Thursday, September 06, 2012

Behaving slightly badly in public

A couple of Friday nights ago a group of singers and musicians from St. Louis arrived at the Civic Center down the road apiece to present us a concert of African music and songs.

Richard decided he was not interested in going, and having somewhat of an independent streak, I hopped in the car and went by myself, intending to meet friends and some friends of the friends at the Civic Center and sit with them.

This we accomplished, deliberately choosing to sit in the middle very near the back of the auditorium because often these sorts of concerts involve audience participation and none of us were too inclined to participate and wanted to be out of reach and out of sight should the people on stage come off the stage and began stalking the aisle for victims.

I started off the evening in fine form by explaining to a friend of the friend how my husband and I had been sitting in a totally empty theater, and had commented that “we shouldn’t have a problem with someone sitting in front of us and blocking our view”, when lo and behold, another couple came in and sat right in front of us. Which of course made us start to giggle before we got up and moved. And I for some reason, I thought it necessary to mention that when this happened we were seeing an adult movie. My friend’s husband perked up his ears “And where was this?” he wants to know. I didn’t realize until later that they probably all thought that by “adult” I meant an “xxx movie”, when all I meant was that it a movie made for grownups.

I was saved from further embarrassment by the program beginning. And, sure enough, for two of the songs, members of the audience were invited to “come on up” and help them out. As it happened, children were involved both times.

I am afraid I behaved a bit badly. I chalk it up to racial stereotyping, harking back to the title of the early 90s film White Men Can’t Jump.

The first instance occurred when they recruited two little girls to join them on the stage – one black and one white – who were encouraged to dance along as the singers were singing. The little black girl got into the swing of things and was making an effort to move in rhythm to the music – she wasn’t quite in sync but she was trying. The little white girl mostly stood there, frozen, like a deer caught in headlights. I am afraid the words “white girls can’t dance” were heard coming from my mouth.

And then a little later, they invited another child to come up and play the rain stick. The rain stick is a hollow tube lined on the inside with obstacles (thorns or pegs or whatever) and filled with small objects (pebbles or seeds or whatever). When the stick is tilted end-to-end, the objects inside bounce off the obstacles inside as they fall to the other end and it makes a lovely sound, like rain.

The woman handed the little boy the rain stick and showed him how to make the sound and said “You can’t mess this up.” And the song began.

Sure enough, the little boy messed it up. He was trying to do a good job, this was obvious from the intensity on his face. He was concentrating intently on that stick, but instead of s-l-o-w-l-y tipping the stick up and down, he did it very rapidly, so whatever was inside basically stayed in the middle of the tube and did not move at all. The rain stick made no sound.

So even though he was trying so hard to do a good job, he was doing it wrong and he failed. I am learning a few life lessons about trying so hard to do a good job and being given the impression that I am not doing a good job, no matter how hard I try. The little fellow with the rain stick only had to fail once at it. I on the other hand, am being given the opportunity to do it over and over and over. Sometimes I wonder why they just haven’t fired me. And then I wonder what sort of feedback my colleagues are getting that I don’t know about. And maybe I am really not quite that bad.

And the other life lesson I am learning about this is that people need pats on the back. Lots of ‘em. So, go get out there and started patting…