Friday, July 18, 2003

One Of Those New York Mobs
By Jessica Delfino

Flashmob 4 was on Wednesday, July 16. I went with my friend David.

Q. What is Flashmob?

Good Question. It's hard to explain, because I don't really get it. I guess it's a like party in a public place that only lasts for about half an hour from beginning to end, and there are instructions you are supposed to follow.

Q. Can you give me a more specific explanation where you aren't jerking yourself off while explaining?

Hm. It all started with an e-mail. David forwarded me an invitation to Flashmobs 1 and 2, which at the time I think were just referred to as the Mob. It was the third or fourth e-mail I had seen regarding it, and all the people who had e-mailed me about it were huge dorks, so I figured it couldn't possibly be that good or they wouldn't be involved. It's totally fine for me to say that, I know all about dorks. I have been a nerdy boy trapped in a pretty girl's body my whole life. I guess I should have bit on this right away, being a nerd myself, but just because I'm a nerd doesn't mean I should have to want to hang out with other nerds. Also, I'm so full of nerdy awkwardness, I'm probably even a step behind the nerds when it comes to being cool. I deleted the e-mails and didn't even think about it again, until one day I was at David's and he said he was going to Flashmob, and asked me if I wanted to go. I said no. He said, you should really go, it's a lot of fun. Again, I said no. I'm afraid of mobs, The mob, the word mob creeps me out, ever since I had a bad LSD trip at a Phish show in Worcester I don't like crowds, and it just all around didn't sound like my kind of get together. But I went anyway, because David kept saying things about it that made it seem kind of interesting, like it was going to be a New York adventure. What really won me over was when he said that it was the kind of thing he moved to New York for, thinking there'd be more things like it, and maybe there used to be more things like it, but there isn't really any more. I'm ad libbing.

We went to Radio Shack and he bought a digital camera, because his friend in San Francisco wanted him to take photos and send them to him. I don't know his friend, I think his name is Sean. Anyway, David gives him credit for coining the term "Flashmob." Steve has some kind of interest in it. I believe he has stories and links about it as well. So, David and I went to FM3 and took a bunch of pictures. We took a taxi to Grand Central, where we had to look for a person reading a copy of the New York Review of Books or something like that. When we found him, we had to flash a dollar bill at him with the word MOB written on it. Then, he gave us a slip that said to leave Grand Central and go to the Marriott Hotel across the street, or maybe it was the Hyatt, I can't remember. It gave very specific directions about what time to get there. Once there, we had to go up and stand around the second floor railing and applause for 15 seconds. We then had to immediately disperse.

I did it, but I don't know how good I felt about it. I couldn't help but feel like someone was playing a joke on me. I left and didn't think much about it until David and three or four other nerds sent me another e-mail. I read it and again deleted it, saying to myself, "I'm not going," and then rewarding myself for taking a stand against the "cool dorks" with some cake.

Again, I'm at David's and once again, he asks if I'd like to go to Flashmob 4. Again, I say no. This time, I sort of can't because I have someplace else to be and I don't want to go hang out with a bunch of nerds or whatever. Then David says he's going to buy a video camera. Well. I got very excited about that because I'd been trying to get him to buy a video camera for awhile, for selfish reasons. David had to buy a new camera anyway because in a matter of days, he'd lost the oh-so-sleek and elegant little 400 or so dollar still camera that he'd bought for Flashmob 3. We went over to B&H and David bought a nice digital video camera, and took a taxi downtown to FM4. We had to meet at a bar off Houston and go to the back to get instructions. The whole place was full of people, and I noticed a girl with a New York Post steno pad. I had a feeling this was going to be a bit insane.

The directions we were given told us to go to Otto Tootsie Plohound, the shoe store on LaFayette. We had to go in and look at the shoes as if they were from outer space. Then, we had to call a friend and say, "Guess where I am?" Then, we could say, "In a Soho shoe store!" or "At one of those New York mobs."

We walked over and the streets were already crowded with people, lining the streets, waiting until 7:16 or whenever, to go traipsing into this poor guy's livelihood and trample all over it. I couldn't help but feel a little bit bad, but my curiosity propelled me in. One minute early, the swarm of people littering the streets started flowing into the store. I fell into the mix, and got inside somewhere towards the end of the crowd. The guy who owned the store started shitting his pants, just as I'd expected. He closed the doors and was said, "No more people!" just as David was walking towards the store with his camera. The media was all over it. Outside the doors, photographers flashes were a flashing, journalists were a journaling, and reporters were a reporting. It was a little bit surreal, because I don't even know exactly what they were going to say about it, much like I didn't know what I was going to say about FM when I sat down to write this.

I guess it does deserve attention. I go to comedy and music shows every week where there are four people in the audience, and the people who produce those shows bust their asses to get those four people in there. These spontaneous freak shows, dork parades, what have you, seem to double in size with each gathering. How do they get so many people to go and do nothing? Maybe nothing is the key element to success, as we've seen in Seinfeld's tv show and George Bush's brain.

I don't know what I'm doing at FM or even why or how I get there usually, but at the end, I feel like I am the butt of a huge joke. The best part of this joke though, if it is in fact, a joke, is that all the coolest people I know are starting to show up at flashmob. I feel like I'm learning all over again what I already learned in high school. At some point, all cliques merge, and when they do, sometimes there are shoes involved.

See the video we made of Flashmob 4 at my friend David's website:

The video has been getting a lot of attention, but I don't know why.

While you're at it, peruse my friend David's website and read his blog at

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