Back in my misspent youth I met a young woman who told me a story I have no reason to think she made up. She was hitchhiking from Santa Barbara to San Francisco. She’d been standing with no luck for hours, but next to the freeway was a small airfield. So she jumped the fence, walked out onto the tarmac, and stuck out her thumb. A small plane that was just taking off screeched to a halt, picked her up, and flew her up to San Francisco.
Things like that happen in the movies because they happen in real life, the only difference being that in a movie they forfeit their surprise and delight because they’re not real. But when they’re real they’re the moments that render all the tedium in between them worthwhile. In fact they need to be rare, since otherwise they’d run the risk of becoming tedious themselves.
What kinds of moments am I talking about? The moment one falls in love? No, because there isn’t a moment one falls in love. Rather it’s the moment one realises he’s fallen in love.
It’s the moment when, having slogged through a puzzle – in my case a philosophical one, but it could be anything – one sees the solution, the arm goes straight up, and the hand makes that slam-dunk gesture with the ball that isn’t there. And neither is anyone else.
It’s that moment when Anne Sullivan let out that scream, indistinguishable from the cry of all Creation being born, “She understands!”
As Rick Blaine put it, in the greater scheme of things these moments “don’t amount to a hill of beans.” Good thing there is no greater scheme of things. So they do.