Saturday, June 11, 2011

Life Moves Pretty Fast: A Tribute to Ferris Bueller

Twenty-five years ago today, my life changed forever. That was the day that Ferris Bueller's Day Off was released in theaters.


I almost certainly didn't see it that day. I'm usually behind the curve on film releases. But lots of people did see it, including most likely the woman who sat in front of me in the theater the first time I saw it. The credits were rolling; Principal Rooney had already flicked the warm and soft Gummy Bear generously offered by his schoolbus seatmate into the head of the kid in front of him; the bus had driven off into the distance as the screen faded to black. All that was left of the credits were gaffers and key grips and craft table supervisors. I and several people around me were gathering our things and standing up to go when the woman who sat in front of me turned around and yelled a near-desperate command: "Don't leave yet!"

I do what I'm told. So I sat down and suffered through the remainder of the credits, my patience only slightly buttressed by the catchy song "Oh Yeah" playing through the end. Then, silence and black screen. Then, out of nowhere, a hallway scene from the Bueller house. Around the corner comes Ferris: "You're still here? It's over! Go home! Go!" I do what I'm told, so I left with Ferris's permission, as well as his benediction which has stuck with me for a quarter of a century now: "Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

My high school friends and I watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off whenever possible. We memorized it and tested each other's acuity by it by quoting random scenes entirely out of context. We fantasized about recreating it ourselves: I would play the part of Ferris (I was honored when a few years later a random New Orleans girl would tell a friend of mine I looked just like Matthew Broderick); my friend Pat would play Cameron; and whichever girl we were obsessed with at the moment and thought would be open to the idea would play the part of Sloane Peterson. The city of Chicago would be played by Des Moines, Iowa, and the Ferrari would be played by Pat's yellow Plymouth Horizon. I believe Pat was willing to let the car be destroyed in the end.

I still watch Ferris on a fairly regular basis. I still quote it too. It's still, in my opinion, the best thing Charlie Sheen's ever done (although Men at Work was pretty entertaining.) Sometimes I do something adorable just in the hopes that my wife will say, "How'd you get to be so cute?" only so I can say, "Years of practice." I've written about Ferris more than once, sometimes even critically (although Burnside Writers Collective has attributed it to Jordan Green--what's up with that?!?).

If Ferrisism were a religion, part of its liturgy would include a confession: "We have not stopped and looked around once in a while. We have missed life." For twenty-five years now, that nagging thought has been tucked away in my brain. Sometimes I've looked around in response; more often, I suspect, I've ignored its admittedly benign instruction and kept either powering through or glazing over. I'm reminded of Frederick Buechner's definition of "sloth":

A slothful man . . . may be a very busy man. He is a man who goes through the motions, who flies on automatic pilot. Like a man with a bad head cold, he has mostly lost his sense of taste and smell. He knows something is wrong with him, but not wrong enough to do anything about. Other people come and go, but through glazed eyes he hardly notices them. He is letting things run their course. He is getting through his life.

Good point there. After all, he was a Pulitzer Prize nominee. I could be a Pulitzer Prize nominee, and I'd still have to bum rides off people.

Anyway, here's to Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Thanks for the memories, and thanks for all future 103 minutes of joy you'll bring me in the years to come. And here's a thought: Who's up for "Frederick Buechner's Day Off"? Anyone? Anyone? Buechner? Buechner?

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