The Moth and the Window

Posted by: Stephen Tobolowsky on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 12:00:00 pm

Stephen TobolowskyIn the mid 1970’s I came out to Los Angeles to become an actor. It only took me three years before I realized it was impossible. I couldn’t get a job. I couldn’t get an agent. I couldn’t even work for free. I performed in one show where I had to pay the producer $100 to cast me. It was not money well spent. Opening night no one was in the audience.

One bright spot was that I made friends with other struggling actors. One of them was Tom Callaway. He was a friend of Pat Riley, the new coach for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers made it into the playoffs that year with an exciting young team led by someone named Magic Johnson. There was Kareem and James Worthy and company.  It was Showtime and Tom got me a ticket to sit with him on the tenth row to watch the game. I was in heaven.

My car was a dented Oldsmobile that was on its last legs. It had a no heater, no windshield wipers. The front window was of the hand-crank variety and it was permanently in the down position. Well, not completely down. About one inch of window stuck up from the bottom, but it was hardly a protection from the elements. The only thing I had to keep me warm was rock and roll on the radio. It was freezing that night on the way to the arena.

I switched the radio from “Shake It Up” by the Cars to the game. It was about fifteen minutes before tip off. I pulled behind a long line of cars headed into a parking area. That’s when I noticed I was not alone. There was a big moth in the car. It began fluttering around my face. I swatted at it and tried to encourage it to fly out of the permanently open front window. It flew into the only part of the window that was closed – the bottom inch and then flew back in my face.

I spoke with quiet authority to the moth, “Go on. Get out of here. Get.” It was now ten minutes before the tip-off and the line of cars hadn’t budged. I stuck my head out the window and yelled, “Let’s go!” I honked once. I sank back in my seat, steaming. The moth fluttered around my head. Again, I tried to knock it out the window. Again, he kept banging into the one inch of glass at the bottom, missing the opening. And he did it again and again. I muttered, “Stupid, idiotic moth. What a moron.” 

On the radio they started introducing the players. Now I was in a panic. There had to be some sort of problem up ahead. Maybe someone didn’t have change. Maybe the parking lot was full. I started honking my horn and yelling, “Come on!  Move it!” The moth tried to fly up my nose. I yelled, “Look. Moth. You have the entire window! It is completely open! Go! Or I will kill you.” (I’ve often talked tough to insects.)

The game started. I screamed. I couldn’t take it anymore. I got out of my car to see what the hold up was and then I saw - to my horror – I had been waiting in a line of parked cars. I had been honking and yelling at no one. Upon further examination there wasn’t even a gate up ahead. The entrance to the arena was only a product of my wishful thinking.

Inside the car, I saw the moth fly into the window once again. Then it hit me. In that one moment, we were exactly the same, the moth and I. He couldn’t see the open window. I couldn’t see I was behind a line of parked cars. It was all a matter of perspective.

Since then, there have been many walls thrown at me by life. Hardships. Setbacks. But because of my friend, the moth, I learned that a wall may not be a wall – from a different angle - it could be a bridge. It’s the way the world teaches us to see with new eyes.

Meet Stephen Tobolowsky at the JCC!

Author and actor Stephen Tobolowsky (Mississippi Burning,Groundhog Day, Glee,The Goldbergs, HBO's Silicon Valley, and Norman Lear's One Day at a Time) will be at the JCC Sunday, Oct. 29 to discuss his book My Adventures with God. The event begins at 7pm. Tickets are available for purchase online or by calling 210-302-6820. Books available to purchase online with ticket order, or they may be available at the event.



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