Violating a Social Norm
I’ve discovered I am a prankster and have always known I’m a misfit, but cute. I’ve coined the phrase that I believe humor to be the flip side of critical thinking. I see things differently and often wonder, what if? When considering ideas for the assignment, I wanted something with a bit more shock value. I often find myself jumping up and down in a checkout line because I usually have to go to the bathroom, and it’s worse in the winter. I have no apology, so I make the best of it. I can act like a jogger at the intersection waiting for the crossing light to change. Or say I’m checking to see if I can still do butt kicks. I have also been known to break into the song, “If you don’t know me by now….” in a crowded elevator. It has elicited laughter and usually breaks the tension. I don’t understand why lack of personal space leads to evaporation of personality. I don’t fit the norm. My quirky personality is like the toothpaste on top of the bubble, no holding back and no chance of putting it back neatly. If people entered with stoic blank public expressions, they leave with smiles. I often wonder what the people waiting outside the elevator door think when we exit smiling. So when I was given permission to violate a social norm, I immediately knew what I wanted to try.
I live near the airport which means I get to drop off and pick up a lot more people now. I have commented to a few of my older children that some day, I wanted to stand at the bottom of the escalator near the baggage claim with the limo drivers who hold up signs with the name of the party they are contracted for; only I wanted a sign that read something humorous, that would catch patrons off guard, just to see the reaction I would get. This assignment gave me the chance. I ended up going with 3 sign options: Kidney for Sale, Mr. Right, and I’m here for YOU! For some reason, none of my daughters wanted to come with me.
I had fun introducing myself to the people at the base of the escalator, two of which were drivers. They seemed to find the situation or the potential scenario amusing. Even though I was looking forward to the experiment, my boldness was dampened with caution, and the results were what I would term, in the box. I hesitated with the kidney sign and ended up not using it at all. I think it had great shock value, but I was more concerned about offending someone. As a licensed massage therapist who went through a medical massage program, I’d spent time with people forced to live on dialysis. It’s no laughing matter. I am sensitive to the plight of others and just didn’t feel comfortable exploiting someone else’s misfortune to fulfill my intention.
I must say I was inhibited to hold up Mr. Right. I didn’t want to look desperate or like I was soliciting for….who knows what. But then I chose to adopt the thought that I could be meeting my boyfriend and this was a joke for him. That mindset gave me the courage to endure the scowls from women and grins from men. I was also deliberately avoided by people turning away from having direct eye contact with me. Others portrayed a look of bewilderment, some people just didn’t get it or find it funny. No one said anything negative directly to me, but I sensed the signs might have sparked comments between couples. Two guys did ask if I’d found “him” or if I was still looking.
My maiden name was Wright and my dad was a ladies man. He had a nametag he wore for work, and sheepishly left on while at a bar for happy hour. He told me he used the line, “Didn’t your mother tell you you’d meet me some day?” I inherited his baby blues, oily T-zone and sense of humor.
The other sign, Here for YOU, didn’t have as strong a reaction. The consensus was more of confusion mixed with polite smiles. I was pressed for time and didn’t hang around for another onslaught of people. I came away with a lot of reflection about myself. The public response was in line with my expectations. I definitely felt gender bias in reactions from women as compared to men. I’m sure my age and self-concept allowed for my ability to risk. I also believe I have acquired strength and conviction to “stand alone” with regard to concepts that aren’t as light and amusing.