about the way grown-ups treat me. And girls.

AMY.  What do you mean?

WILL.  Well, they talk about me like Iím the same as everybody else. Like, all kids my age are rebellious, so I must be rebellious. Or girls are always saying that all guys are immature so Iím immature because Iím a guy. It just seems like everyone puts me in a group, like Iím exactly the same as every other twelve-year old guy in the world. I just wish I was a grown-up. Itís not easy being a kid (Claire, Cindy and Mark laugh).

CLAIRE.  Youíll change your mind when you get older.

MARK.  When you get older, youíll wish you could have stayed twelve for the rest of your life.

WILL.  I donít think so. Whatís so great about it? When youíre a grown-up, you can do whatever you want. You donít have to go to school, you donít have to take classes about stuff that youíre never going to need to know about. Like a predicate nominative. And you can buy whatever you want, and live by yourself and do whatever you want to your room. And you can go anywhere you want without a whatchamacallit, a chaperone. When youíre twelve, nobody takes you seriously; you canít do anything without getting yelled at...

MARK.   Weíve all been there.

AMY.  Yeah, I think a lot of things arenít as bad when you look back at them. I used to hate school, now I really miss it.

CINDY.  (To Amy) You donít go to school?

AMY.  No, I donít go to school any more.

CINDY.   Oh, you must be older than you look

AMY.  I just turned sixteen

MARK.  Well, then why donít you go toÖ

CLAIRE.  Oh! Good heavens, Iím glad Iím not your mother! Thatís worse than a boy turning twelve!

CINDY.  I hated being sixteen. It was so hard.

WILL.  I thought you guys said being a kid was easy.

CINDY.  Twelve was easy. Sixteen was a nightmare.

AMY.  I donít think itís so bad. I like being sixteenÖ(Looks as if sheís thinking about something. Looks at Carl as if to change the subject). Whatís your name? (Pause. No response) How was your Thanksgiving?

CARL.  (After sitting quietly for the whole scene, speaks in a thick German accent). How was my Thanksgiving? How was my Thanksgiving? What kind of question is that? Look at me. (He looks down at his tattered clothes) Look at me. How do you think my thanksgiving was? I ate a dry piece of turkey at a Catholic mission with a roomful of crazy people that havenít taken a bath in many days. How do you think my Thanksgiving was? Look at you. Look at you, with your nice clothes and your nice clean shoes, with your nice house. How can you ask me a question like that? And please donít ask me your question of why am I thankful, because I am not. I canít be thankful because I haveÖthere is nothing for being thankful. I donít have anything. When I lived in Germany, do you know what I did? I had a shop. People would come in and buy things. They would say, ďGood morning Carl. I would like the box of soap, please.Ē And I would give them the soap, and they would give me money and say. ďThank you, Carl, I will see you tomorrow.Ē And, you know in Germany, it is not like in the United States, where ďthe customer is always right," and the people come in and yell at the clerk in the store. In Germany, a man who has a shop is respected, because he is providing something for the people. He is bringing them things to live and to enjoy. I was respected. ThenÖthen, re-unification. I lose my shop. Everything, money, people, everything was crazy. I lost everything. So I come to the land of opportunity. This is my opportunity. This is what I have come from running my fathersí store and his fatherís store. I was a respected man. Now, when people look at me, there is no ďGood morning CARL.Ē  All there is to see is an old, crazy bum. Just an old bum. So donít ask me why I should be thankful, because I am not. You are young; you have your whole life ahead of you. You can do anything you want because there is time. There is no more time for me. Iím too tired. Iím tired of trying. So now, please leave me alone. I would appreciate if you donít speak to me with your silly singing and your silly questions. I donít care and I want to be left alone.

AMY.  (Pause) Okay. (Not sure what to do. But she doesnít like the silence) Um, if anyoneís hungry, Iíve got a candy bar. I donít think I want it.

WILL.  Iíll take it.

AMY.  (looks at Carl  to see if he wants it. No response. Turns to Will) Here you go.

WILL.  Thanks. (Looks at her hat) Are you from Milwaukee?

AMY.  No. Why?

WILL.  You got a Brewerís hat on. I guess youíre just a fan, huh?

AMY.  Not really. I just have a lot of hats. I wear hats all the time, so I collect them.

WILL.  How come you always wear hats?

AMY.  Chemotherapy makes your hair fall out

WILL.  Chemotherapy?

AMY.  Yeah. You know, for when you have cancer. They use it sometimes even if they donít think youíre gonnaÖAnyway thatís where Iím going. Back to the treatment center. I kind of live there now. Except, I did get to spend thanksgiving at home. Iím really glad I got to do that. I wish my mom could drive me today, but her boss isnít letting her miss anymore work, 'cause sheís missed so much already because of me. And she needs the money. But Iím glad we had the weekend. And if things go well, I might be able to come home for Christmas. Thatís probably what Iím the most thankful for. The times I get to spend with my family beforeÖ(Pause)Öespecially the time I spend with my mom.

(There is a brief pause, as no one is sure what to say. Then the bus driver enters.)

BUS DRIVER.  Okay folks, the replacement bus is here. The other driver and I are going to transfer some gear, so in the meantime, if you want to make your way over to the other bus, weíll have you out of here in no time

(Bus Driver exits. A slight pause, then people finally get up ready to exit. Everyone stops as Carl begins to quietly sing)

CARL.  Stille nacht,Helige nacht
 Alles schlaft, einsam wacht
 Nur das traute hochheilige Paar
 Holder Knabe im lochigen Haar

(Those that were ready to leave begin to sit back down)

Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh
Schlaf in himmlischer Rhu.

(The rest of the group begins to sing. Little by little they all hold hands)

ALL.  Silent Night, Holy night
All is calm, All is bright
'Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace.

(Slowly, they all exit in silence)


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