I’ve wanted to do a flash mob since I learned about it on YouTube a long time ago. I love seeing the seemingly spontaneous dance (or other activity) bring smiles (after initial confusion) to the faces of bystanders. It’s a wonderful combination of performance, surprise, and joy. Also, my Type A personality appreciates how much planning it takes to make it happen.
Participating in a flash mob is pretty straightforward, definitely one of my easiest accomplished goals so far. I use Facebook to search public events for the term “flash mob” and find out about the International Bubble Flash Mob, which happens in Seattle and London on the same day at the same time.
The event is organized by a group called Bubble, which also does other fun events like human Foosball. They won’t release the location of the flash mob until 1-3 hours before the start time (1 hour on Facebook, but 3 hours over email if you sign up that way).
I quickly sign up for the email list, because even the 3 hours advanced notice is stressful to me. Seattle is a big city, and some locations are very difficult to get to. Because I don’t have a smartphone, I need to look at bus routes and schedules before leaving the house, and if I drive, parking can be a pain to find, and is often very expensive. I have a lot of anxiety about this unknown situation.
As I mildly stress about this for the next few weeks, I realize I’m learning a lot about my discomfort with unknowns (even small ones) and my difficulty being flexible even for the sake of my goal list. I know I can’t control everything, but why does it have to be so obvious?! I don’t like this about myself and need to work on it, and this situation helps me recognize how much it affects my life. (This type of learning experience happens a lot for me. I’ve definitely grown as a person through bucket listing and blogging).
After several teaser emails telling us to practice bubble blowing and bring extra bubbles for “innocent bystanders who want to join in the fun” it’s finally the day of. This is worse than the countdown to Christmas! I obsessively refresh my email starting a few minutes before the 3 hour mark, and finally get the location – an urban park in the middle of downtown Seattle, a place I’m familiar with and can easily access on the bus! All that stress for nothing.
I go on the bus a little early, to make sure I’m there on time, and I realize I’ve been so excited about going that I didn’t think about inviting anyone else. On the bus, I text my friend who lives nearby, but she’s busy studying so she can’t come, but that’s okay. I’m going anyway and didn’t originally plan for anyone else to have to be there with me.
When I get to the park, there are a few people playing games but I’m 15 minutes early and don’t want to sit by myself without a book (and for some reason I feel it will be awkward to people watch). I walk around the block, popping in different stores and looking around until it’s almost time for the bubbles to start.
At this point, I’m so excited that I have to really try not to run back to the park (we’re supposed to act normal). There are plenty of people in the park now, and I have a bit of trouble finding a place to sit and wait. About three minutes after I sit down, I hear some music start (that’s our cue) and see a small trail of bubbles float into the air. It’s started!!!
I pull out my bubbles (a small container with bubbles and a little bubble wand stick) and start attempting bubbles, but I realize I’ve forgotten how to blow a bubble – how embarrassing! I guess I should have followed their recommendation and practiced. After a few tries I manage to get 1 bubble per attempt, and then short while later, I’m creating a small stream of bubbles with every breath.
Moving to the center where people are gathering, I notice many participants have special bubble wands or bubble guns that blow bigger bubbles or more bubbles than my dinky little stick wand. There are even giant basketball sized bubbles created by some kind of stringed bubble maker. I have to admit I feel some bubble envy, but that’s quickly gone when I realize that there’s a little kid staring at the bubbles I’m blowing.
She’s chasing bubbles, dancing to the music, and having a great time. When she sees me blowing bubbles from my wand she stops and stares. I get down to her level and offer her a chance to blow some bubbles herself. She loves it, and her face shows the joy I expect from a flash mob. I ask her dad if they want to use the extra bubbles I brought, but he shakes his head. They already have bubbles, in fact, they have a bubble gun, with a fan that blows bubbles for you, but at the moment she’s more interested in doing it herself.
When she’s done blowing bubbles the hard way, she takes a moment to show me her bubble gun, which makes about 10 times more bubbles than I can make with the little stick wand. Then, with the attention span small children are known for, she dances off into the crowd with her parents, and I look around to see what else is going on.
