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?