Thursday, January 24, 2013

O Come, Let Us Abhor Her

I was at Publix yesterday when the woman ahead of me made her purchase, pushed her cart out of the way, and starting singing this Christmas carol as if a choir of angels were behind her.

The girl at the counter rolled her eyes, two other shoppers nudged each other, and I wondered what was wrong. Of course, January's three-quarters over, so I guess Christmas tunes are passé. Would it have been better if the woman had been singing a Negro spiritual in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Or maybe A Bicycle Built for Two for the upcoming Valentine's Day?

"What the–?" another customer started. He apparently didn't know how to finish, so he just wrapped it up with, "Whatever."

By then, of course, I realized that it wasn't the woman's choice of song that was so wrong. It was the fact that she was singing in a public place unabashedly.

I'm incapable of witnessing an anomaly and acting as if it's not there, so I said to her, "You're clearly a soprano. I'm an alto myself."

She stopped singing long enough to say, "Oh, I can sing alto, too," and began again, only in a deeper voice.

I left then because the winning lottery ticket was in my pocket, but I did wonder why we treat people singing in public as if they're loony. Would a whistler have been more welcome? I think so, yes, as long as he was whistling to himself, quietly, absentmindedly. That's the key, I guess. We can hum and mutter to ourselves, but we can't do it out loud for all to hear. In fact, that's what continues to be so annoying about cell phone usage. It's the out-loudness about it, the to-othersness instead of to-yourselfness.

On the other hand, aren't you moved when watching a flash mob? I sure am. Man, what a wonderful surprise! Such cooperation! Such community! At first, though, when the first singer or the first violinist or the first dancer starts up, people turn and frown. It's only after a couple others join the first that the joy begins to show in people's faces. So yes, as long as an entire group is doing something out loud, it's okay. It's when the loner does it that we think something's wrong. Eccentricity is only okay if a crowd is eccentric ... which sort of defies the definition of eccentricity, doesn't it?


Carol Sheppard said...

I love this blog because I have often wondered about this subject, not to the depth that you were able to see it. My depth seems to be quite a bit Yes, I've wondered about singing or dancing or acting, in public. I saw a video where a young girl danced all by herself all around people at an airport. She was unabashed, happy, people were apparently smiling at her, or maybe she was just smiling at them without care for their reaction and I felt envious of that ability. Thank you for concisely explaining my question, even if there is no immediate answer.

Anonymous said...

Love this! As a Sudden Showtune Syndrome sufferer I can appreciate her song, and probably would have joined her in it ('cept for the Christmas Carol aspect... Tomorrow, no question!) And I've also been known to break into an impromptu two step... but I've already been well labled as eccentric... Glad you are writing again! XXOO, Rene

The Flying Pig said...

Like the performers on the Subway - no one looks at them or acknowledges their presence. Ignored at best. I think your Publix Singer was a Fantastic Story! There is some great talent out there!

More people should do this - but our society really frowns on this type of activity.

Don Dewsnap said...

Barbara, you're wonderful. So like you to spot the normal in an anomalous world. Because when you think about it, it is much more natural to express joy when you feel it, than to suppress it. The anomaly is societal agreement against displaying positive emotions. Public Displays of Affection are frowned upon, even penalized (okay, you probably shouldn't have sex in a school corridor, but no hugging?). Singing gets rolled eyes. Come right down to it, smiling is inappropriate sometimes. Maybe that's why people take so much delight in children: they don't know the rules, and sing or dance if they feel like it. Thanks for another wonderful blog.

Anonymous said...

Did you say you had the winning lottery ticket in your pocket?