There are bubbles everywhere! There are so many bubbles it kind of looks like snowflakes falling. Everyone is sticky and the ground is very slippery with the soap. I have to remind myself to have fun, relax, and be okay with the mess. Once I accept it, I’m not stressed anymore about the location or the layer of soap. It’s been a rough week and I’m happy that I’m able to enjoy something in the moment, and accomplish something from the bucket list!
I look around to share this joy with someone else, and I see it in other people’s eyes and smiles, but they’re not open to including someone they don’t know. I unexpectedly feel lonely. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like I wanted to share a moment with someone and not had someone there… or planned to enjoy an event by myself and suddenly wanted to share the experience. That’s how I feel now, and I regret not inviting someone sooner.
Wandering through the crowd, I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself but I know it’s okay to feel lonely and it’s probably just because the newness wore off ( I was fine before, but now we’re 15 minutes into the event). I’m determined to enjoy it for what it is, and decide to just be content to talk about it later with friends.
Suddenly, I remember my brother and I used to try to make a double bubble (a bubble inside another bubble) and also chains of bubbles. To do this, you have to catch a bubble on a soaped-up bubble wand and blow another attached to it.
I’m excited all over again by this new challenge, and I position myself next to a bubble machine that is automatically generating hundreds of bubbles. As I’m catching them and trying to create the elusive double bubble (is it possible? I’m actually not sure), I make eye contact with a random person. Instead of looking away like everyone else, they come over and start a conversation, and we share the rest of the bubble flash mob experience together.
At the end, the organizers take a group picture that I’m pretty sure I’m not in (there are so many people and I end up at the very edge of the group), but I don’t mind. Everyone has big smiles on their faces and it’s been a good experience.
After the event, when I get ready to go, the person I just met invites me to spend time with their group. They’re all around my age and interested in going to the Ballard Seafood Fest (a neighborhood food festival in Seattle). Although I’ve never had a strong desire to go to it, I’m not opposed to going and don’t have anything else planned, so I decide to be spontaneous and agree!
(For the family members and other concerned people out there, yes, it’s good to be aware and cautious whether you’re adventuring at home or elsewhere. I use common sense to make the decision to go with them. We’re all going on the bus (not in a private car), to a neighborhood I know well, and a neighborhood I know how to get home from, and with people who I feel are nice and not setting off any red flags.)
The festival is larger than I anticipate, also with a wider variety of foods than I expect. Unfortunately, I’m not really hungry, because I already ate lunch before the flash mob, so it’s not the most ideal time to be at a food festival. Still, I try a few things including a malasada and honey walnut shrimp. Malasadas are Portugese fried donuts rolled in sugar, popular in Hawaii, and although this one isn’t quite like the ones I’m used to eating, it’s still pretty good. The honey walnut shrimp is a really big fried shrimp, dipped in honey, and coated in walnuts. It’s too sweet for me (and I like sweet, but this is sweeter than the malasada!).
My companions for the day are nice and really open to meeting new people, which I like (they’re all from other places and moved to Seattle recently). It’s a refreshing change from the walled-off Seattle attitude notoriously called the Seattle Freeze (stereotypically, we’re friendly to your face, but non-committal to every request to hang out, and won’t readily accept you into our friend group).
I feel like I can relax and enjoy the time and the fun excitement of doing something unexpected. It’s a different feeling for me because often the activities I do that seem spontaneous to others are actually planned or semi-planned events. I find it challenging to let go of expectations and just do something, but I think this is good practice (and good feedback – this experience makes me more willing to say yes to spontaneous activities in the future).
Overall, I definitely recommend a flash mob for people who want to spread happiness and joy to others. Also, I’d like to know: what was the last spontaneous thing you did? I challenge you to do one this week if it’s been a while.
PS: Here’s the video a photographer made of the flash mob, skip to 4:00 minutes to see the bubbles start, and if you jump to 19:52 you can see how many bubbles there were (from far away you only see the big ones).