on friday i worked for the company which had previously employed me as an international man of mystery. but my job this week was to be a street musician. i played songs downtown, and the teams had to find me, give me a dollar (yes!), and then identify the song i played to get points for that mission. this ought to be a pretty straightforward task, but i was pretty stressed the morning of the job because of my inability to identify what qualifies as a well-known song. i spend such an inordinate amount of time listening to music, or finding new music, or reading about it, that i've sort of lost track of what normal, non-music nerd people know about. add to that that the people playing were a generation or two removed from me (but not so old that they grew up on rock in the 60's), and you see why i was wringing my hands, deciding if "rebel rebel" (or any david bowie song, for that matter) is really as famous as i think it is, or as it ought to be, or if people who aren't within 10 years of me know anything by radiohead, or do 40 year olds like kelly clarkson, and so on. it was a tough job, and i hated to be so unoriginal, but i ended up using the beatles. beatles songs are pretty much as universal as oxygen, which probably means it was too easy, but at least people had fun. and gave me money.
it's very interesting to people watch whilst playing guitar in a place with lots of foot traffic. when the first group came, they gave me a cup to put money in so i could collect money from passersby while i waited for other teams. so i was able to note the before and after difference: when you play on the street without a place to put money, people look at you freely, curiously ("where's his money collection place?"). they don't mind when you smile at them and make eye contact, and they smile back, and even sometimes talk to you if you're not singing. after i got the money cup, though, some people tried to look at me without making it obvious that they were looking at me, or even implicitly admitting they knew i was there. and let me just say, most people are pretty bad at doing that. in fact, i'm going to recommend that unless you've been trained in the cia or some other spy institution/ninja school, that you should not try. you're probably not very good, either. i would quit, but like i said, i've been hired as a spy as recently as a month ago, so i'm good to go.
other people (probably people who have seen video footage of themselves trying to look without looking) tried a different sort of covert operation. as they approached, they assessed the situation: "street performer. wants my money. probably desperate. will attack me with guitar or look angrily at me if i don't pay up. DON'T want to pay." so here's the great escape plan. as they come by, they look down at the ground (the first rule is always to avoid eye contact), and then just as they pass, they reach about half the length of their fingers into their pocket as if to reach in for some money, continue by, and then once at a safe distance, remove their hand. it was funny, because it's like they care enough to pretend to want to pay, but not enough to make it convincing. it's the thought that counts, after all. and i'm not complaining at all--in fact i felt sort of guilty when people did throw a buck in my cup, like they imagined i was starving or something, and if they knew i was getting paid like $20/hour they'd feel like i scammed them or something.
speaking of scams, you know those annoying pop-up ads you sometimes find on the internet about getting free electronics? you know, the ones you don't even read, the super annoying ones that mean that epileptics can't ever be on the internet? well, it turns out they're not all evil scams at all--photographed above is the macbook kim got for free just by doing one of those things. she had to sign up for several free trials of various subscription services or credit cards or various other things, and then cancel them before she had to pay anything, and then hassle the business in charge, and they eventually sent her this little beauty, which is so much cooler than my computer that i'm a tiny bit jealous of her. actually, i guess it isn't quite true to say it was free--one of the services charged her $70 because she didn't cancel in time. but, she also got about $80 in gift cards by signing up, so she ended up $10 in the black. $10, plus one free laptop. she's a pretty smart person, even if she is crazy.