Now It Can Be Told: Why I Performed For Two Minutes On a Tricycle While Wearing My Beanie Copter In Front of Hundreds of Co-Workers and the CEO at My Old Job Many Years Ago
I stepped to the front of the packed, humid ballroom. I was carrying a tricycle. I was not dreaming. The whole experience was utterly ridiculous, yes, but also horrifyingly real.
I had purchased a cobalt-tipped drill bit and convinced a confused salesman at the local big box to drill through the trike’s center shaft. “To allow the tricycle to support my adult body,” I explained. To my surprise, he didn’t have any questions, and set to work helping me. Maybe he could sense larger forces at work, the approaching roar of destiny. More likely he wanted to give me what I wanted so I’d go away faster.
That was days before I strolled onto the stage. I set the tricycle down. The ballroom was filled to capacity, as in standing room only. Hundreds of my co-workers were there. My boss. My boss’s boss, and so on several more times on up the corporate ladder right up to and including the CEO. This was the corporate talent show and I had something special planned. Wait. Scratch that. I hoped something special would happen. I actually had no plan at all.
Performances were limited to two minutes. I just had to do something for two minutes. My hands were freezing, but also sweating. My heart was thundering and my skin warm.
Spots appeared on the edge of my vision. I took a deep breath. Please don’t pass out, I thought to myself. That would make this so much worse.
So I put my foot on the tricycle. I was, naturally, wearing my beanie copter. The rest of me was dressed in typical business-casual for a summer company quote-unquote fun event: sneakers, khaki shorts and a dark blue polo. Two minutes. I had to do something for two minutes.
Just do something. The problem was, I hadn’t given much thought to what that something was.
The D.J. announced my name as the previous act (a woman who sang some karaoke song) ran off. “Now performing to Panama by Van Halen, let’s welcome Larry!” boomed through the speakers. Panama was the song I had selected. All systems were go.
Two minutes. How hard could it be?
Let me tell you something I learned that day. I’m not really sure this has application in anyone else’s life, but you never know, so here goes:
When you are wearing a beanie copter and riding a tricycle accompanied by Van Halen’s Panama in a ballroom filled with hundreds of your co-workers and the CEO of your company, and you have absolutely no plan for what you are going to do, two minutes turns out to be an excruciatingly long time.
So what happened?
Well, I ran around like an idiot. I got the crowd clapping. Then I pushed off and rode the trike like a scooter. I leapt off the trike, did a little Irish tap dance-thing (like in the show Riverdance) around the cycle and jumped back on. And the rest?
Hell, I forget. More of the same, essentially.
Later, someone told me they were impressed with my song selection. Paraphrasing: “If you had selected a silly circus tune it would have just been goofy, but a rock song made it something special.” Another critic was less generous, “We all looked at each other and said, ‘What the hell is he doing?’” Word on the street was, two of my managers (whom I loved) jokingly argued over who I actually reported to.
Many moons later, someone asked me to name the performance, and I called it the “Final Voyage of the Starship Fantastic.” Because it was a one-time-only show. It then became a point of importance to me that I give the tricycle to charity (which I did.) I never rode it again, to ensure the fulfillment of the finality in the title. Things like that matter to me.
Why did the talent show committee let me perform? In previous years people had sung Karaoke songs with naughty words, so each act had to be approved first. I have no idea why they gave me the okay. At the audition I was very vague about what I was going to do, being as I didn’t know myself, but I did bring the trike. They trusted me. Which is funny to me, because I wouldn’t have.
But why? Why did I do it? How did things get to this point? Can I explain something please?
Why? I get that a lot.
I often defer to a lyrical snippet from The Doors’ song The Crystal Ship: ‘Deliver me from reasons why.’ Sometimes humanity’s lust for reason gets in the way of enjoying life’s craziness, of letting the wonder and the mystery carry you on its cosmic current, of just letting things be. On one level, the only answer is the rhetorical “Why not?” or the faux-mysterious “Because.”
I’m not a fan of those answers, because I prefer a more precise approach. Also, neither non-answer comes close to the truth. There was a reason for the silliness and an important one. Let me explain.
First, an observation: have you ever noticed how people with an authoritarian bent are extremely annoyed by goofiness? By behavior they cannot understand or control? Especially if such behavior generates laughter?
The goal with my tricycle performance was to display a symbolic obscene gesture in the direction of those types. See, I worked in a place that was overrun by such beings. Not completely overrun, as at the same time I met many beautiful folks I am honored to call friend these many years later. The place wasn’t exclusively assholes, but it was infested with them, and they shared the trait previously mentioned: overly serious and full of superiority complex.
As I’ve noted, few things enrage wanna-be dictators more than someone who doesn’t conform to their morose natures.
What better way to mock them than to do so without them knowing? What better way to annoy them than by showing them that I was free and crazy and laughing and there was nothing they could do to change that?
Okay maybe there’s lots of better ways, but none so fun. They would hate my tricycle “performance” for its unabashed absurdity, but in no way would they see it as a direct attack and invoke their petty wraths. Yet it would irritate them immensely because others would never stop talking about it. It would be so strange an event it would come up often, resulting in an itch the authoritarians couldn’t scratch, a bold expression they could not suppress with contempt.
So, did it work?
How the hell would I know? They were miserable before and miserable after. As for me, I had a great time rising to the challenge and now I have an unusual story. If nothing else, it was a lesson for myself. In the dark days of a miserable work environment, I thought I would never emerge. But I did, and did so laughing. My sense of humor — mystical, childish and inexplicable as it is — saw me through.
Hopefully you’re feeling the silliness too and can share a laugh with me. Or at least you’re delightful mix of amused and confused. I’ll settle for that. I get that a lot.