There’s a story that I often reference that doesn’t even belong to me, but is beautifully illustrative. It’s an example of energy and the unknown, involving Mardis Gras and a hot dog stand.
In college, one of my many jobs was receptionist. I had one of those formal tall desks with a counter that people approached when they came off the elevator into our comfortable lobby. It was bar-like, the exception being I was lower than the people standing at the counter. This was also a desk everyone walked by to either go to the bathroom or to arrive/depart–excellent use of space, no?
Besides answering very busy phones, greeting guests, and organizing a little library in a room directly behind my desk, I was a sort of “space holder” for people.
I was the holder of secrets, emotions, and stories (sometimes gossip, won’t lie)–essentially an underaged “bartender” without the beverages.
Everyone had voice mail, but, for a variety of reasons, I still took a lot of paper messages. So, my coworkers would come by to check in or to say hi/chat. This was especially so after a bathroom break.
One day, a woman from accounting mentioned that she and her ex-husband used to live in New Orleans.
My initial question: how long did you live there?
Do I remember the answer to that question? No.
What do I remember?
They moved specifically for his apprenticeship as a knife maker (it felt so medieval hearing that). I think this was the only apprenticeship in the country at the time. More importantly, there was a hotdog cart incident.
Her story was simple and the telling dramatic. I have no idea how this came up aside from asking how long they lived in New Orleans.
The story goes something like this:
She and her ex were holding hands, walking along the street when she felt a tremor in the crowd. Before she could say something, the crowd surged forward, tearing her away from her ex. She could barely keep up with the tightly-packed crowd. Suddenly, the force of the crowd was holding her up, propelling her forward, as her feet no longer touched the ground.
Panic set in, and there was no time to scream or do anything. She remembered being lifted in the air and thrown onto a hot dog cart.
Soon after, she eventually saw her husband as he scrambled toward her. She was standing on the cart searching for him.
There she was, in the middle of the lobby, miming a tossing gesture and then looking around.
People, I was dying with laughter while simultaneously feeling guilty. I mean, she could’ve been seriously hurt! But the way she told the story?!
Laughter won over even I was apologizing. Fortunately, she has a good sense of humor.
Have you ever been in a conflicting situation like that? I’ve been in them more often than I’d like.
At any rate, there’s not much to the story itself, but it was packed with food for thought that stuck with me all these years.
First, her wild and humorous storytelling cemented it for me. I love hearing a story with animated voices and flailing limbs.
Full body storytelling? I’m here for it.
Secondly, she transformed while speaking. Here’s this woman from accounting, mostly quiet, who’s usually stuck at her desk, recounting this tale for me in the middle of our office lobby.
Her eyes were lit up, arms waving around.
It’s as if I put a quarter in her by asking questions. At the very least, a switch flipped in her with regards to this remembering.
I want to emphasize this is a night and day sort of scenario–the energy of her story was transformative to her very person. Even the content of her story dealt with energy which seemed to have a major impact on her.
Thirdly, the actual event happened in the proverbial blink of an eye. She could’ve been really hurt, lost, or worse. There was no indication that something happened to cause that electric energy she felt, triggering the subsequent pushing. Even afterward, she said that bystanders weren’t able to say what caused the panic (because, of course I asked).
“Energy” sounds so new age-y, but it’s real.
You’re probably wondering what in the world does this story have to do with anything.
Each component makes me think and wonder, even to this day. (This was over 30 years ago, friends.)
There’s the rippling energy tearing through the crowd, propelling it forward to who knows where. It reminds me how we land places where we might not expect to land, literal and metaphorical. I mean this one’s literal, because who would ever expect to land on top of a food cart? No one, I hope. Really, there’s no scenario where that would be good.
When was the last time something physically picked you up and put you somewhere else without your consent or intent?
When becoming a part of a crowd, to a certain extent, you’re relinquishing a portion of control. (this could apply to ideas, too…save this thought to chew on later) This woman wasn’t tall, so that makes this story more harrowing and claustrophobic.
The energy she mentioned utterly fascinated me. That’s not saying I want to be in it. However, when I say, “It’s just like the hotdog cart incident,” this is what I’m referring to: something wild and unexpected–energy from seemingly out of “nowhere.” I’m also referring to something unbelievable but true.
Have you ever been in a wild or suddenly uncontrolled crowd like that or had some incident where something seemed to happen “out of the blue”?
Tell me your stories–I’m curious!