Perhaps the question that needs to be asked is: Why a flash mob? Why not just show up at someone’s wedding or bar mitzvah and join in a line dance?
I really wanted it to be a Flash Mob, because in a Flash Mob there’s surprise.
I understand that now, because I can pinpoint the exact moment when it occurred to me that there might not be any element of surprise in this happening.
We arrived early at the hotel to rehearse – this is because, despite a brushing of snow on the ground and reportedly icy conditions, Claudine got us into Midtown in 30 pre-dawn minutes – and the four of us (Claudine, her two friends Amy and Joanna, and I) sat down on the carpeted ballroom floor to wait for the organizers to show up. A woman in a hot pink hoodie sat down next to us and announced, “I’m so glad to see that there are other people here my own age.” We all smiled politely, even though she looked like she was close to 70 and even if she were only 60, none of us consider that “our own age,” especially not Joanna, who is 27.
Eventually, rehearsal began and it didn’t matter how old anyone was anymore, we all set about the task of perfecting our 5-minute Cha-Cha dance. After an hour there were still splinter groups learning the basic steps while the rest of the room was running the routine. And then we were allowed a break.
At this point it was after 8:00. Nothing was mentioned about a solitary person jumping out of the crowd and starting the dance. No groups were formed that would constitute the spontaneous eruption of satellite dancers. We were all just going to start dancing at the appointed time, which was 10 a.m. It was then that my crest began to droop.
The four of us went out for breakfast and returned a little before 9:30, the time that we were to set out for Times Square. Before we left, everyone received a powder blue skullcap with a Charmin logo on it and the Spanish words “ir es disfrutar” which seem to mean something like “take pleasure in.” “Take pleasure in this toilet paper,” our hats commanded, as we put them on and headed up 43rd Street to Military Island.
There, in the middle of Times Square, were a stage, speakers, Charmin signage, filming crews and three Latina Cha-Cha dancers recruiting people off the street to learn the dance moves that we just woke up at 5 a.m. to perfect. There were tables set up where they were giving away Charmin skullcaps and herding masses of people into the barricaded Cha-Cha area.
“Make sure you wear your wristbands,” they told us at the hotel, “or you won’t be permitted into the secured area.” Huh? The only people who were not in the “secured area,” were those who opted not to stand outside for 25 minutes in 10-degree cold and listen to a Charmin pitch blaring in Spanish throughout Times Square.
At this point, none of us four had a buoyant crest among us.
One of us managed to spit out the words that the rest of us were too appalled to utter. “This is not a Flash Mob. It’s a tacky PR stunt.”
There was really no reason to stay at that point, except for the fact that we’d all gotten up at 5 o’clock and spent the last two hours practicing a dance routine that we’ll otherwise never do again in our lives. So we did stay. Until 10:00. When they announced that the moment we’d all been waiting for had finally arrived.
However, this was not the moment I’d been waiting for. I was waiting for a moment that never came at all. The moment where magic breaks open a crowd of innocent bystanders and they look on with a mix of incredulity and delight. Even the woman who came to her 4th floor Broadway office window and looked down at us standing numbly in the cold just shook her head and walked away.
In the end, we did our Charmin Cha-Cha. You might think the saddest part of it all was being mistaken for a 70-year-old, or having to wear a cheap Charmin skullcap on my perfect Keratin hair. But it wasn’t. The saddest part of it all was that in the end, you couldn’t tell the difference between the Flash Mobbers and the Times Square Recruits – the people who had bee practicing for seven days versus the people who had learned the dance seven minutes ago. In the frigid cold, with outerwear that could double as sleeping bags, everybody’s Cha-Cha looks exactly the same. Which is to say, not caliente, but more like mierda.
And so to make myself whole again -- to pick up my fallen crest and stand up tall – I have chosen to employ the tried and true strategy of denial. As far as I’m concerned, I am still a Flash Mob Virgin. This happening never happened. I will go forth to find myself a good and right Flash Mob, and when I do… Ole.