Quiet Please: Transit
Clark Q. Higgenbottom (narrator) - Homeless person. The narration is a one-sided conversation with the listener, relating events in flashbacks. Have busy park sounds in background while narrator speaks, to convey that he’s talking to a random stranger in Golden Gate Park.
Bristleton Cooler - Tough, no-nonsense authoritarian boss of Transit. Gets no pleasure out of his job except for trying to out-suffer the others to prove himself superior. Always doing something, can’t sit still, very dramatic. Work hard, play hard.
Squish (just Squish) - The dreamer, philosopher. She does nothing, becoming as absurd as Bristleton by being his polar opposite and nemesis (they argue a lot). She ignores the door because opening the door would ruin her comfortable speculation.
Flex Median - The intermediate, everywoman of Transit who resents both Bristleton and Squish and considers herself the practical one just trying to make a living and get through the day without thinking outside the box.
Gloria Throckmorton - A woman from our world who takes over Transit in the narrator’s absence, establishing a harsh regime as the big fish in a small pond.
SFX: Park sounds + footsteps on gravel
Clark: Hey buddy! Spare some change?
SFX: change and paper money passed
Clark: Thanks! Very generous. You have a good soul and an open mind.
Tell you what, I can do something for you in exchange. There's something really important I know, that only I know. It'd change your world. And if you've got time, I'll tell you.
Great. Lemme sit down.
SFX: sitting on park bench.
Clark: It’s so hard to find someone who will just sit still and let me finish what I have to say without interrupting. Well...
This all started on Tuesday. My friend Jumbo invited me over to the Tenderloin, to play some chess in Boeddeker Park. He played the Ruy Lopez opening, but I was ready for it. We were pretty evenly matched and the game went on for hours, but I prevailed in the end.
By that time it was getting dark and I was getting sleepy. Sleep is usually a challenge for someone like me, but I knew the restrooms in that park weren't patrolled often. So I went in, curled up using my coat as a pillow, and drifted off feeling pretty confident I'd be able to catch a few hours before anyone would kick me out.
But just moments after I fell asleep, I awoke to the familiar painful feeling of someone's shoe poking me in the ribs.
Bristleton Cooler [gruffly]: Who the hell are you?
Clark: *groggy sounds* Urgh
Squish [excitedly]: It’s an alien!
Bristleton: You stay out of this, Squish.
Squish: I’ve as much right to the alien as you!
Bristleton: Well? Are you deaf?
Clark: Sorry sir... I’m Clark Q. Higgenbottom. I must’ve accidentally fallen asleep... so sorry, it’s these medications. I’d better be getting home now.
Wait... what the hell? This isn't the restroom I fell asleep in. What is this? Who are you people?
Flex [from distance]: This is Transit. We’re in Transit. We’re the people of Transit.
Squish [condescendingly]: It’s always so simple for you, Flex. Leave the alien to us.
Bristleton: I’m Bristleton Cooler, but you can call me Sir. The annoying one is Squish and the simple one is Flex Median. What’s your purpose here, Higgenbottom?
Clark: Purpose? All I know is I fell asleep and then you started kicking me in the ribs. Didn't you bring me here?
Why does Squish call me an alien?
Squish: You’re not from Transit, ergo you’re an alien.
Clark: What’s Transit?
Squish: What isn’t Transit?
Clark: The rest of the world?
Squish: What world?
Clark: Earth. Vast oceans, mountains, trees, sky, parks, public restrooms. That stuff.
Squish: Never heard of any of that, those are just nonsense words. But I have theories! I think there is something beyond Transit, probably a soft gaseous purple fog on all sides. It’s my belief that this fog is thick enough to hold us aloft, and has currents that carry us toward the destination.
Clark: The destination? Are you taking me somewhere?
Flex [from background distance]: Ignore Squish. Her theories are a load of inconsequential rubbish. There’s nothing beyond Transit, nothing beyond what you can see right here.
Squish [loudly over shoulder]: Just because you’re too simple to conceptualize something doesn’t mean it isn’t real!
Clark: What destination?
Squish: Nobody knows the destination. It just stands to reason that we must come from somewhere, and we’re in Transit, so there must be a destination.
[sfx: alarm rings out]
Bristleton: Action stations, action stations, action stations!
[sfx: buttons being mashed behind dialogue as alarm continues]
Flex: Working on it already.
Bristleton: Adjust the mixture! Try more fluoride, or grease the track. Squish, did you grease the track this morning like I ordered?
Squish: Of course I didn’t. This whole contraption is pointless. I don’t play your stupid games to feed your ego, Bristleton.
Bristleton: Games?! You fool! This could be the end for us all!
Flex: Got it.
[sighs and exhales all around]
Clark: May I ask what that was all about?
Bristleton: As if you don’t know. Why weren’t you helping? You’re as bad as Squish.
Clark: I really don’t have any idea what’s going on here.
Bristleton [condescendingly]: It’s the rubicoff machine. We have to maintain the mixture, grease the track, polish the switches and feed it input every hour. That’s what we’re here for.
Clark: This “rubicoff machine”... what exactly is it for?
Bristleton: What do you mean? I just explained how it works.
Squish [with contempt]: It doesn’t do anything. It’s absurd. But these fools spend their whole lives tending to it anyway.
Clark: Squish, if you see it’s absurd, why don’t you leave? It's not like they have you chained up. What's keeping you here?
