Sep 19, 2008

What the Scrubbing Bubble Taught Me

Every Thursday, there is a farmer's market on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis during the "outside" season (plus a few crappy weeks on either side of good weather).  I like the farmer's market because their are a lot of people on the mall, you can get all kinds of stuff - not just vegetables, but also good bread, cut flowers, potted plants for the garden, etc., and it is great people-watching habitat as well. Also, lots of demonstrations and PR ploys get pulled, which makes for good entertainment.

Yesterday the weather was as close to perfect as you can get, and it was the farmer's market day, so a group of co-workers and I ventured off-campus for lunch.  While walking to our destination, I was treated to the sight of a gigantic Scrubbing Bubble standing silently on the corner of 10th St. and Nicollet Ave.  The menacingly introspective bubble was trying to be visible and yet stay out of the way of everybody while a clean, cheerful young person with a toilet seat was hovering near by, presumably passing out free samples or something, but I did not want to get involved.

No one else did, either. This marketing ploy was too over-the-top for our chilly Minnesotans. No one was engaging the Bubble or his/her colleague, despite the obvious plea for attention. 

One of my co-workers in our Lunch Bunch (who, by the way, also avoided the Silent Bubble) happens to be a public affairs professional. She shared a story about one of her early assignments as a communications professional that involved handing out flyers for a now non-existent directory assistance service to anyone that would take them on a crowded street corner while wearing a duck costume and honking on a duck call (sweet Jesus).

While the duck costume was clearly a traumatic event for my co-worker, this Bubble sighting, and the co-worker's story, got me thinking that despite what - by all accounts - has been a very successful career (so far), I have one unfulfilled dream: to be some kind of mascot. I have always wanted to be a San Diego Chicken, or a Bucky Badger, a Racing Sausage, or perhaps, even a toilet cleaner bubble. 

Why, why, why would this be? These mascot suits are undoubtedly hot, claustrophobic and demeaning...  

It's because mascots strikes the perfect balance between recognition and anonymity. They are the center of attention, the star of the show, the "main event" while in the costume, but off-duty, you would never recognize them.  They can walk away at quitting time -it's fame with no loss of privacy and damn little accountability.  What's more, mascots never say anything, so there would be no worries about engaging people in small talk and managing the inevitable awkward pauses. When it happens, you could just mutely wave at passers-by and move on to your next victim, and it would be perfectly normal and accepted by our society.

I bet Brittany Spears and Sarah Palin would like to be mascots, too. 

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