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Jul 2 03: flashmob!!

Paul and Erika and Sari and Andrew and I just participated in an inexplicable mob. The first one appeared in a store that sold ‘accessories’ and was covered by NPR; the second appeared in Macy’s and was covered by Wired (and NPR again, and others); the third showed up in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt New York. Having missed the second one, I was damned if I’d miss the third one as well. So I didn’t.

MOB#3 was called Grand Central Mob Ballet. The e-mailed marching orders told us to be in the dining concourse of Grand Central Terminal at 6:45; we were to give a code phrase to anybody we saw reading the New York Review of Books in exchange for further instructions. We were to show up in comfortable shoes accompanied by a prepared one-dollar bill, marked with the word ‘MOB’ where the word ‘ONE’ usually appears, to the right of George Washington’s head.

I found a book-review guy. He gave me a slip of paper, and here’s what it said:

*** MOB #3 ***
Change of Plans

If you are reading this, we have decided to change venues.

(1) By 7:02, walk out to 42nd St. and look for the main entrance to the Grand Hyatt. Enter and take the escalator up one flight to the main lobby. Loiter until 7:07.

(2) At 7:07, start taking the escalator and elevators up one floor, to the wraparound railing overlooking the lobby. Stand around it, looking down. Fan out to cover as much of the railing as possible. If asked why you are there, point down to the lobby and say, “Look.”

(3) At 7:12, begin applauding. Applaud for fifteen seconds, then disperse in an orderly fashion.

(Note: the exit on that floor is not a pedestrian exit.)

And that’s pretty much what we did. Once again, cheesebikini? has come through with photos and links to other people’s impressions of the event. We had a lovely time, the applause was raucous, and I’m sure we confused the hell out of the tourists who were standing around in the lobby at the time. The security guards looked as if they’d have freaked out if we had been there much longer—but as it was they only made it as far as bewildered.

What was with the dollar bils? And the shoes? Unclear, but given the title of the event I suspected that we were to be dancing to the buskers who were playing in the Grand Central’s Main Concourse, then paying our musicians with the money.

I think Grand Central was abandoned quite late in the game, organizationally speaking. This morning the 1/2/3/9 Trains were shut down for hours due to a bioterrorism scare (at last report, nobody knew what the mysterious white powder was, but they knew it wasn’t anthrax). And then shortly afterwards something happened at the Brooklyn Bridge—apparently a man was offered money to drive a stranger’s car across it, and he alerted the NYPD. But Grand Central was definitely full of cops and National Guardsmen and god knows who else. I’m thinking somebody felt this would have been a bad place for an inexplicable mob.

Whatever. Even the replacement script was fun. We played ‘Who’s here for the mob?’ in the dining concourse. We pretended not to know each other as we passed time in the hotel lobby. We felt the hair on our arms rise as we casually diffused into the balcony. We tried to look blasé as we stood around looking down upon the fountains and elevators and unsettled security folks. We cheered, wildly. We filed out, trying to maintain the same air of “who, these people? No idea” under which we had arrived. For ten minutes, we were an inexplicable mob. Even better, we were art.

Viva DaDa, baby.

(Want to join a mob? E-mail themobproject@yahoo.com)

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