Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Parading About Town

Cheesy IT School commercials and people who think they’re witty have often said that there’s two kinds of people: those who do, and those who get passed by. I don’t necessarily agree with that statement, but it seems to be a good place to start talking about the Christmas parade I skated in on Sunday.

There’s something about a parade. I wiki-ed “parade” to try and find out more about when and how parades started, because they’ve always seemed odd to me – the participants walk or cruise along in a procession in the middle of the street while people tailgate on the sidewalks and watch the participants go by. The kids are there because their parents brought them, thinking it was something the kids would enjoy. If they get lucky, they’ll be thrown some candy and come away with more than a runny nose and sensory overload. Some of the adults drink, which can make anything more fun than it actually is. So, what’s the real purpose of a parade?

This past Sunday I skated with my league in Baltimore’s annual Mayor’s Christmas Parade. It was our 3rd year skating in the parade, and my second year skating it (I missed last year). I hemmed and hawed all day prior to the parade about whether I was actually going to go or not. The weather forecast called for 30-some degree weather and rain – ugh! Still, I made the commitment to attend, so in my predictable manner I skated in the freezing rain on Sunday.

We stood on the corner of the meet-up lot waiting for our turn in the procession for close to two hours. Our vinyl banner was lost (again), and the marker on the home-made banner quickly ran in the freezing rain, so we ditched it before the procession even started. And, we forgot candy. Ugh, how unprofessional, I thought. Here we are supposed to be supporting and advertising for our league and we have no sign letting people know who we are or candy to bribe people with. What was the point?

The parade finally got started. The convertible tops came down on the cars, reveling “Little Miss” this and “Queen” that, all decked out in their fur coats, sashes, and crowns. There were floats with holiday characters on them, people with gigantic ornament balloons like you’d expect to see in NY, horses (that we were behind…), high-school drum corps, and just about every ethnic group in Baltimore representing with dancers. As we got moving, I began to forget about the missing banner, people who promised they’d be here, candy, and rain.

It was quiet at first. People staring at you from both sides… Then I got into the parade spirit (aka, the only spirit I know of when I’m uncomfortable): I got loud. “HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!” I shouted, at first just from left to right. Then, I realized the people watching the parade really liked it when you personally wished them a happy holiday – with eye contact. There I was, waving with both hands, smiling, and wishing every single person on the route a happy holiday.

It’s funny. I noticed that a lot of the people I greeted from the street are not the type of people I would normally talk to – not even at the grocery store. They aren’t the type of people I would even ever see in the course of my daily life. The kids waved back. The teenagers were surprised by the eye contact and afraid to then say anything negative (like, “fall!” which I’ve gotten before) – several of them even smiled. I wished the drunken 20 and 30-somethings a happy holiday. I wished the old ladies sitting on their steps, covered in blankets, a happy holiday. I wished it to all the employees of McDonald’s, the police trafficking the parade, several friends, and even the owners of a neighborhood funeral home. Many people seemed surprised by the personal attention – that I was looking them in the eye and sincerely wishing them a happy holiday. I realized after that first person I directly addressed that this was the meaning of the parade, at least for me. Maybe that elderly lady sitting alone on her steps wouldn’t have had anyone else say that to her this year. I had the chance to personally wish people from all walks of life happiness – what could be better than that?!

So even if I my cough came back, my bearings are ruined, and I pulled my groin by slipping on the wet street, I think it was worth it. As for those two types of people, the ones that do and the ones that watch, I think that’s a bunch of horseshit (which I also rolled over during the parade). If it weren’t for the people watching, the doing would be pointless, and in my case, I actually learned something from the interaction I had with the parade goers. Really, we’re all the same. Sometimes you're in the parde, and sometimes you're watching it.

1 comment:

Megan said...

This is why I love you. My favorite blog so far!!