Unless you are living on a different planet than I am, you have probably watched a lot of cop shows … first run, rerun, 200th run. There are so many you could watch them 24 hours a day 7 days a week. At one point, I was a “Law and Order” addict. I needed frequent fixes. I discovered that any time, day or night, there’s a rerun of “Law and Order” playing on some channel … you just have to search.
As it is, Garry and I watch a lot of cop show reruns and we can recite the dialogue in most reruns of NCIS. It’s not the only stuff we watch, but it is a major component.
If you watch enough of them, eventually you don’t even need to know the plot: you know who the perp is the moment he or she shows up on your screen. You just know. I often wonder if these shows are all a single script, written by someone long ago, then periodically altered slightly as needed for various episodes of different series.
Our absolutely favorite moment in all of such shows is when one of the cops has someone in the car who isn’t a police officer or other official investigator. Maybe it’s a child or relative of one of the officers (aka, stars) … perhaps a friend, former cop now retired, journalist, or other person who by chance (and script) happens to be there when the star or co-star is called to the scene of a crime. What does he or she say to their ride-along person? They say it (or one of its close variations) every time: “STAY IN THE CAR!”
It pops out of the mouths of television and movie heroes with alarming frequency. On the NBC TV series “Chuck.” it was a gag line. On most shows it is real dialogue and not supposed to be a laugh line … but it is. At least in this house.
One of my favorite versions can be found in the Last Action Hero (1993):
01:08:06 – Stay in the car. – No way. I’m coming with you.
01:08:11 – How many times have you heard someone say, “Stay in the car” and the guy doesn’t?
01:08:19 – Good point. I’ll stay in the car.
Subzin.com say the exact phrase “stay in the car” can be been found in 356 phrases from 296 movies. I think they are missing a few thousand instances in a wide variety of TV series. Also, they are not counting variations like “don’t leave the car,” “don’t get out of the car,” and “remain in the car.” If you include the more generic “stay here” Subzin finds 20781 phrases from 11645 movies and series which is a lot of instances even if you say it quickly.
Regardless of the situation, whether it’s a 9-alarm fire, gun fight crime scene, being stalked by a serial killer or it’s the Zombie Apocalypse and the undead are gathering to attack: no one stays in the car. Cop, kid, or an extra obviously destined to not survive past the opening credits, no one in film or television history has ever stayed in the car.
In real life, as we stumble through our lives, we get a lot of hints from The Universe that maybe this time, we really should stay in the car. Don’t get involved. Let other people take care of this problem, this episode. Let the cops do what they are paid to do. Someone else can catch this bad guy, report this fire, deal with this crisis. Who stays in the car and who gets out?
I never stay in the car but others do as they are told, careful and mindful of authority. They want to be safe, and believe that following the rules guarantee nothing bad will ever happen. Except that life doesn’t follow a script. Or if it does, you don’t get to read it before you have to play your role.
Aside from the boredom– which alone would be enough to get me out of the car — is you don’t learn much staying in the car. If you never take a chance, you don’t find out how to deal with the unexpected and there’s a lot of unexpected in everybody’s life, no matter how safe you try to play it. If you never venture out of your comfort zone, when things get crazy, you’re going to have a really rough time figuring out how to take care of yourself … or anyone else. I’m not talking about manual skills like CPR or self-defense. I mean emotional skills, the ability to keep it together when what you really want to do is start screaming and not stop until it’s over, whatever “it” is.
For all the times I’ve been told to stay in the car then promptly jumped into the fray, against all logic and common sense, I’m glad I did it. Life’s too short and the ride from start to finish is too bumpy to sit on the sidelines. Who knows whether there will even be a car to stay in when I want to hide? No way am I staying in the car when all the interesting stuff’s going on somewhere else.