Now trending: flash mobs. It’s not a new concept. At one time they were called pranks. Junior high antics. And generally they were performed by tweens and teens. Typical juvenile delinquent behavior, not acceptable for adults who are supposed to be responsible, logical, practical, sensible, dependable…Moments of spontaneity, of whimsy. Somewhere along the way it became thought that spontaneous behavior just wasn’t possible after the age of 21. Or legal. Or acceptable. Not true.
It actually happens quite frequently. And it has certainly been taking place before the term ‘flash mob’ was conceived. Before texting and tweeting. And perfectly legal. The number of people involved may not have been extraordinarily large, but just how many does it take to define a ‘mob‘. Is it the number of people or the activity that truly defines the word? (Think “Alice’s Restaurant”.)
To change careers years ago, I enrolled in a six-month certificate program (equal to a 2-year Associates Degree) that those of us who attended (all adults and career changers), called ‘Hell Camp‘. Tough program, high stress. Usually only 50% who start the program graduate. After the final exam for each course, we would all flock to the nearest bar – empty in the middle of the afternoon – quickly down one or two drinks, hyperventilate that we passed the course and were able to stay in the program, console those who didn’t pass, then leave the bar, empty once again, to prepare for the next course the following day. While it’s true that we had neither the time nor money to stay all day and drink, we would leave the bartender wondering ‘What was that?’
Then there was the scene in an “Ally McBeal” episode where Ally was stopped at a corner stop light and started ‘dancing’ to a tune she heard in her head. By the time the light changed, everyone who had been waiting with her at the light were moving and dancing in step with her across the street. In real life, I was at the grocery store one day, deciding on an item on the shelves when I realized there was music playing through the store. Motown. Classic Motown. And I started nodding my head tapping hands and feet in time. As I continued shopping I noticed other people – adults over 21 all – moving to the music same as I was while they were filling their shopping carts. No one planned, coordinated, or advertised the moment. It was purely spontaneous. Dancing in the grocery store? Yes, Classic Motown can have that effect on people.
But this post is about the time back in junior high, on a school bus headed to the bowling lanes after school. There was an intersection with a Burger King on the corner and the light had turned red. I don’t remember whose idea it was, or how many we were, but we all ran to the windows on the right side of the bus, pulled them down, and at the top of our lungs, sang the McDonald’s jingle, “McDonald’s is our kind of place…” — complete with hand clapping. There was an employee outside sweeping and when he heard us, he turned towards the road, then hung his head as he realized what we were singing. He worked for the burger chain that didn’t have a catchy jingle. When we finished, we all sat down laughing. Our chaperone, who was also our gym teacher, tried giving us a very disapproving look with her eyes, but she was laughing along with us. We were the original flash mob. Decades ahead of our time. Completely spontaneous. Utter whimsy. So very junior high. And we were junior high school girls. Somewhere out there is a former Burger King employee who remembers us and the day he was flashed.