Literally Pointing Out The Elephant In The Room

, , , , | Working | November 14, 2019

I’m the idiot in this story. First off, I must apologise for the long setup for this, but to really appreciate how I managed to make such a massive faux pas, you do need to understand what happens in one of the magic tricks I perform.

I’m a magician, specialising in performing shows for children aged four to eight years old, and have been performing professionally for several years. This particular effect has been in my repertoire for a good few years and does not require any helpers. The effect is based on the classic nursery rhyme Two Little Dickie Birds. In this effect, I have a plastic board on a small base which shows a wall with two birds on it. I use my wand to point to the birds in turn, getting the kids to join in. 

I start off by saying, “Two little dickie birds, sitting on the wall. One named…”

I point to the first bird with my wand, and the kids shout out, “Peter!”

I then say, “…and one named…”

I point to the second one, and the kids shout out, “Paul!”

At this point, I take out a large hankie and cover the picture. I lift up the hankie and picture together and say, “Fly away, Peter.” I then lower it, and raise it again and say, “Fly away, Paul.” I put it back on the table, but as I do so, I quickly turn the picture around. I lift off the hankie to reveal the other side of the picture. This shows the same wall as before, but no birds. In full magician mode, I announce, “And they’ve gone!” and look a little grumpy when the kids start announcing loudly that I cheated. I throw in a quick aside, “Shhh!”

I continue. I cover up the picture again, lift it up whilst covered, and mime it coming in to land like the two birds whilst saying, “Come back, Peter! Come back, Paul!” When I place it back down on the table, I quickly turn it all round again and lift up the hankie to reveal the original picture. “TADAAAA!” I say, as I strike the traditional pose of magician having performed an amazing trick, whilst the kids perform the traditional act of sensible people who have caught you out and will happily and excitedly let you know. The parents sitting around the group of children will happily perform the traditional act of enjoying their children being clever.

As all good comedy works on the Rule of Three, I perform this a second time, but this time I start off by saying, “Now, some of you, for some reason, think that I was cheating, but I wasn’t. To prove it, I’ll do it one more time. Watch carefully and pay attention.”

The second time through is almost identical to the first, except this time I am throwing in more feedback — “No, I didn’t turn it round” — and generally playing up getting cross with the audience. I should point out here that I only feign getting cross, and the amount of “hammy crossness” is directly proportional to what I know the kids can take for their age; I won’t ever go full ham for the really young.

The last time I perform it, I am acting really cross, and the kids are now extremely vocal in their enjoyment of yelling that I am cheating. “RIGHT!” I say, as I thwack my table with my wand. “Two little dickie birds–*thwack* “–sitting on the wall.*thwack* “One named…”

I point to Paul, but the kids say, “Peter.”

“Uh-uh-uh! It’s Paul! You’ve got to pay attention!” I say, in an almost sing-song voice. I continue.

“And one named…” and I point to Peter. The kids shout out the correct name this time.

I go through the whole “Fly Away” bit almost as before, but as I am about to say, “Fly away, Paul,” I stop mid-sentence and point to the back wall of the room, saying something to get the kids to turn around. They look over their shoulders, and I do the final turn around and reveal the empty wall as before. The kids, by now, are apoplectic in their insistence that I am cheating, so I tell them that the birds really have gone. 

“And do you know why the birds have flown away?” I turn around to reveal that there is now a cat on the wall. “It’s because the cat has chased them away!” At this point, I usually have to remind the kids to applaud the cat, because the look of awe and bafflement also has the effect of silencing them. The parents, on the other hand, are usually in fits of giggles at the reactions of their kids. Their eyes and mouths will generally form perfect circles; it’s like being watched by a room full of young bowling balls.

Okay, lengthy setup over. Hopefully. you’ll find it was worth it when you hear how I went so very badly wrong one time.

I was performing this in a smallish community hall. There were about twenty kids sat on the floor in front of me and a number of parents sat around the outside. Normally, I would be looking around at everybody, adults included, to make sure everyone was happy, and adjusting my performance accordingly. But this time I wasn’t doing any of that. The kids were all having fun, and all was going well. 

I started performing the Dickie Birds routine, and everything was as it always was, with the kids getting more and more vocal at me for cheating and me getting more and more comically frustrated at them for accusing me of cheating. Then, it came to the point when I needed to do the distraction to get the kids to look to the back of the room. But, because I hadn’t been looking around at the adults, I hadn’t noticed where I was going to be pointing.

“Fly away, Peter. Fly away… Look over there! An elephant!” I looked at where I was pointing…  

…straight into the eyes of the largest woman I had ever seen.

