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To Sir, With Love

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Aug. 21st, 2012 | 08:12 pm

He sits in the beer garden, next to the street performance pitch (Pitch D, the hardest one to gather a crowd, day or night) and shakes his head, smiling. The smile that says, Oh no you don’t and I’m not that dumb and I’ve seen what street performers do to volunteers.

And that’s where I curse every bad street performer, every low-rent magician and two-bit juggler with recycled lines and hack jokes and public-domain material, every  dreadlocked hippie poi-spinner reeking of pot and patchouli, every bad mime getting an audience member stuck in a box, tying them up with embarrassing invisible rope, because they’ve wrecked it. They’ve made this man think that if he steps away from his plastic table, sets down his plastic cup, comes out to help me—help! All I need is two dudes for five minutes, just like footing a ladder, easy-peasy and then there’s a show!—that the next step is humiliation. That I will mock him or his penis or his family, tear him down, make him the butt of the joke, for all he knows anally violate him in front of the audience and then pass the hat for tips and donations.

I won’t.

I won’t.

Because you, sir, if you come up, and the two guys who finally did come up, you represent the audience. You are their leader, the one taking a chance for the whole team. I will watch your body language and the other volunteers’ and select who will first be gently coaxed to step out of his comfort zone. I will speak phrases I’ve spent years changing the order of, choosing the right words for, to get you excited to participate, to get the crowd to reward you with applause, and yes, laughter, not at you but that you’ve earned as surely as any professional comedian.

You don’t have to be the guy who took off his shirt in the first minute and got down to his underwear and my tank top before the show even began. You don’t have to be the guy who danced the cabbage patch while the crowd chanted his name.

You can just be the guy who helps.

Not the guy who crushes my spirit by setting the wrong tone for the show, the tone of I don’t trust you and I’m not here to play, the orchestrator of the moment that takes me back to Senior Prom and Bobby T swimming off his dock while I sat alone on the patio in blue sequins. The guy who leaves me sweating alone on the pitch at 5PM when no-one wants to watch and I just need one yes to start the cascade of “build it, and they will come.”

Don’t be that guy.

Be the guy who steps up, dubious but ready, the guy I can love as hard as I can, be grateful to—I know it’s scary, I know, the number one fear in the world is public speaking, higher-ranked than one’s own death—and I will take care of you.

I will make you a hero.

I will treat you right.

inspired by ellakite's comment that he hadn't understood how important audience volunteers are

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Comments {1}


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from: ellakite
date: Aug. 22nd, 2012 03:12 am (UTC)

... but allow me to say: I am honored to have been a source of inspiration for you again.

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