Creating a “Riot” on the Freeway
Patterns of behavior can be interrupted and changed instantaneously, providing either a much needed sense of levity in the midst of adversity, or even a lasting shift in life perspective.
In 1992, civil unrest broke out in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict. The radio blared the news: Mayor Bradley had just imposed a dusk to dawn curfew in the city. I was driving on the Hollywood freeway during the rush hour, traffic typically bumper to bumper. Looking out the passenger side window, I saw fires ablaze on the horizon. I sniffed smoke from burning buildings that saturated the already smoggy air. I glanced at my fellow commuters, alert to the fear engraved on their faces. Perhaps they were wondering if their houses and neighborhoods were ablaze as well.
The surrounding anxiety was compelling me to respond. Something must be done to ease the sense of despair! But I can’t just leap out of the car and do a stand-up routine on the freeway… I’d probably get run over. Ah…my prop bag was behind the seat. I blindly groped around with my hand and pulled out a show stopper – a two-inch red clown nose. I stuck it on my face. Commuters around me were doing double takes which said, “He must be a tourist. He doesn’t know what’s happening.” I’m sure they were not wondering if I was available for children’s parties. But when I smiled at them, they got the message. I wanted to convey that in spite of the circumstances, we can take a moment to detach and suspend the downward spiral of distress.
The effect was remarkable. People laughed, smiled back, gave the thumbs up, honked horns, nudged their driving buddies and pointed at me. Kids jumped up and down in the back seats and giggled. People of all ages and backgrounds were sharing a moment of fun in the face of adversity. The crowd attitudinal consensus around me had changed. Truly it was one of the finest moments I’ve experienced!
Excerpt from the book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!”
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