Now, I’m a big bloke. Far too big — medically, I’m morbidly obese. But this woman was twice my size. I didn’t know what to do. I knew if I was sat where she was, I would be really upset. My brain went into overdrive. The kids didn’t make any comment about who I was pointing at, so I daren’t say anything; otherwise, I would effectively be making them aware of the incredibly rude thing I had just said. 

So, I decided to just draw the kids’ eyes back to the front and then not look at any adults for the rest of the show. 

Well, that trick ended all right, and the rest of the show was okay. I was bracing myself, trying to decide what to say to the poor lady at the end. What if she hadn’t taken it as an insult, and my apologising made things worse? What if she was distraught and in tears? But I never found out as, by the time the show had ended, she had left. I got paid by the parents of the birthday child all right, and they never said anything. I didn’t get any comebacks, but to this day — some ten years later — I still worry that I caused severe embarrassment to this poor lady.

I still perform that effect today, but the distraction line has changed. Now, instead of getting people to look for an elephant, I point out Superman. After all, no one could be embarrassed about being described as Superman, surely? 

Unless, I suppose, they’ve seen Justice League

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Paying For Real Estate Will Follow Us Into Death

, , , , , , , , | Related | November 14, 2019

My grandfather recently passed away. Known for his frugality, he bought his burial plot in the cemetery at his summer home’s church when they were having some sort of sale, and he got a “super deal.” His brother-in-law and sister also bought a plot at the same time, and his brother-in-law passed six years prior to my grandfather’s death. My grandfather was a businessman and dabbled in many trades and industries and owned most of his own businesses. His most prominent one — and the one that lasted the longest and was his passion — was real estate.

We gathered around the gravesite for the burial service. Afterward, we wanted to walk to my great-uncle’s gravesite, which we could make out in the distance, but was still in view of my grandfather’s gravesite. In an effort to lighten the mood, my cousin said the following:

“Corner plot, direct line of sight from Old Uncle Jack, plenty of parking on both sides, beautiful greenery, location at his favorite church on the Cape… He really was a real estate man. Location, location, location!”

We all laughed and appreciated his humor after an emotional and somber week.

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Don’t Use Him As A Reference!

, , , , , | Working | November 13, 2019

My parents are hard-working, no-nonsense people. During spring planting a few years back one of their employees didn’t show up for work in the morning. Nor did he call. My dad didn’t waste time calling him but organized those who were there and got to work. Same thing the next day.

On the third morning, the missing worker pulled up as my dad was heading out to the fields. 

The man sheepishly apologized for missing work and admitted that he’d been looking for another job. 

My father shrugged and told him, “Well, you’d better keep looking, then.”

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A Pretty Woman Moment To Remember

, , , , , , | Working | November 13, 2019

A group of friends and I are into the alternative fashion style — big boots, Gothic dresses, lace, and corsets. We go into a popular high street store as I am getting married and we need some classy, normal-style dresses for bridesmaid dresses.

As soon as we walk into the shop, we are watched by a member of the staff who stands glaring at us from the counter. Whenever we pick up a dress to look at it, she moves closer to us, glaring. Keep in mind that there are six in the group in different sizes all looking to get the same style of dress. She doesn’t offer to help, stops other staff from helping us, and just stands there glaring.

We find dresses in the same style that can fit all six and go and ask to try them on. She snatches the dresses from our hands says, “These won’t suit you or even fit, and I doubt you can afford them, either.” These dresses cost £75 each and there are six of us. I am paying for them all and in cash. I was prepared to pay out over £500 for all of the dresses, so I have this cash on me.

I pulled the cash out, show the staff member, and say, “You mean this money?” Her whole attitude changes and she becomes very helpful. We all exchange a look. I say, “Because of your poor customer service we have changed our mind,” and we just walk out, leaving her to put away six dresses. If she had been nicer and less suspicious of us, she would have made a big sale.

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The Internet: If It’s Outside Your Normal Experience Then It Never Happened

, , , , | Friendly | November 13, 2019

I sometimes answer questions on a popular website where users can ask or answer questions. I’ve only answered a few so far. One evening, I answer a question somebody has regarding any support for autistic children. One of my children is autistic, so I share links to as many charities and organisations as I can and offer advice based on my experience.

The next morning, I wake up to a lot of email notifications from the site. I don’t usually get many responses, so I check it out.

It turns out somebody made the following reply in the night:

“Hmm. I’m not sure whether anyone can take any of your advice seriously. In one post, you’re a student. In this one, you have an autistic daughter, but in another, you claim to have a son? There’s also the post where you claim to be an accountant. If you’re going to lie, at least be consistent. People here actually need help. Go lie somewhere else.”

Apparently, the idea of a mature student with two children, who used to be an accountant, is too much for them, I guess.

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