Those mimes are a disquieting lot

Kevin Cowherd

April 10, 1992|By Kevin Cowherd

An unfortunate byproduct of the recent warm weather is the number of mimes who have again taken to the streets to pester people.

I had the unsettling experience of running into a mime the other day at an outdoor pavilion downtown.

Years from now, when I suddenly bolt upright in bed at 3 in the morning and begin trembling violently, it may well be a result of this encounter.

The mime seemed to appear out of nowhere. One minute, the noontime crowd was leisurely enjoying the sunshine. The next minute, a vague sense of unease had descended over everyone PTC as this mime wheeled up on his unicycle.

(The unicycle alone should have tipped me off to the unpleasantness ahead, evoking as it does disturbing images of clowns and dog acts and a juggler balancing a 12-foot pole on the bridge of his nose.)

The mime was dressed in the requisite mime get-up of baggy pants, red suspenders, white T-shirt, goofy hat and white gloves. Thick, white powder covered his puffy face. His thin, cruel lips were painted fire-engine red.

As people walked by, the mime began falling in behind them and mimicking the way they walked.

It got a few laughs, mostly from a couple of older ex-hippie types, who might well have been experiencing acid flashbacks.

The rest of the crowd sat in stony silence, which is the normal reception accorded to mimes, at least by anyone without a history of chemical abuse.

Of course, the people who were being mimicked didn't find it funny at all.

As soon as they heard the laughter and realized this mime was making fun of them, they would stop and whirl around.

Oh, sure, they tried to act good-natured about the whole thing. But you could see they were plenty steamed. You could see they wanted to smack this mime, which is a perfectly normal reaction. Hey, I wanted to get a punch or two in myself, and I was 50 feet away from the action.

Sensing (correctly) that he was losing the crowd, the mime then made an absolutely disastrous decision.

Instead of simply climbing back on the unicycle and leaving, which would have shown some degree of common sense, he began performing some of his, um, routines.

Well. You can imagine the chill that went through the crowd as people were forced to suffer through "Man Walking Against a Stiff Wind" and "Man Trapped in a Glass Room" and "Man Walking His Dog On A Leash Around a Fire Hydrant."

God help us, but they were the same tired routines all these mimes perform. We've seen them a thousand times. Listen, I probably could have gone up there and done 10 minutes of his act. And I'm the guy who couldn't even land the part of an obscure court attendant in his high school's production of "Hamlet."

By now, of course, the crowd was highly agitated and in full "fight or flight" response, with the emphasis heavily on the latter.

People began leaving in droves. Five minutes later, the place looked like someone had phoned in a bomb threat.

I guess I was too stunned to leave. I remember putting down my hamburger and watching my hands shake as I sipped a Diet Coke. Then, as a wave of panic washed over me, I remember thinking: Where were the police?

Look, I know the cops have their hands full with murderers and drug dealers and all. But I don't see how you can allow these mimes to just walk around annoying people and ruining their lunch hours. It's just not right.

The bleeding hearts will tell you differently, of course.

Teary-eyed do-gooders at the ACLU will throw up their hands and say: "Look, we hate mimes as much as everyone else. But they should be afforded the same constitutional rights as the rest of us."

Well, I . . . I guess so. Yet the fact is, I can't remember the last time I heard someone say: "Boy, I saw a good mime last night! He was in the park, over by the carousel! Guy was terrific!"

At dull parties, I don't think anyone ever yawns and thinks: "Boy, we could really use a mime about now . . . "

By the way, here's a disturbing footnote to that story about the mime.

As I was leaving the outdoor pavilion, the mime was actually running up to people and holding out his grimy little hand for a contribution.

Is that beautiful or what?! The man wanted to get paid for annoying people!

Incidently, these mimes are quick, too. Since everyone is always trying to avoid them, they've developed tremendous foot speed over the years. You talk about Darwinism gone amok. I was 75 yards away when this mime came bounding after me like a greyhound on amphetamines. He pestered me with another routine until I finally handed him some change.

Anything to stop the pain.

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