Clark: I mean, just walk out the door and see what’s going on outside.
Squish [confused]: What door?
Clark: The one right over there.
Squish: I don’t see a door.
Clark: I’ll show you. [sfx: footsteps on metal] This door. [sfx: banging/knocking on metal]
Squish: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Bristleton: Get away from there, Higgenbottom! You might break something.
Clark: Here, I’ll open it. [sfx: metal door opening, the street crowd bustle noise] Hey, this looks like Market Street! Come on.
Squish: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Bristleton: You’ve damaged the wall! Put that piece back immediately!
Flex: This has nothing to do with me.
Clark: I shrugged back at them and stepped out, finding myself in the middle of traffic at Market and 5th. [sfx: traffic slowing, cars honking] Transit was gone. [sfx fade]
I didn’t tell anyone about Transit. They’d only have thought I was crazy, like you do right now. I see that look on your face, I see that look a lot. But keep listening, you can make up your mind when I'm done.
The next morning I went for stroll down Mission towards the bay. There in the heart of the city, beneath the shadows of the skyscrapers, it was dark.
I looked up at the sky to make sure it was still there. My gaze slid down the edge of the Millennium Tower, over hundreds of windows in seconds. Inside each window, people were living out their lives in a small share of a metal box. And they were supposedly the lucky ones, the city’s most successful, slaving away their whole lives to earn and keep their place. I was overcome with a wave of pity for them. A million little rats chasing cheese through a maze. How little they understood.
By the time I reached the Embarcadero I was feeling pretty distracted. I never even saw the bicycle that hit me and sent my head crashing into the concrete at just the wrong angle. I was out like a light.
The next thing I felt was a tap on my shoulder, followed by a soft voice in my ear.
Bristleton: Listen carefully, Higgenbottom. After you disappeared we had another visitor from wherever it is you come from. Gloria Throckmorton is her name, and I don’t want her to overhear us. She’s diabolical. I’m going to need your help to save Transit from her rule. I know I can count on you.
[groggy waking up noises followed by footsteps]
Gloria: I see you’re awake now, Clark. Let’s get one thing straight: you can leave any time, but while you’re here you’ll do exactly what I say. This is my place now and I won’t have anyone messing it up.
Clark: Ookaay. All the same to me.
Bristleton: But it’s not the same! She’s changed the mixtures!
Gloria: Back to work, Bristleton! Help Flex with the input.
[sfx: footsteps and then button mashing]
Gloria [softly]: Clark, I like this place. I plan on staying. They need a strong leader. Don’t screw with me and your visit can be pleasant, but cross me and I’ll have you in chains too.
Clark: She looked over my shoulder and I followed her gaze behind me to the wall, where Squish was manacled.
Gloria [softly]: She’s learning the importance of hard work and obedience. You can have another hour to recover from your head injury, but beyond that you’ll have to earn your keep with work.
Clark: I watched them work for a few minutes. Flex seemed unperturbed as ever, simply going through the motions. Bristleton, for all his seditiousness, was working at a frenzied pace. Gloria sat watching them and occasionally barking new orders.
Clark: Are you okay Squish?
Squish: Pain is but an illusion, like the world. Chains can never truly bind a free spirit.
Clark: Would you like me to help you escape?
Squish: To do what? Overthrow Gloria? I don’t want power. All leaders are despotic, each worse than the one before. The only noble action is to refuse to lead and refuse to follow.
Clark: What about leaving Transit with me?
Squish: Ah, your so-called door. Don’t talk nonsense. We can’t breathe the purple fog. Leave me alone.
SFX: footsteps walking over to Flex.
Clark: Flex, what do you think of this leadership change?
Flex: Who cares? My job is the same. Just making my way in life, makes no difference who gives the orders.
Clark: Do you care what the orders mean?
Flex: Nope. Now get out of my way.
Clark: There didn’t seem to be any purpose to my staying. I made my way to the door, opened it, and saw Stow Lake in front of me. I looked back at the others but they were all ignoring me, absorbed in their own worlds.
I stepped out into Golden Gate Park. It was dusk and my head was throbbing, so I slept on this very bench. What I saw when I awoke is what I really want to tell you about... and to show you.
I want you turn around now, very slowly. Try not to make any assumptions about what you’re seeing. Don’t see what you expect. Don’t reject what can’t be. Just see, unfiltered.
You see it now?
Yes, I can tell you do.
Go ahead, reach out and touch it. It’s a real door.
No, I don’t know where it goes. I’m afraid to open it. Are you?
[5 seconds pause]
SFX: MUSIC ... THEME ... FADE FOR
ANNOUNCER: The title of tonight's "Quiet, Please!" story was "Transit." It was written by Paul Knierim and the man who spoke to you, Clark Q. Higgenbottom, was Paul Knierim.
CHAPPELL: And Flex Median was played by Susan Lien Whigham. Bristleton Cooler was splendidbob. Sheska potrayed Gloria Throckmortion. Now, for a word about next week, the ghost of Wyllis Cooper.
COOPER: Next week, the untold story of the rehersal for "The Hat, The Bed, and John J. Catherine." It's called "Final Rehersal."
CHAPPELL: And so, until next week at this same time, I am quietly yours, Ernest Chappell.
SFX: MUSIC ... THEME ... END