I think that one of the most pressing questions that goes through my mind as a regular rider of public transit is this: How long can you look at a subway performer before you have to give him or her some money? What if they aren’t performing? What if they are flat out asking for money?
I’ve noticed that most people can’t help themselves but to look when the initial bass beat rings out or an individual bellows, “Excuse me ladies and gentlemen!” But if that glance is followed up with an immediate return to an open “New York Post,” no one expects anyone to hand over money. It’s the rest of us, the ones who become mesmerized, hangover or not, by the shrieking, jumping, gyrating or swinging taking obvious place within three feet of our eyeballs that no “People Magazine” article will be able to mask no matter how hard we try to ignore it.
There is no one gyrating in front of my face, swinging around a subway pole and doing high kicks next to my head. I am just casually reading my book about teenagers in a dystopian future. La di da…
But my concern extends beyond the New York City subway. I often wonder if someone out there knows what I’m watching, both on TV and on the Internet. And if they do, do they count the things that I am accidentally watching? As well as the things I accidentally mean to watch? Like, does Nielson count the number of people who flip past The Best Red Neck Wedding on their way to Nova or do they only count it if the flipper actually lands there for a period of time long enough to watch the bride get peed on by the donkey pulling the trailer? Which harkens the question: How long a period of time makes you a watcher of The Best Red Neck Wedding and not merely a curious glance-r over at it?
Yesterday I went to see Twilight 4b in the theater. I didn’t go alone and I didn’t draw bite marks on my neck or swoon every time Edward whispered Bella’s name. Instead I watched it “ironically,” making sure to laugh in that way that let’s everyone know I am watching, not necessarily embracing what is happening on the screen. It’s that knowing nasal laugh that makes me neither team Edward or Jacob, but team Laughing at Edward and Jacob. But I wasn’t really laughing at anything. I was earnestly watching that movie, commenting on the strength of Michael Sheen’s performance as the villain Aro, and how when juxtaposed against the porn-esque “acting” of the rest of the cast, it almost proved distracting – Like a glob of chocolate covered peanut butter in the middle of a bowl of salt-free chicken stock.
I liked the movie just like I liked the terrible books that preceded it. That’s the kind of audience member I am. I am committed and tend to watch from beginning to end with gusto. At almost every theater performance I attend, I give a standing ovation, whether or not it’s earned, because I figure, someone spent some time trying to entertain me in person. Somehow that feels as important as anything. And if- or okay, when – I watch you perform on the subway, it’s likely I’ll dig around for a dollar bill for your hat.