There are several reasons why I mime.
- One is that I enjoy it: I love playing characters, animals, and capering around theatrically.
- Two, I love imagination; and to be able to bring people into my imaginations—and make it their imagination too—is magical.
- Three, I love to make people laugh.
But as fun as it is to have money thrown at you, it can make you quite mercenary as a performer. It becomes easy to begrudge the stingy–or uneducated—passersby who stand and watch, and enjoy, and then walk away without so much as a 2-pence in return. General Rule of Thumb, people: if you stop and enjoy a street performer, give them their due! That’s why they’re out there.
Nevertheless, it can make you quite jaded as a busker if you make it all about the cash. I’ve had to catch myself, and instead ask God to make me creative, fun, and full of antics to bless the people. If I can get a smile, or a laugh—if I can brighten someone’s day—then that, too, is worth it. This makes the day better for me too, even when the coinage is a little thin.
Thursday I had a decent day of it, even turning around some potentially bad encounters with slightly obnoxious kids into a positive play time and a rousing round of respect in the end. It was one of those Thursdays that I really didn’t do well financially. But after taking my earnings to the bank (they are accustomed to my funny painted face parading into the premises) I strolled back to my bike and started on my way home. A trio of tween girls giggled to see a mime mounting a bike—lots of people do, in fact—so I made it a joke. I cruised past them, pretending I was on a chopper, making motorcycle noises as I rolled casually past, digging myself. They laughed outright.
And I had something going. I prayed for a good red light.
The first red light was no good. There was a woman in a little hatchback; the car was lower than me, and she had her window up. Biding my time, I cycled on.
The second red light was my ticket. There was some kind of a Landrover there. The window was open, and I saw a burly, shave-headed tough guy, with cut-off sleeves sitting in the driver’s seat. I revved up my sound effects…
How would you feel? You’re sitting at an annoying light, in a long line of annoying traffic, trying to get home at the end of your day, when suddenly a cyclist (there are thousands of them in Cambridge) pulls up next to you making motorcycle noises?
BRRRRUM, brum, brum, brum, brum, brum, brum, brum, brum, brum, brum, brum,…..
I turned disinterestedly towards him and gave him my best, cool-chin-jerk. ‘Sup. Yeah, you’re looking at my chopper, ain’t ya? And then turned back to stare at the light, the whole time continuing my sound effect.
Brum, brum, brum, brum, brum,*GAAAAASP* brum, brum, brum, brum, brum, brum,….. (It was along light)
I know it worked, because the light turned green and the guy in the jeep didn’t go. I beat him out of the intersection (because, of course, I was just being cool staring at the light), but as he passed me down the road I could see him still laughing in his side view mirror. But, Cambridge traffic being what it is, the story wasn’t over. The cars all slowed again for the next light, but the bike lane was free. (It’s often faster to commute by bike in Cambridge if you can…) So with one more chance to pass his open window I flew by, belting out my best gear shift…
* * *
The truth is: It always pays to get a good laugh from someone who can’t pay.
Out on the road there was no hat to tip. No asking for money. Nothing he had to do to get my preposterous pretention. It was for free. Side-swiped by silly, he laughed.
And you know what? I laughed too. All the way home.