“Time for x-rays,” says the dental assistant.

I point to the computer monitor. “No need, see? Those were done in June.”

She looks at the monitor, then her clipboard. “Oh, right! Okay then, let’s see…” She’s flustered because we’ve wandered off script. She has set tasks in a set order and it takes a minute for her to figure out how to skip ahead.

I can relate. I once complained to a director because one of the actors in the play wouldn’t say her line as written. So I couldn’t say my line as written. I had to improvise, and I believed I shouldn’t have to. One line. Out of the entire 90 minute piece.

To be clear, I love improvisation. I’m good at it. Not to mention that I love the actress I was working with. She’s fabulous, with a gorgeous voice and excellent timing. It was my thinking that had a hard time with it. The rule follower. The good girl.

But I’m not the only one. Last Thursday, my eye doctor had trouble when we wandered from the words. He got stuck in a contact-lens-selling script, even though I said several times, “Thanks, I’ll think about it.”

Harping, they call it, though I don’t know why, since harps play ethereal music. (I used to have one myself, a hand-me-down from my biological mother. Oops, tangent. Where is that script…?)

Life is improvisational. It just is. I never know what will happen when I step outside the door. Once I saw a lady leading a llama down the road. Another time a coyote played hide and seek with me, jumping up out of the bushes every so often to check me out.

All my life I have had trouble getting my bio-family to stick the scripts I write. For example:

ELIZABETH, critically ill, post EMT visit. She has trouble breathing, yet calls a family member: “I am scared that I am dying,” she cries.

FAMILY MEMBER rushes to her side: “How can I help?”

Instead, I get: “Go to church.” “Take a Xanax.” “You’re not dying.” “I just won a surf contest.” “Sorry, I need to look at a truck for sale.” “I have an aikido test.”

Bewildering. And painful.

And it’s not just family. It’s bosses, friends, lovers. Basically, humans. I have trouble with humans wandering from the script, or reading their lines badly, or using a different script, one I haven’t written, or don’t know about.

No wonder I am drawn to the theatre. It’s all written down, you know exactly what to expect and when. No surprises. And you can rehearse!

I remember telling one of my first boyfriends how he should behave when I’m upset, and exactly what he should say to make me feel better.

Obviously, I should’ve been a director.

Elizabeth Shé in a still from the film, Man Made Road, directed by José Vergelin circa 1986
Elizabeth Shé in a still from the film, Man Made Road, directed by José Vergelin circa 1986